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Copyright & Intellectual Property: Public Domain

Information about copyright & intellectual property

Public Domain Exemption: Works NOT Protected by Copyright

The majority of library items fall under works protected by copyrights, but there are some works NOT protected by copyrights. Items are not covered by copyrights if they are in the public domain. Facts, ideas, works that have been timed out, or documents produced by the federal government are some examples.

Several categories of material are generally not eligible for federal copyright protection. These include among others:

  • Works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression (for example, choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded, or improvisational speeches or performances that have not been written or recorded)
  • Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents
  • Ideas, procedures,methods,systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration
  • Works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship (for example: standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources)

Excerpt from U.S. Copyright Office "Copyright Basics"