Public Domain

May 20, 2023
sheet music

The editors of Gathering recently came across a very helpful webpage from Stanford Libraries called The Public Domain (search Stanford libraries and public domain), which is part of a whole website on copyright and fair use. But this particular page defines and categorizes material that is in the public domain. It defines the term “public domain” as referring to “creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it.” However, it quickly goes on to say that there are many wrinkles and exceptions to the rules around public domain! Keep in mind that this is an American university site, and therefore refers to American copyright laws. However, there are similar rules and laws in Canada, which are referred to below.

The Stanford Libraries site includes a detailed examination of the four common ways something arrives in the public domain:
1. The copyright has expired.
2. The copyright owner failed to follow copyright renewal rules.
3. The copyright owner deliberately placed it in the public domain, known as “dedication.”
4. Copyright law does not protect this type of work.

To get more information on copyright and public domain in Canada, search government of Canada public domain Dalhousie University. Or go directly to the government website by searching Canada public domain Innovation, Science and Economic Development, where you’ll find extensive information on copyright, genres of work protected, ownership and timelines, public domain, moral rights, and copyright infringement.