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Creative Commons

An overview of Creative Commons history and use, licensing, and resources for authors/creators.

Dedicating a work to the Public Domain

A creative work is in the public domain (owned by the public) if it is not protected by copyright, trademark, or patents. In many countries, an item moves into the public domain automatically a certain number of years after the author/creator's death (usually 70 years).

Once an item is in the public domain, no intellectual property rights apply to the creative work, which means permission does not need to be sought to reuse it. This is how posthumous sequels, adaptations, and spoofs of popular historical works are able to be created without the express permission of an author's estate (i.e. the 1996 "Romeo + Juliet" film and many other, more experimental Shakespearean works).

If you want to make your work(s) available in this way, waiving all intellectual property rights and releasing the copyrighted work to the public domain is a great option. Many U.S. government reports and publications are dedicated to the public domain upon publication, for example.

Creative Commons has provided a helpful guide on how a copyright owner might release their work into the public domain, linked below:

Your Librarian

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Abbey Elder
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Iowa State University
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