The copyright law does not define public domain, but does explain the conditions necessary for copyright protection, the types of works that are eligible for protection, the rights of copyright holders and the exceptions to these exclusive rights.
If a work is within the public domain, there are no copyright ownership issues associated it.
This is because the work was either never eligible for copyright protection OR, the term of copyright protection has expired.
Therefore, anyone may reproduce, redistribute, or adapt the work and there is no longer a need to seek permission for its use.
On January 1, 2019, a wealth of material fell into the public domain in the US - everything published in 1923. For help searching for this material, check out our HathiTrust guide.
Here are a couple of handy tools to help determine what is in public domain in the U.S. as of this year-
There are a number of sources for materials that are in the Public Domain - sources that can be used for free and without permission - below are just a few of the places where you can find such materials:
The Commons (Photographs)
Center for the Study of the Public Domain (Duke Law School)
Hathi Trust Digital Library
This guide is designed to share information on copyright and related topics. This guide does not supply legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of legal counsel.