Curious how to find public domain works? While many works are still under copyright protection, you can also find and access a broad range of works that aren't-if you know where to look.
What is the public domain?
When a work is written, it's protected under copyright for a certain period of time. The exact length of time varies depending on the type of work and when it is created. Once a copyright expires, that work is considered to be in the public domain, and anyone can utilize and change the work in part or in whole, without copyright infringement.
General guidelines for public domain works.
Some works are already in the public domain by current copyright law, while others are coming. The general guidelines for public domain are:
Additionally, government documents are generally public domain, as are many research books published before 1964 that did not renew copyright protection.
How to check copyright protection on a piece.
You can check the status of copyright protection on a piece in a few different ways. If the work was published after 1978, you can check copyright status online at copyright.gov/records. For records before 1978, you can either check the copyright yourself, or pay a third-party to check for you. To check copyright status yourself, you'll need to check the Library of Congress or a Federal Depository library that carries copyright information. The Copyright Office can perform a record search for a fee, or you can pay a third-party to conduct a copyright search for you.
Popular Web sites for public domain works.
Some online Web sites contain copies of public domain works on the Web. You can use these Web sites to access public domain works in part or in whole. One of the most popular Web sites that maintains public domain works is Project Gutenberg. It's the oldest public domain project, and contains over 30,000 books, as well as many CDs and DVDs.
Other online resources for public domain works are:
Curious what is not protected by copyright? Copyright protection involves many variables, and not everything is eligible for copyright. What is, and what isn't?
Wondering when does a copyright expire? As copyright laws change, so, too, do copyright expiration dates, so you'll need to know the specifics of when a work is copyrighted in order to determine when it expires.