Answered By: Rob Lopresti
Last Updated: Jan 14, 2016     Views: 30

Public domain refers to anything that is not under copyright.  Works in the public domain may be freely copied.

Works which are in the public domain include those that have never been under copyright protection and works whose term of copyright protection has expired.  Most works created by the U.S. government are in the public domain. This does not extend to documents published by others with the support of U.S. government funds, grants or contracts, or to portions of government documents which contain copyrighted material from nongovernmental sources. It also does not extend to publishers' edited, annotated or compiled versions of such documents.  

Collections or edited versions of works in the public domain may be protected by copyright. The absence of a copyright notice does not guarantee that something is in the public domain. Neither does the fact that the author is deceased or the book is out of print. When in doubt about the status of a work, it is best to contact the publisher's copyright permission department to determine whether the work is still under copyright or in the public domain.

For more information see the Creative Commons Public Domain page and the University of Texas site.

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