Works in the public domain have no copyright and can be used without permission, although other laws and agreements may restrict their use. The public domain includes works in which the copyright has expired, most works published by the U.S. federal government (not necessarily state governments), works in which the copyright owner failed to renew the registration, and works dedicated to the public domain.
Note: For collections and selections & arrangements of public domain materials, there may be a copyright in the whole of the work although individual parts of the collection may be public domain.
More resources about the Public Domain
- Welcome to the Public Domain – NOLO Overview Good Basic Overview
- Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States – Chart to help you determine the copyright term
- State Government Copyright Resource Center – check the public domain status of state governmental documents
- Wikipedia entry on Public Domain
- Really want to dig in? Read Public Domain Trouble Spots.