The public domain is a range of abstract materials-commonly referred to as intellectual property-which are not owned or controlled by anyone.The term indicates that these materials are therefore “public property”, and available for anyone to use for any purpose.
The laws of various countries define the scope of the public domain differently, making it necessary to specify which jurisdiction’s public domain is being discussed.Furthermore, the public domain can be defined in contrast to several forms of intellectual property; the public domain in contrast to copyrighted works is different from the public domain in contrast to trademarks or patented works.
The public domain is most often discussed in contrast to works restricted by copyright.Under modern law, most original works of art, literature, music, etc are covered by copyright from the time of their creation for a limited period of time (which varies by country).When the copyright expires, the work enters the public domain.
About 15 percent of all books are in the public domain, including 10 percent of all books that are still in print.
The public domain can also be defined in contrast to trademarks. Names, logos, and other identifying marks used in commerce can be restricted as proprietary trademarks for a single business to use.Trademarks can be maintained indefinitely, but they can also lapse through disuse, negligence, or widespread misuse, and enter the public domain.
It is possible, however, for a lapsed trademark to become proprietary again, leaving the public domain.
The public domain also contrasts with patents.
New inventions can be registered and granted patents restricting others from using them without permission from the inventor.
Like copyrights, patents last for a limited period of time, after which the inventions covered by them enter the public domain and can be used by anyone.
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A creative work is said to be in the public domain if there are no laws which restrict its use by the public at large. For instance, a work may be in the public domain if no laws establish proprietary rights over the work, or if the work or its subject matter are specifically excluded from existing laws. Because proprietary rights are founded in national laws, an item may be public domain in one jurisdiction but not another. For instance, some works of literature are public domain in the United States but not in the European Union and vice versa.
The underlying idea that is expressed or manifested in the creation of a work generally cannot be the subject of copyright law (see idea-expression divide). Mathematical formula will therefore generally form part of the public domain, to the extent that their expression in the form of software is not covered by copyright; however, algorithms can be the subject of a software patent in some jurisdictions.
Works created before the existence of copyright and patent laws also form part of the public domain. The Bible and the inventions of Archimedes are in the public domain. However, copyright may exist in translations or new formulations of these works. Although “intellectual property” laws are not designed to prevent facts from entering the public domain, collections of facts organized or presented in a creative way, such as categorized lists, may be copyrighted.
Collections of data with intuitive organization, such as alphabetized directories like telephone directories, are generally not copyrightable.
In some countries copyright-like rights are granted for databases, even those containing mere facts. A sui generis database rights regime is in place in the European Union.
Works of the United States Government and various other governments are excluded from copyright law and may therefore be considered to be in the public domain in their respective countries. They may also be in the public domain in other countries as well.
All copyrights and patents have always had a finite term, though the terms for copyrights and patents differ.When terms expire, the work or invention is released into public domain.
In most countries, the term for patents is 20 years.
A trademark registration may be renewed and remain in force indefinitely provided the trademark is used, but could otherwise become generic.
Copyrights are more complex than patents; generally, in current law, the copyright in a published work expires in all countries (except Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Samoa, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) when any of the following conditions are satisfied :The work was created and first published before January 1, 1923, or at least 95 years before January 1 of the current year, whichever is later;The last surviving author died at least 70 years before January 1 of the current year;No Berne Convention signatory has passed a perpetual copyright on the work; and neither the United States nor the European Union has passed a copyright term extension since these conditions were last updated. This must be a condition because the exact numbers in the other conditions depend on the state of the law at any given moment.
These conditions are based on the intersection of United States and European Union copyright law, which most other Berne Convention signatories recognize. Note that copyright term extension under US tradition usually does not restore copyright to public domain works (hence the 1923 date), but European tradition does because the EU harmonization was based on the copyright term in Germany, which had already been extended to life plus 70. United States law all or part of this article may be confusing or unclear.
In the United States, copyright law has changed several times since the founding of the country.
Rural that Congress does not have the power to re-copyright works that have fallen into the public domain.
“After World War I and after World War II, there were special amendments to the Copyright Act to permit for a limited time and under certain conditions the recapture of works that might have fallen into the public domain, principally by aliens of countries with which we had been at war.
Works created by an agency of the United States government are public domain at the moment of creation.
Examples include military journalism, federal court opinions (but not necessarily state court opinions), congressional committee reports, and census data. However, works commissioned by the government but created by a contractor are still subject to copyright, and even in the case of public domain documents, availability of such documents may be limited by laws limiting the spread of classified information.
Before 1978, unpublished works were not covered by the federal copyright act This does not mean that the works were in the public domain. Rather, it means that they were covered under (perpetual) common law copyright The Copyright Act of 1976, effective 1978, abolished common law copyright in the United States; all works, published and unpublished, are now covered by federal statutory copyright.
