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This guide is informational and in no way constitutes legal advice.

Public domain

A work enters the public domain when the term of exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder expire. 

Works in the public domain include:

  •  Works created prior to 1923.
  •  Works published before 1964 if the copyright was not renewed in 1978.
  •  Government documents ( "works prepared by federal government officers or employees as part of their official duties are not copyrightable").
  • Otherwise the rule of thumb is "70 years after the death of author. If a work of corporate authorship, 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever expires first."


A Copyright Calculator can help to determine when a work enters the public domain:

Copyright Term Calculator

Is it Protected by Copyright?

Creative Commons

All works are automatically copyrighted, but the creator/copyright holder may choose to remove or limit the copyright restrictions on their work. 

Creative Commons is a non-profit which offers alternative copyright licensing types.