There is an enormous amount of content, online and offline, that is free to use, with no restrictions whatsoever. This material is said to be in the public domain. Some of this material was copyrighted at one time; however the copyright has since expired and so it is now part of what has come to be known as the public domain.
How to Tell if Content is in the Public Domain
You may have to do a bit of work in order to discern whether or not the content you have discovered is indeed part of the public domain. Otherwise, you could infringe on someone’s copyright and this could spell trouble for you. There are a few basic rules to follow when you are looking for public domain content but you may still need to verify that the content you want to use is really part of the public domain.
Public Domain Content from an Expired Copyright
Before 1923, works that received a copyright had a 75 year reign of copyright protection. Although there was a renewal process that could extend the copyright, many creators of those works had passed away before the copyright ended and so did not extend the copyright. Those works are now in the public domain and many savvy Internet marketers have taken advantage of that and made a lot of money using those materials.
Works Never Copyrighted
Although today’s copyright laws are vastly different from those of the past, there are an unlimited number of resources in the public domain that never received a copyright at all and so are free for others to use. In some cases, the author meant for those works to be a part of the public domain; that is, he or she wanted to share their material with the world. In other cases, since no copyright was ever registered, those works became a part of the public domain. Today, however, you don’t have to register your word in order for it to be copyrighted as copyright is automatic. Still, there is a lot of material from days gone past that you can use today; either as it is or by modifying it.
Examples of Public Domain Works
Although the written word as it exists in books and other text comprises a large part of what is available in the public domain, there are far more resources than just writings. Music, photographs, images, and software are all available in the public domain as well. While there are many online resources where you can find material in the public domain, there are offline resources as well. Used bookstores, for instance, are a goldmine when it comes to searching for works in the public domain. You may need to conduct a search at the federal government’s copyright website to verify that no copyright currently exists, but it will be time well spent if you are able to produce products from these materials.
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