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Works not under copyright protection enters the Public Domain and can be used and adapted freely without permission, because no one can own materials in the public domain. Common reasons why works enter the public domain include:
- Copyright has expired
- Owner deliberately places the work in the public domain
- Owner failed to register or renew the copyright of a work
Current law protects all original works under copyright, whether registered or not, for the life of the author plus 70 years. But, there are exceptions. The following is a general guide to determine if a work is in the public domain:
- Works published in the U.S. before 1924
- Works published in the U.S. from 1923 to end of 1963 with a copyright notice and not renewed
- Works published in the U.S. from 1923 to end of 1977 without a copyright notice
- Works published in the U.S. from 1978 to March 1, 1989 without a copyright notice and without subsequent registration within 5 years
For a detailed resource on Public Domain, see Stanford University Library's page at https://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/public-domain/welcome/.
Copyright Duration and Public Domain Slider
Places to Find Materials in the Public Domain
Public Health Image Library (PHIL)
An organized, universal electronic gateway to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s pictures.
PEIR (Pathology Education Informational Resource) Digital Library
A multidisciplinary public access image database for use in medical education.
National Library of Medicine: Digital Projects
Online archive of selected book, serial, archives and manuscripts, and film resources. Most are in the public domain and freely available.
Browse over 500 million images, available for reuse with Creative Commons licenses or in the public domain.
Public Domain Review
Strategies and resources for finding works in the public domain.
Library of Congress Digital Collections
Online catalog of resources made freely available by the Library of Congress.
A library of over 60,000 free eBooks.
National Library of Medicine: Images from the History of Medicine
Online access to over 70,000 Images from the historical collections of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, dating from the 15th to 21st Century.
A non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.
A collection of 75,003,616 freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute.
A Wikimedia Foundation project to create a growing free content online library of source texts, as well as translations of source texts in any language.