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Copyright in the Classroom: Public Domain

Welcome to the Jefferson College Library -Copyright in the Classroom libguide! Use this guide to get started with including resources created by others in your classroom. There are various considerations to make before using material for your class- take

Public Domain: An Infographic

Infographic by Matt Hobbs 2014, via

What is Public Domain?

Public Doman vs. Domain of the Public

•Domain of the Public is stuff that’s “out there, accessible, known”
•Public Domain has a specific and discrete meaning
•Just because it is “right in front of me” doesn’t mean I do anything I want to with it

It's Complicated!

It's Complicated!

•Everyone may use because copyright has expired or never applied
•Published before 1923 (except sound recordings)
•Published between 1923 and 1963 may have copyright renewed for an additional 67 year beyond the date of publication
•Published between 1964 and 1977 copyright is automatically renewed for a total of 95 years
•Created, but not published before January 1, 1978 are copyrighted for the lifetime of the owner plus 70 years
•Corporate author or work for hire—120 years after creation or 95 years after publication (The earliest any work copyrighted after 1978 is 2047)

Public Domain- Simplified

  • Before 1923
  • Between 1923-1963 with copyright notice, but no renewal
  • Between 1923-1977 with no copyright notice
  • Between 1978-March 1, 1989 with no copyright notice and no registration
  • The author/owner has given up rights

Sample Public Domain Image

Works in the Public Domain

  • Most Federal Documents
  • Phone books
  • Works with expired copyrights
  • Works for which creators/owners have given up their copyrights
  • Freeware
  • Some open-source documents
  • Works registered with Creative Commons and similar organizations
  • Things that cannot be copyrights, for example, names, short phrases, titles, ideas, and facts
  • Some clip art