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4. Copyright Basics: When it ends

Copyright protection of a work doesn’t last forever. Congress has placed a limitation on the length of copyright so that works can eventually become part of the public domain and be re-used and built upon by others.

Over the years the term of copyright has changed significantly. The current term is:


out of copyright


Since the term of copyright has changed throughout the years, it can be difficult to determine when the term of a particular work ends. Below are links to a couple of online resources to help you determine when a particular work enters the public domain.

Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States

ALA Copyright Genie

Once the copyright term ends for a work, it enters the public domain. This means that no one has rights to the work, so the work may be used without permission and in any manner. The internet is full of useful sites that can help you find Public Domain materials. Here are just a few:


Pop Quiz


Can you determine if something is copyrightable? Complete the Copyrightable? quiz..


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