Rules and Definitions For Public Domain Works



The article on this page is a preview of some of the content

taught in Module 1 of the Public Domain How To course.

Module 1: The Secrets Of The Public Domain.




Damien DupontFrom:
The Desk of Damien Dupont

When creative works are referred to as being "in the public domain", this signifies that they are either not, or that they are no longer, protected under copyright law.

A creative work can be anything: a book, a play, audio recordings, music, sheet music, films, photographs, posters & illustrations, courses, articles, instruction manuals, etc..

There are a number of reasons why something might be in the public domain. The most common three reasons being that the copyright on the work has expired, or it was never copyrighted, or it is/was not eligible to be copyrighted. When a work is in the public domain, then anyone is free to use it, or parts of it, in almost anyway they wish. This includes republishing and reselling it either as a whole work, or dissecting parts of it for republishing, or modifying the original work and using it as a basis for a new or revised work. No royalties are due or payable to the original creator of the work.



Some Items That Are Not Eligible For Copyright Protection


There are a number of categories of works that are ineligible for copyright protection. Some of these include:




Words, names, slogans and most short phrases can not be copyrighted (although some of these can be trademarked);



Blank forms used to record information are in the public domain;



Common property: height and weight charts, tape measures, rulers, calendars, etc.. (although the design component and photos or illustrations on a chart or calendar can be);



Recipes: a list of ingredients is not copyrightable, but explanations, methodologies and notes in a recipe can be.



U.S. Federal Government Produced Works

Another major and important source includes U.S. Federal government works. Whether published or unpublished, if it is prepared by an officer (elected or appointed official, including the president and supreme court justice) or employee of the U.S. federal government within the performance of their duties to the government, then it is in the public domain. This includes a huge amount of material: speeches, letters, documents, nearly everything published by the U.S. printing office, IRS, CIA, FBI, FTC, Copyright Office, Patent Office, and all other Federal agencies (with the obvious exception of classified materials).

The logic behind this is that because the materials produced by these agencies were tax payer funded, then they belong to the public. Note that this logic does not apply to other English speaking countries. For example, I know that Canadian government material is "copyrighted under the crown", which leads me to suspect that the same would apply in other Commonwealth countries such as the UK, Australia & New Zealand, South Africa, India and Malaysia. No wonder the Queen is so wealthy!

There are some exceptions to U.S. government works. For example, most works published by the U.S. Postal Service after 1972 are copyright protected. Also, if the work was created for the U.S. Federal government or one of its agencies by an independent contractor, then generally it is not public domain. Also the public domain rule does not necessarily apply to state or local government works.

The profit possibilities from this treasure trove of U.S. government material are only limited by your imagination. Here are just two examples:


  1. Let's say you're interested in the health and wellbeing niche, which happens to be a very large multi-billion dollar niche. Well.. if you were looking for content that you could adapt and re-use, the content on the U.S. govt. website is public domain. As I write this, I Googled the site and Google is telling me that it has 33,000 pages indexed. That is a lot of up-to-date, authoritative and professionally researched content that you are free to re-use as is, or compile into themed reports, or edit, revise or expand in anyway you like, and then monetize.

    And if you are a Spanish speaker, there is a Spanish mirror of the site, so that everything that you find in English is also available in Spanish. is just a single niche specific government website. The U.S. govt. has comprehensive websites covering a wide variety of topics. Just look at the homepage of to get an idea of the available categories.


  2. I've heard of an individual who has made a killing, if you'll pardon the pun, by taking the official Navy Seals Manual and modifying it to create his own 'Special Forces Handbook' to resell to military enthusiasts.





Rules For Works Published In The United States


Outside of items which are either not eligible for copyright protection, that have been donated to the public domain, or that are in the public domain by default, remain all other works. This is the greater body of created works.

The following table defines the copyright coverage periods for works published within the United States. The Module 1 section of the workbook that comes with the Public Domain How To course also includes a copyright table for works published outside of the United States.



Published before 1923.

The work is in the public domain.



Published 1923-1963 and the copyright was not renewed in the 28th year after publication.

The work is in the public domain.



Published 1923-1963 and the copyright was renewed in the 28th year after publication.

After 95 years from the date of first publication it will be in the public domain.



Published between 1964-1977.

After 95 years from the date of publication.



Created before 01-Jan-1978 but not published.

Life of the author plus 70 years or 31-Dec-2002, whichever is greater.



Created before 01-Jan-1978 but published between then and 31-Dec-2002.

Life of the author plus 70 years or 31-Dec-2047, whichever is greater.



If it was created (does not have to be published) in 1978 or later.

The life of the author plus 70 years - for multiple authors it is 70 years after the last one dies.

Works made for hire are protected for 95 years from first publication or 120 years from date of first creation (whichever is first).



For businesses or individuals who are not U.S. based and who are selling U.S. public domain content, or a product derived from U.S. public domain content, to customers outside of the USA, it's important to be aware of the possibility of that material still being under copyright in their own country, or in another country that they are selling to.

Public domain lawyer Bob Silber discusses this in the Q&A session on the legal aspects of using the public domain, and provides some suggestions on what non-U.S. residents can do to safeguard themselves against this type of situation.



Wrap Up


As stated at the top of this page, this is the second article previewing the content taught in Module 1 of the Public Domain How To course: The Secrets Of The Public Domain. The first preview article can be found here: A Four Step System to Public Domain Riches.

Besides expanding upon the subject matter previewed in these two articles, Russell covers the following additional topics in the second half of Module 1:



How & Where To Find Public Domain Works: Russell Brunson's top ten sources for finding public domain works. Plus.. where to get gems for $20-$30 that would normally cost much more through a used books website;



Sources for finding public domain images, films, and music;



Copyright Research: The three options for checking that a work is indeed in the public domain;



Do It Yourself Copyright Research: Russell walks you step-by-step through the procedure for determining the copyright status of works published 1923-49 and 1950-63;



Recommended law firms you can use who will research the copyright for you (for under $200) if you can't be bothered doing it yourself, or want the added assurance and legal documentation;



If you find it is still under copyright but you still wish to use it, the organisation to contact who will, for a fee, ask permission for you to use someone else's copyrighted material;



How to digitize a book, and where to go to have the book digitized for you if you don't wish to do it yourself.


All the above and more are covered in Module 1: The Secrets Of The Public Domain. There are a further five modules covering the remainder of Russell Brunson's Public Domain How To system, more than 11 hours of audio content in all, accompanied by transcripts and a workbook. For a preview of the content contained within all six modules of Public Domain How To, subscribe to our e-course below.




Damien Sig




Public Domain Mastery - Free 10 Part e-course


Public Domain How To e-CourseTo learn more about Russell Brunson's Public Domain How To course, subscribe to the Public Domain Mastery introductory 10 part e-course.

You will receive an email with a link to one part of the e-course every 2 to 3 days. Each e-course article is an overview and preview of the comprehensive training found within the Public Domain How To course itself.

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