Copyright and Your WPI Project

What is the Public Domain?

Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner. According to the U. S. Copyright Office, a work of authorship is in the public domain if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Many U.S. federal government documents are not entitled to copyright protection under U.S. law; therefore, images within many government publications and web sites are free to use.

Which items are in the Public Domain in the U.S.?

Which items are in the Public Domain in the U.S.?

  • Items published before 1923
  • Works published 1923-1963 whose copyright was not renewed.
  • Works created by a U.S. federal government officer or employee as part of official duties. Items such as those published by the U.S. Government printing office, Supreme Court Decisions; the CIA Factbook, and many other documents including the descriptions of patents that have been granted by the USPTO (but this does not give others permission to manufacture or use the invention during the life of the patent without permission from the inventor).


Helpful websites about when works enter the public domain: