Entering the Public Domain

Creative works enter the public domain in one of four ways:

  • Copyright expires (~70 years after authors death)
  • The work was never entitled to copyright protection (ideas/facts). Also, government documents are not eligible for copyright.
  • The creator dedicates the work to the public domain before copyright has expired. This helps authors put their works into the worldwide public domain to the greatest extent possible. CC0 (CC-Zero) is a fallback license, provided by Creative Commons, which has the same practical consequences, but helps those in countries who do not allow public domain dedication.
  • The copyright holder failed to comply with formalities to acquire and maintain their copyright. Creator failed to adhere to formalities.

You can do almost anything with a work in the public domain, but it depends on the country where the work is used. You may still need to provide attribution to the author.

Here’s a quick assessment about the public domain.

References for Chapter 2:


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

An OER Workshop by Andrea Bearman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book