Definition: A public domain work is a creative work that is not protected by copyright and which may be freely used by everyone. The reasons that the work is not protected include: (1) the term of copyright for the work has expired; (2) the author failed to satisfy statutory formalities to perfect the copyright or (3) the work is a work of the U.S. Government.
|DATE OF WORK||PROTECTED FROM||TERM|
|Created 1-1-78 or after||When work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression||Life + 70 years1(or if work of corporate authorship, the shorter of 95 years from publication, or 120 years from creation2|
|Published before 1923||In public domain||None|
|Published from 1923 - 63||When published with notice3||28 years + could be renewed for 47 years, now extended by 20 years for a total renewal of 67 years. If not so renewed, now in public domain|
|Published from 1964 - 77||When published with notice||28 years for the first term; now an automatic extension of 67 years for the second term|
|Created before 1-1-78 but not published||1-1-78, the effective date of the 1976 Act which eliminated common law copyright||Life + 70 years or 12-31-2002, whichever is greater|
1-1-78 but published between then and 12-31-2002
|1-1-78, the effective date of the 1976 Act which eliminated common law copyright||Life + 70 years or 12-31-2047 whichever is greater|
1 Term of joint works is measured by the life of the longest-lived author.
2 Works for hire, anonymous and pseudonymous works also have this term. 17 U.S.C. § 302(c).
3 Under the 1909 Act, works published without notice went into the public domain upon publication. Works published without notice between 1-1-78 and 3-1-89, the effective date of the Berne Convention Implementation Act, retained copyright only if efforts to correct the accidental omission of notice was made within five years, such as by placing a notice on unsold copies. 17 U.S.C. § 405. (Notes courtesy of Professor Tom Field, Franklin Pierce Law Center, and Lolly Gasaway)