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Open Educational Resources (OER): Dive Deep

What is Public Domain?

A work typically enters the Public Domain when its term of copyright expires. Determining whether or not a work is in the Public Domain can be complicated, however, as the term of copyright often differs depending on a work’s authorship, format, date of publication, and country of origin. The term "public domain" encompasses materials for which:

  • The copyright has expired
  • The copyright owner has intentionally and explicitly "dedicated" it to the public domain
  • The copyright owner did not follow copyright renewal rules
  • Copyright law does not protect (such as works created by U.S. Government employees during the course of their employment, and works that cannot by copyrighted (such as ideas, common knowledge, data points etc.) (Stim, n.d.)


NOTE: Public domain is different than "publicly accessible" or "free online."


Stim, Rich. “Welcome to the Public Domain.” Copyright and Fair Use, Stanford University Libraries,

Public Domain Resources