Intellectual Property: Public Domain

What is the Public Domain?

Public Domain is an intellectual property designation referring to the body of creative works and knowledge in which no person, government or organization has any proprietary interest such as a copyright. These works are considered part of the public cultural and intellectual heritage of content that is not owned or controlled by anyone and which may be freely used by all. Public domain does not mean "I can use it because I found it on the Internet." The phrase "public domain" refers purely to copyright status. 

Works in the public domain include the following:

  • Works published in the U.S. before 1923
  • Post-1923 publications whose copyright holder did not satisfy requirements (typically, renewal requirements)
  • Federal publications
  • Works donated to the public by the copyright holder (usually the holder states that anyone may copy the work) 

Public Domain Resources

Public Domain Day

Public Domain Day is a resource brought to you by Duke University that compiles all intellectual property entering the Public Domain on January 1, 2024.