Skip to main content

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 2024, for example, all works published in 1928 or earlier are in the public domain in the United States. On January 1, 2024, works published in 1928 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- unpublished anonymous and pseudonymous works created more than 120 years ago.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.

Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States

The most widely used and referenced chart in determining if a work is in the public domain. Published by Cornell University Library.


Commercial software and research system that provides legal information regarding the copyright status of any work in any jurisdiction in the world.

Circular 15A: Duration of Copyright

U.S. Copyright Office circular describing the changes to the law that affect duration and giving details about terms of protection for copyrights secured and renewed on certain dates.

Circular 22: How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work

U.S. Copyright Office circular summarizing methods to investigate whether a work is under copyright protection and, if so, the facts of the copyright.

Public Domain Slider Tool

Helpful digital tool for determining public domain status of a work. Published by the American Library Association.

Catalog of Copyright Entries

Links to electronic copies of copyright registrations and renewals. Hosted by the University of Pennsylvania.