Public Domain Works – What Is It?
You may have heard of works that are in the public domain being used as new products by entrepreneurs today. This is a great way to start a business, or to improve the overall bottom line of an existing business.
Work that is in the public domain includes any work for which the copyright has expired, and not been renewed. Any work that was published prior to 1923. Works produced by the United States Government, and other specific Governments. Work that is donated to the public domain, or any other work that has no laws that restrict its use by the public.
The work itself may be in the form of a book, an article, a song, a film, a photograph, a painting, or even an invention. These works that are not covered by copyright laws. Or are no longer covered by copyright laws, are free for the public to use as they see fit.
Copyright or Copyleft?
You most likely know what a copyright is, but if you don‟t. According to the United States Copyright Office. A copyright is a set of rights granted by the Government for a limited time to protect creative. Or artistic forms or works including literary works, movies, musical works, sound recordings, paintings, photographs, software, and industrial designs.
But what is Copyleft?
While Copyleft is NOT an actual legal term, such as copyright, it is often referred to as a reciprocal license. With a Copyleft, instead of a copyright, restrictions are usually imposed on a work stating that when the work is copied, modified, or used in any subsequent work, the author of that subsequent work must grant the same Copyleft rights to the public for the subsequent work. It‟s kind of like passing the rights forward.
Copyleft is usually symbolized with a backward C in the copyright symbol. And copyleft is often used for open source computer software, documents, music, and art. Copyleft is essentially the opposite of a copyright.
How to Determine if the Work is in the Public Domain
Often, people who wish to use public domain work to create new products make the mistake of assuming that work is in the public domain simply because it is old. This is a mistake that is easily avoided simply by doing a small bit of research.
When you find work that you wish to use to create your own product. You need to pay close attention to the copyright date. This will tell you whether a work is possibly in the public domain. But not necessarily that it is actually in the public domain. Copyrights can be renewed – and if you are looking at the copyright date of an original publication, the new copyright may not be reflected.
After you determine that a work is eligible to be in the public domain, due to it‟s copyright being dated the required elapsed time, you still need to contact the copyright office in that country to certify that the work is in fact in the public domain before you use it.