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Digital Scholarship Research Guide

What is Public Domain?

Licensing gives permissions for how others can use their work. A copyright holder can choose to remove their copyright ownership by releasing a work into the public domain. A work is in the public domain (owned by the public) if it is not protected by copyright, trademark, or patents. No intellectual property rights apply to the creative work, which means permission does not need to be sought to use the work. If copyright owners wish to make their work(s) available in this way, waiving all intellectual property rights and releasing the copyrighted work to the public domain is a great option.

Creative Commons has a helpful guide on how a copyright owner might release their work into the public domain.

What is CC Licensing?

Copyright holders, which can be the creators of works such as digital projects, often have the ability to authorize specific kinds of reuses for their works. This is called licensing, and licensing makes the terms of reuse for researchers and publishers clear. Creative Commons (CC) licenses are a frequently used, standardized license.

Please note: licensing depends on the kind of format created. Although CC licensing applies to many formats, it does not apply to all, such as software. See for software licensing options.

Beyond the more traditional licensing of scholarly textual works such as articles and books, those engaged in digital scholarship have a wide variety of outputs and creations that might be considered for licensing: software, websites, apps, code, and so much more. The resources in this guide will help you figure out what questions to ask and where to go when investigating licensing options. That said, please keep in mind that this is a guide, not legal advice.

If you are interesting in copyright for teaching and learning, or authors’ rights and publishing, see the ISU Library’s guides on these specific topics.