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Copyright for Higher Education

This guide provides faculty and staff with information about their rights and responsibilities when using copyrighted materials in face to face or online classes.

Public Domain


Public Domain

Public Domain Seal, "No Rights Reserved"If a work is is in the public domain, anyone can use it freely, but you should still provide proper attribution. Works may be in the public domain due to their age, status as U.S. Government documents, or because the author has relinquished their copyright. Copyright terms for the United States and other countries are often different, and the time at which a work enters the public domain may differ based on when and where it was created.

These charts specify when various types of works enter the public domain.

In general, these works fall into the public domain:

  • Works published in the United States before 1925.
  • Works published between 1923-1977 without a copyright notice
  • Works created by the U.S. federal government, or by federal employees in the course of their work.

Do not just assume that a work is in the public domain - be sure to check. If the work is not in the public domain, check to see if your intended use falls under either the education exception or Fair Use. 

Public Domain Sources