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Copyright Guide: Public Domain

What is Public Domain?

The Public Domain consist of works that are available to use without permission.

There are many reasons a work might be in the public domain. A few common reasons are:

  • Copyright Term has expired (see Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States)
    • Work published before 1923 is often public domain
  • The work was produced by a federal employee of U.S. government
  • The work was dedicated to the public domain 
  • The work does not qualify for copyright protection (i.e. facts and ideas) 

a public domain symbol; the letters p and dPublic Domain Symbol; crossed out letter Ca public domain symbol; the letters d and p

Common symbols for public domain works. Also look for works labeled as "no known copyright restrictions"

Places to Find Public Domain Content

Meet with a Librarian (Copyright)

Meet with a research librarian to discuss a copyright question.

Attributing Public Domain Content

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


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.

Questions? Need help? Ask a Librarian
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