Public Domain Overview
When the copyright expires for a work, it enters the public domain, meaning anyone can freely use it without seeking permission or paying a fee. Under US copyright law, all works published at least 95 years before January 1 of the current year are in the public domain. In 2021, for example, all works published in 1925 or earlier are in the public domain in the United States. On January 1, 2022, works published in 1926 will enter the public domain in the United States.
The public domain also includes other works, such as:
- works published before 1978 without a copyright notice;
- works published before 1964 with notice but copyright was not renewed;
- unpublished anonymous and pseudonymous works created more than 120 years ago.
Also, due to variations in international copyright laws, works in the public domain vary from one country to another.
The following resources may assist in determining whether a particular work is in the public domain in a particular country.