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Student Copyright Guide

This guide is an overview of copyright law, terms, and practices.

What is the Public Domain?

The public domain consists of works that are available for the public to use without restriction, as they are not protected by copyright.

Works can be in the public domain for several reasons:

  • The copyright protection has expired.
  • The work was intentionally placed in the public domain by the author.
    • Dedication is when the author explicitly states that the work is dedicated to the public domain, making it free to use. If this is not clearly authorized, always assume it is copyrighted.
  • The type of work is not protected by copyright laws.
    • For example, works produced by the U.S. Government fall into the public domain.
    • See "What is Not Protected?" for more examples.