Public Domain

Pronunciation: ‘publik dow’meyn

Definition: [noun] property rights that are held by the public at large

(Public Domain) The total absence of copyright protection. If something is “in the public domain” then anyone can copy it or use it in any way they wish. The author has none of the exclusive rights which apply to a copyright work.

The phrase “public domain” is often used incorrectly to refer to freeware or shareware (software which is copyrighted but is distributed without (advance) payment). Public domain means no copyright — no exclusive rights. In fact the phrase “public domain” has no legal status at all in the UK.

The public domain, are works, ie… text, music, software, art, and patents not protected by intellectual property laws. Intellectual property laws are copyright, trademark or patent laws that grant to the creator of an original work or others they authorize, exclusive rights of control over that original work. This means items in the public domain are free for you to use without permission or royalty payments.

As a general rule, most works enter the public domain because of old age. This includes any work published in the United States before 1923. Another large block of works are in the public domain because they were published before 1964 and their copyright was not renewed. Renewal was a requirement for works published before 1978.

A smaller group of works entered the public domain because they were published without copyright notice. Copyright notice was necessary for works published in the United States before March 1, 1989. Some works are in the public domain because the owner has indicated a desire to give them to the public without copyright protection.

To truly understand the public domain you need to understand what copyright protection is. Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U.S. Code)and other countries to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.

The exclusive rights granted the author of an original work include:

To reproduce the work in copies

To prepare derivative works

To distribute copies of the work to the public

To perform the work publicly

To display the copyrighted work publicly

In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

Authors of works of visual art have the rights of attribution and integrity

It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the copyright law to the owner of copyright.

Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work. Only the author or those deriving their rights through the author can rightfully claim copyright.

In the case of works made for hire, the employer and not the employee is considered to be the author.

This report focuses on copyright protection so that you develop a solid understanding of it. Some of the areas covered are copyright basics, when does a work pass into the public domain, what is the public domain, the right to display public domain images, the myths of copyright protection and frequently asked questions about copyright and the public domain.

Once you understand copyright protection you will be prepared to utilize the public domain for fun and profit.

What have others done with some of the information available in the public domain?

A father and son produce publications ranging from weekly compilation of real estate sales and mortgage information to annual property maps in hard-copy, property assessments, ownership data and around the clock real estate information via their electronic network

Three Dartmouth College juniors gathered 1300 terms associated with the arms race and created a book called, Coming to Terms with Nuclear War: An A-Z Guide to Nuclear Weapons Technology

Two housewives reconstructed dental insurance industry information to provide information to dentist about employers and their insurance coverage and assist employees better understand their coverage

A high school student re packages legislative information. The Legislative Tracking Service monitors state legislative activities for businesses, associations, political groups and newspapers. It keeps its clients up to date on the progress of bills that could affect their special interest.

An eighth grader from Oregon uses his father’s compute to obtain weekly climate data from NOAA. He publishes the information in a weekly newsletter and mails it to his clients months before they can receive it directly from the government. Now in its fourth year, the Energy Advisory Service has 100’s of subscribers at $47 a year.

Tele-Collections collected over $750,000 it’s second year in business. Accessing public domain information on motorist who fail to pay their overdue parking tickets or purchase current vehicle registration stickers, this infopreneur designed a system to contact the motorist by phone using a autodialer and a computer.

Public domain information when customized, re-packaged or leveraged with a database creates new business opportunities that allow you to increase your net worth. Learn to marry this information to the right market and you can write your own ticket.

This report is your launching point. In addition to helping you learn to use the public domain correctly, I have also included are over 125 public domain text, art, music and software resources to help you get started determining its profit potential.

Just because someone says a work is in the public domain does not mean it really is. Ultimate responsibility for verification of copyright status rests, finally, with the user of that work. Read the copyright notices accompanying all created works carefully.

Check all cite sources. Be very careful about taking anyone’s word regarding the legal status of any work they do not own.