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, selections, or 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 hosted at Stanford
- Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States – Chart from Cornell for determining U.S. public domain status
- Is it in the Public Domain? – Handbook from Berkeley for determining U.S. public domain status
- State Government Copyright Resource Center – Website from Harvard for determining U.S. public domain status of state governmental documents
- Public Domain Trouble Spots – This NOLO material hosted at Stanford addresses intricacies of the public domain.