In the era of Industry 4.0 and advancing AI, the issue of intellectual property protection, particularly copyright, has become a focal point. Notably, the concept of "public domain" becomes even more significant as individual creativity intersects with collective knowledge. As an intellectual property law firm, REFINY aims to provide insights into copyright in general and the public domain specifically. This article delves into the fundamental principles of copyright, the duration of copyright protection, and, most importantly, the diversity of content within the public domain.


Copyright and Works in the Public Domain

According to regulations, copyright for any work begin at the moment of its creation and expression in a tangible form. Registering copyright is not the basis for acquiring rights but a legal affirmation of their existence. Simultaneously, the copyright registration certificate, issued by the state authority, is considered a prerequisite for the owner to enforce their rights against any third party suspected of infringement during the protected period.

The term "public domain" in copyright is used to describe creative works not protected by copyright laws. These works belong to the public rather than individual authors or artists. Anyone can use works within the public domain without permission; however, no one can claim ownership of them.

Some types of works in the public domain include:

  • Works whose copyright has expired.
  • Works whose copyright owners did not adhere to renewal rules.
  • Works intentionally placed in the public domain by copyright owners, known as "dedication."
  • Legal provisions in copyright law that do not protect these types of works, such as purely factual news, legal texts, etc.


Duration of Copyright Protection and Works in the Public Domain

Understanding the duration of copyright protection is crucial when exploring works in the public domain. Generally, copyright protection lasts from 50 to 120 years or the author's lifetime plus 50 or 70 years after, depending on the type of work and the regulations of each country.

In the United States, the duration of copyright protection depends on factors such as whether the work has been published and, if so, the protection period is calculated from the date of first publication. According to the U.S. Copyright Act, for works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the author's lifetime plus 70 years after. For an anonymous work, a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first. 

When the copyright protection period ends, the work becomes part of the public domain, serving as a shared resource for society and a treasure trove of creativity that anyone can utilize.


The Significance of Understanding Works in the Public Domain

To check whether a work is currently under copyright protection, databases on Copyright at each country, or National Libraries, WorldCat, Google Books can provide valuable information on the copyright status of works.

Works in the public domain play a role as a valuable repository of rare materials for creativity. From timeless historical documents to works created by the government, public domain works cover a wide range. Users can use these works as inspiration for creative endeavors, contributing to the collective cultural heritage of society.


Benefits and Perspectives When Using Works in the Public Domain

Understanding the regulations related to works in the public domain brings numerous benefits to both creators and users. Access to a variety of works across different genres, cultures, and periods provides a rich source of inspiration and, at the same time, an opportunity to save time and resources while contributing to the public's collective knowledge and culture. However, users need to be cautious to ensure that the content used genuinely belongs to the public domain and does not encounter any legal issues. Respecting the copyright of creators is crucial in the current era of technology and Industry 4.0.


Considerations When Using Works in the Public Domain

  • In cases where you want to use a specific work, please contact the author/owner (if available) to seek permission for use if it is uncertain whether the work belongs to the public domain.
  • Always cite the author and the source of the content you are using.
  • Seek information about copyright and usage terms.
  • Cite and link to any portion you have downloaded. Many organizations require users to acknowledge them through citations and links. Even if not mandatory, citing the information source is a way to respect the author's rights.



Within the realms of copyright and the public domain, REFINY aims to provide guidance for clients to not only create but also protect and use their intellectual properties. The term "public domain" not only opens the door to shared knowledge but also encourages a collaborative environment where creativity knows no boundaries. In this ever-evolving space, understanding copyright and related issues is the key to navigating through the complex landscape of intellectual property law.

Copyright © 2024 by REFINY

Latest News & Events