How Does A Copyright Become Public Domain

With the works of authors like H.G. Wells and Gertrude Stein becoming accessible to the public domain, the country’s resources for free-to-use works of art and literature is ever expanding. Canada holds a competitive advantage over many other nations regarding its regulation and preservation of Intellectual Property (IP), particularly its copyrights.

Copyrights are exclusive rights granted to creators of unique works of art, technology and music. They allow artists to be reasonably rewarded for their work without facing the risk of infringement or theft. However, they are not intended to last forever.

Here’s a closer at the process through which a copyright becomes public domain:

What is the Public Domain?

The Public Domain refers to the collection of works which are not protected by a copyright. These resources are free to use for anyone without any restrictions. A person utilizing a resource from the public domain is free to adapt and copy it without any obligation to request permissions or licenses, neither is author attribution necessary, although it is usually preferred. Examples of public domain resources include plays by Shakespeare or symphonies by Jonathan Bach.

Defining whether a work belongs to the public domain or not can be complex, depending on the country of its origin, the copyright laws in the country of its use and the date and time of its publication. An experienced IP lawyer can help you determine the status of the work you need to access and understand the rules regarding copyright dissolution better.

Cases when a copyright becomes public

A copyright is essentially granted to allow the creator to earn from his work for a reasonable amount of time. The different cases under which a copyright becomes public domain are as follows:

  1. Some works inadvertently belong to the public domain as they are not eligible for a copyright. Works that cannot be copyrighted include:
  • Ideas
  • Facts
  • Governmental Publications
  • Works dedicated by the creators to the public
  1. The creator of the work has forfeited his copyright to the public. Stated simply, works whose copyright has expired belong to the public domain. Under the Copyright Act, copyright protection to a piece of artistic or scientific work extends to, "the life of the author, the remainder of the calendar year in which the author dies, and a period of fifty years following the end of that calendar year."

Accessing the Public Domain

Although the sources for retrieving works from the public domain are varied and extensive, here are a few sources you can use for accessing free to use works:

It is crucial for businesses to ensure the resources they utilize belong to the public domain or are used only after receiving the necessary licenses from their creators. Using works that don’t belong to the public domain without due permissions can cost your business heavily in IP litigation. To understand the regulations regarding creative commons better, consult a lawyer today.