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Copyright: Public Domain

Public domain works

Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner. 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 include the following:

  • Works published in the U.S. before 1925
  • Post-1924 publications that did not satisfy U.S. copyright requirements (typically notice requirements) of the time
  • Publications of the U.S. federal government
  • Works donated to the public domain by the copyright holder (usually by providing a statement saying anyone may copy the work)

International works in the public domain

This gets complicated very quickly. Peter Hirtle created and maintains a useful resource for assessing when specific materials enter the public domain. You can access the Copyright Term table on the Cornell University Library Page.

Have a copyright question?

You can contact Musselman Library's Copyright Committee at

The committee will offer a recommendation based on your situation, but the committee does not provide legal advice or serve as a substitute for consultation with competent legal counsel on matters regarding compliance with copyright law.

Finding public domain materials

There are many ways to find content believed to be in the public domain. Here are a few places for different types of materials: