Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Copyright: Public Domain

This guide is a copyright and 508/ADA compliance resource for APUS faculty and students.

Copyright at APUS

APUS Copyright Logo

                                                                              copyright@apus.edu

Copyright News

Keep up-to-date on current issues regarding intellectual property law!

The Basics of Public Domain

When a work is noted as being in the Public Domain, it is not covered by copyright, or any other intellectual property rights. Works generally enter the Public Domain  three different ways:

  1. Works created by the United States government are automatically in the Public Domain. As taxpayers, we have already paid for the creation of works by the US government, and therefore own the rights to any work created by its employees. PLEASE NOTE: works by state and local governments are likely protected by copyright.
  2. Works whose copyright has expired. Copyright terms vary depending on the type of work and the publication status. Generally, any item published before January 1, 1923  is in the Public Domain. For more specific terms, please see Peter Hirtle's "Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States."
  3. Works released into the Public Domain by the author. Some authors choose to relenquish their intellectual property rights and publish their works in the Public Domain.

Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States

Peter Hirtle's invaluable guide to copyright terms and the Public Domain.

The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind

James Boyle, a professor of law at Duke University discusses his book "The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind."

Additional Information on Public Domain Works