Public domain


The term public domain refers to works in which the copyright has expired or where the copyright owner has made a clear declaration that they will not assert copyright in the work and that it is their intention that the work should be freely and openly accessible. In Canada, print material enters the public domain fifty years after the death of the author. Sound recordings enter the public domain seventy years after the first publication.

In some cases, however, public domain material can be adapted in a way that adds a new "layer" of copyright, such as an edited or translated edition. For example, although copyright in Shakespeare's plays expired long ago, many of the published editions of his plays contain added original materials (such as annotations, translations, footnotes, prefaces, etc.) that are copyright protected because the authors have used skill and judgment in creating the new material. 

Never assume that something you find on the internet is in the public domain just because it is publicly available. Most of the material that you find online is protected by copyright.

What's the difference between public domain and "out of print"?

Out of Print means that the item is no longer being published, however this does not necessarily mean that the material is in the public domain. You must ask permission from the publisher to reproduce an entire out of print work.



Should you have any questions please contact the Copyright Office.

The Copyright Office makes every effort to provide accurate information but does not offer it as counsel or legal advice.