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Copyright Tips

A self-service guide to analyzing copyright questions

A public domain work is a creative work that is not protected by copyright and which may be freely used and adapted by anyone. The reasons a work is in the public domain may include:

  • the term of copyright for the work has expired
  • the work is a work of the U.S. Government
  • the author chose to dedicate their works to the worldwide public domain

Public Domain Examples

Government materials

This image of Carina Nebula was taken by NASA's James Webb Telescope. The photo is owned by NASA, a government entity, and is therefore in the public domain. 

photo of space stars dust

Public Domain Expiration

This image from 1900, taken by Theresa Babb of a group of friends picnicking in Camden, ME has surpassed its copyright limit (95 years) and is no longer protected by copyright.

black and white photo group of women sitting on rocks drinking soda

Waiving Copyright

The person who took this photo of a busy New York City scene waived their copyright and put it in the public domain for anyone to use. Image by Pexels from Pixabay

new york city street cabs skyscrapers

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through creative commons licenses. These licenses allow creators greater control over their ability to share their work and allow others to use it. Creative Commons is a great resource for finding materials to utilize as well as sharing your work with the world. The website contains a section dedicated to Public Domain Tools.

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