Public Domain

Just Because A Work Is Copyrighted Doesn't Mean Everything In It Is

Public domain is a term used to describe existing material that cannot be protected by copyright.  This includes facts and ideas.  (see glossary)

Public domain simply refers to that which is owned by all and, therefore, the rights that are exclusive to the author under copyright do not apply.

A work's copyright protection can only be extended to those parts of a work that are original to the author. When the author clothes facts or ideas with an original description or other original collection of words, then this written expression may be protected. However, the underlying facts or ideas may be copied by others, but not the precise words used to present them.

One aspect of this that is often misunderstood is that the copyright of a work in no way can have an impact on the status of pre-existing material. If the work contains information that is in the public domain or is copyrighted by another individual, then that portion of the work is still in the public domain or still covered by the copyright of the other individual, as the case may be. This is a very important point in technical materials. The majority of information in many such works is in the public domain by virtue of being facts or presumed facts. The copyright status of the work that they are contained in does not remove them from being in the public domain. The facts contained in existing compilations (such as databases) "may be freely copied because copyright protects only the elements that owe their origin to the compiler the selection, coordination, and arrangements of facts." (Feist)

Updated Sunday, 11. October 2009, 14:22 by Michael Goad ()

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