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Copyright: Public Domain

Information about copyright and how it affects your teaching, research, and learning at Davidson

Bound by law: Tales from the public domain

Cover of Bound By the Law: Tales from the Public Domain

What's in the public domain?

In the United States, the following are genenerally are in the public domain:

  • Works published before 1923
  • Works published between 1923 and 1964 and copyright NOT renewed
  • Works created by the U.S. government
  • Works dedicated to the public domain by their creators

Questions about whether something is in the public domain?  Ask a librarian!


This site is intended for informational purposes only.  Library staff members cannot give legal advice.  For legal advice, you should contact an intellectual property attorney.


The public domain consists of works that are ineligible for copyright protection, works with expired copyrights, or those that have been placed in the public domain by the creator. These materials are owned by no one and are considered "public property." As such, they are available for anyone to use without permission.

For more information about how to discern if something is in the public domain in the United States, see:

Remember: just because something is in the public domain doesn't mean you shouldn't cite it.  Always give proper credit to your source!

Creative commons

Want to put your work in the public domain?  Or at least give away some of your copyrights?  Use a Creative Commons license.

Learn more About the public domain

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