This is the "Public Domain" page of the "Copyright Law for Educators" guide.
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Copyright Law for Educators   Tags: copyright, copyright_educators, copyright_law  

This guide should help you with the do's and don'ts of copyright law as it pertains to teachers and educational use.
Last Updated: Feb 8, 2010 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Duration of Copyright

These tools may help identify when your material was published and copyrighted; as well as renewed in its copyright (If applicable). You may also find information on the length of protection.

  • Duration of Copyright
    U.S. Copyright Code Sections 301-305 from Cornell University Law School.
  • Digital Copyright Slider
    Use this tool to help determine copyright duration.
  • Copyright Term and Public Domain in the U. S.
    Identify the status of materials never published, never registered, 1st published in the U. S., works published abroad before and after 1978. Also includes information on special cases as well as sound recordings. Courtesy Cornel Copright Information Center.

What is Public Domain

If a work is within the public domain, there are no ownership rights associated it.

Anyone may reproduce, redistribute, or adapt the work and there is no longer a need to seek permission for its use.

This particular statute does not define public domain, but does explain the conditions necessary for copyright protection, the types of works that are eligible for protection, the rights of copyright holders and the exceptions to these exclusive rights.

It will be 2019 before anything else enters the public domain.


    Length of Protection




    Created 1-1-78 or after

    When work is fixed in tangible medium of expression

    Life + 70 years or if work of corporate authorship, the shorter of 95 years from publication, or 120 years from creation

    Published before 1923

    In public domain 


    Published from 1923 - 63

    When published with notice

    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 first term; now automatic extension of 67 years for 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

    Created before

    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

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