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Copyright and Plagiarism
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Tutorial: Public Domain

A work of authorship is in the public domain if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner. Some works in the public domain include:

  • Phone books
  • Works with expired copyrights (but not revised versions of those works, such as a Disney cartoon of Cinderella)
  • Freeware
  • Most federal documents (and some state and local government documents)
  • Works whose creators/owners gave up their copyright
  • Works published in 1923 or before


For years after 1923, check the following list
:

If the work was created:
1923-1963
The term of protection is:
28 years plus renewal for 47 years (plus another 20 years provided by the Sonny Bono Act of 1998) making total protection time 95 years. If not renewed, protection expires after 28 years.


If the work was created:
1964-1977
The term of protection is:
28 years plus renewal for 67 years


If the work was created:
1978 and after
The term of protection is:
The life of the author plus 70 years. If a work has multiple authors, the protection under the most recent law (1976) is the life of the longest-living author plus 70 years. If the author is anonymous, or if the work is made for hire, the 1976 law protects the work for 95 years from the year of first publication or 120 years from the year of creation, whichever expires first.

For an anonymous work, copyright lasts 95 years from the date of registration or 125 years from the date of creation, whichever is shorter.

Last Updated: 12/09/2014
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