Public Domain is a status given to publications, creative works, or other types of works that are no longer protected by copyright. No one legally owns these works, so they can be reused or repurposed by anyone!
Why do works enter the public domain?
How can public domain works be used?
If I reuse a public domain work, do I need to cite it? Although these works are free of copyright restrictions, attributing a public domain work is good practice from the standpoints of academic integrity and the respect of intellectual property. Using a public domain work does not violate copyright, but failing to attribute it or wrongfully claiming authorship is considered plagiarism as opposed to copyright infringement (Crews, 2020, pg. 58). Therefore, citing a public domain work is just the ethically right thing to do!
Disclaimer: The FAU Libraries and its faculty, staff, and administration are not attorneys and cannot interpret the law. This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not substitute for advice from legal counsel.
Source: Crews, K. D. (2020). Copyright law for librarians and educators: Creative strategies and practical solutions (4th Ed.). Chicago: ALA Editions.
Related Research Guides and Information
U.S. Copyright Office & Federal Law
Copyright Clearance Center (2019). What is public domain? [YouTube Video]. https://youtu.be/PMp_-OX15Jc
Public Domain in Plain Language
Determine If a Work is in The Public Domain
Various web pages and meta-lists include links to public domain works that often may include works with copyright protection.
Recommended: check on any copyright information that may be available on any work of interest to be sure it is actually in the public domain, and document it.
Web Sites and Meta-Lists
Books and Texts
Images and Museums
Music (Sound, Sheet Music)
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