The term "public domain" refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws, such as copyright, patents or trademark laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist.
There are four ways works arrive in the public domain:
Copyright protection currently lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.* If there is more than one author, copyright protection lasts for the life of the last author's death plus 70 years.
All works published in the United States before 1928 are in the public domain as of Jan. 1, 2023. This is the first release of materials since the 1998 Sonny Bono Act.
Some works published during or after 1928 may also be in the public domain, but will require further analysis.
*There are many exceptions based on initial year a work was copyrighted. Unpublished or anonymous works may be covered even longer.