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Copyright & Fair Use: Public Domain

What is the Public Domain?

The term "public domain" does not appear in the U.S. Copyright Act, but the term is commonly used to refer to items that do not need permission for use.  Sometimes, items fall under the public domain because they are created without copyright, such as facts, local laws, or U.S. government publications.  Others once fell under copyright, but their terms expired due to age or non-renewal.  Determining what does or does not fall in the public domain is a highly complex process. The following chart created by Cornell University may be able to assist you.

The public domain covers works not protected by copyright. Learn which works are in the public domain and how works become a part of it.

Resources & Further Readings on Public Domain

Copyright Term and the Public Domain

The following chart was created by the Libraries at Cornell University


(See footnote 1)

This page is intended to share general guidelines and best practices related to copyright.  The staff of Lipscomb Library cannot provide legal advice and are not responsible for the content of third party sites, which are provided in this guide for your convenience.  If you need legal advice, you should contact an intellectual property attorney.