The claim that “pre-1923 works are in the public domain” is correct only for published works; unpublished works are under federal copyright for at least the life of the author plus 70 years.
For a work made for hire, the copyright in a work created before 1978, but not theretofore in the public domain or registered for copyright, subsists from January 1, 1978, and endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication, or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first. If the work was created before 1978 but first published on or before December 31, 2002, the work is covered by federal copyright until 2047.
Works published with notice of copyright or registered in unpublished form prior to January 1, 1964, had to be renewed during the 28th year of their first term of copyright to maintain copyright for a full 95-year term.
Until the Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988, the lack of a proper copyright notice would place an otherwise copyrightable work into the public domain, although for works published between January 1, 1978 and February 28, 1989, this could be prevented by registering the work with the Library of Congress within 5 years of publication. After March 1, 1989, an author’s copyright in a work begins when it is fixed in a tangible form; neither publication nor registration is required, and a lack of a copyright notice does not place the work into the public domain.
Sound recordings fixed before February 15, 1972, were generally covered by common law or in some cases by statutes enacted in certain states, but were not covered by federal copyright law.
The 1976 Copyright Act, effective 1978, provides federal copyright for unpublished and published sound recordings fixed on or after February 15, 1972. Recordings fixed before February 15, 1972, are still covered, to varying degrees, by common law or state statutes. Any rights or remedies under state law for sound recordings fixed before February 15, 1972, are not annulled or limited by the 1976 Copyright Act until February 15, 2067.
Critics of copyright term extensions have said that Congress has achieved a perpetual copyright term “on the installment plan.
British government works are restricted by either Crown Copyright or Parliamentary Copyright.
Published Crown Copyright works become public domain at the end of the year 50 years after they were published, unless the author of the work held copyright and assigned it to the Crown.
In that case, the copyright term is the usual life of author plus 70 years Unpublished Crown Copyright documents become public domain at the end of the year 125 years after they were first created.
However, under the legislation that created this rule, and abolished the traditional common law perpetual copyright of unpublished works, no unpublished works will become public domain until 50 years after the legislation came into effect.
Since the legislation became law on 1 August 1989, no unpublished works will become public domain under this provision until 2039.
Parliamentary Copyright documents become public domain at the end of the year 50 years after they were published.
Crown Copyright is waived on some government works provided that certain conditions are met.
These numbers reflect the most recent extensions of copyright in the United States and Europe.
Canada and New Zealand have not, as of 2006, passed similar twenty-year extensions
Consequently, their copyright expiry times are still life of the author plus 50 years.
Australia passed a 20-year copyright extension in 2004, but delayed its effect until 2005, and did not make it revive already-expired copyrights.
Hence, in Australia works by authors who died before 1955 are still in the public domain.
As a result, works ranging from Peter Pan to the stories of H. Lovecraft are public domain in both countries.(The copyright status of Lovecraft’s work is debatable, as no copyright renewals, which were necessary under the laws of that time, have been found.
Also, two competing parties have independently claimed copyright ownership on his work.
As with most other Commonwealth of Nations countries, Canada and Australia follow the general lead of the United Kingdom on copyright of government works.Both have a version of Crown Copyright which lasts for 50 years from publication.
New Zealand also has Crown Copyright, but has a much greater time length, at 100 years from the date of publication.
India has a government copyright of sixty years from publication, to coincide with its somewhat unusual life of the author plus sixty years term of copyright. According to Thai copyright law, the copyright term is the life of author plus 50 years.When the author is a legal entity or an anonymous person, the copyright term is 50 years from the date of publication.
Works of applied art (defined as drawings, paintings, sculpture, prints, architecture, photography, drafts, and models) have a copyright term of 25 years from publication.
Republication of works after the expiration of the copyright term does not reset the copyright term.
Thai state documents are public domain,but creative works produced by or commissioned by government offices are protected by copyright.
Japanese copyright law does not mention public domain. Hence, even when some materials are said to be “in the public domain” there can be some use restrictions. In that case, the term copyright-free is sometimes used instead. Many pre-1953 both Japanese and non-Japanese films are considered to be in the public domain in Japan.
Examples of inventions whose patents have expired include the inventions of Thomas Edison.
Examples of works whose copyrights have expired include the works of Carlo Collodi, Mozart, and most of the works of Mark Twain, excluding the work first published in 2001, A Murder, a Mystery, and a Marriage.
In the United States, the images of Frank Capra’s classic film, It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) entered into the public domain in 1974, because someone inadvertently failed to file a copyright renewal application with the Copyright Office during the 28th year after the film’s release or publication.
Although copyright law generally does not provide any statutory means to “abandon” copyright so that a work can enter the public domain, this does not mean that it is impossible or even difficult, only that the law is somewhat unclear.