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Copyright @ Fontbonne University: Public Domain

Questions about Copyright and Fair Use at Fontbonne? Here you can get an overview of the basics and find out where to go to learn more. Also covers public domain, the TEACH Act, peer-to-peer file sharing, and University policy information.

What is the Public Domain?

The Public Domain refers to works that have no copyright protection. In other words, works in the public domain can be used without needing to ask anyone for permission to use them. Works that fall into this category include those whose copyright has expired (generally anything created before 1923) and those that never had copyright protection, like most works created by the U.S. Federal Government.

When is a work in the Public Domain?

Works fall into the public domain for three main reasons:

1. the term of copyright for the work has expired

2. the author failed to satisfy statutory formalities to perfect the copyright (i.e., did not renew copyright)

3. the work is a work of the U.S. Government.

As a general rule, most works enter the public domain because of old age. This includes works published in the United States before 1923, but may include works published after that date if the copyright was not registered or renewed.


Finding Public Domain Works

Many works that are in the public domain can be found on the web. (Search for "public domain" amd "public domain images".)

Remember that most documents from U.S. government agencies are also in the public domain, no matter when they were published. Check the "Terms of Use" on the webpage to be sure.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Public Domain

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