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Copyright at Bryan College of Health Sciences

Basics: Public Domain

What's the public domain?

The public domain refers to those works that are not copyright protected and that can be used freely, without seeking permission. There are a number of ways a work may pass into the public domain, including the following, though you should always check carefully to determine that a particular work really is in the public domain before assuming that you may use it.  NOTE:  Open Access resources are not necessarily in the public domain.  Copyright status of Open Access articles needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis.  

  • United States Government Documents (note that foreign documents may be copyrighted)
  • Materials that have used a Creative Commons license instead of copyright, which gives you permission to share and use materials
  • When copyrights expire the materials move into the public domain 
  • Factual and non-creative works like telephone books, standard tables of chemical information, etc.

Additional Resources: