Works in the public domain include:
- Uncopyrighted published works—Any work published in the United States before January 1, 1978 without a copyright notice.
- Published work with expired copyrights—All works published prior to 1923. Copyrights from 1923 and later may also have expired, but making determinations about their status is sometimes difficult. For more information see When Works Pass into the Public Domain (below) and the Copyright Right Office publication How to Investigate Copyright Status of a Work..
- United States government publications—Examples of government publications include: opinions of courts in legal cases, Congressional Reports on proposed bills, testimony offered at Congressional hearings, and reports of government employees. Some government publications may be works prepared by outside authors on contract to the government and might be protected by copyright. As with other publications, check for copyright notification. In the absence of copyright notice in such works, it would be reasonable to assume they are in the public domain.
Works in the Public Domain may be reproduced without restriction.
Public Domain Checklist
|Publication Date||Published w/Copyright Notice||Copyright Renewed‡||Effect|
|Before 1923||N/A||N/A||In public domain|
|1923-1977||No||N/A||In public domain|
|1923-1963||Yes||No‡||In public domain|
|1923-1963||Yes||Yes‡||Not in public domain, copyright expires 95 years from publication date|
|1964-1977||Yes||N/A||Not in public domain, copyright expires 95 years from publication date|
|Created before 1-1-1978, but not published||N/A||N/A||Enters public domain 70 years after death of creator, or 12-31-2002, whichever is greater|
|Created before1-1-78 but published between then and 12-31-2002||N/A||N/A||Enters public domain 12-31-2047 at the earliest|
‡Determining the renewal status of works published between 1923 and 1963 is a challenge. See Univ. of Pennsylvania’s Information about the Catalog of Copyright Entries for more information about this subject.
Works Not Eligible for Copyright Protection
The Copyright Office publication Copyright Basics lists several categories of works that are not eligible for protection. These include: