Creative Commons Unveils Public Domain Mark

Most of us assume that works published before 1923 are in the public domain due to copyright expiration but usually PD works lack the same kind of identifying mark the (c) notice provides. Earlier this week Creative Commons unveiled its Public Domain Mark to identify works free of known restrictions under copyright law.   The idea is that works bearing this symbol can be copied, modified, remixed, performed, without permission (even for commercial purposes).  This is a cool idea but who is going to monitor honest and accurate labeling? Are those who rely on this symbol leaning backwards in a sort of IP trust fall?   Before you take the plunge, consider CC’s caveat:

The Public Domain Mark contains a disclaimer of warranties… so there is no assurance whatsoever that the work is free of all copyright restrictions in every jurisdiction around the world just because the mark is applied. You should also be aware of restrictions or limitations beyond copyright that may apply, such privacy, publicity, personal data laws and the like. If you are in doubt, then we strongly recommend you not use the work until you have taken all the steps and precautions you feel you need to before doing so, which may include contacting the person who applied the PDM to the work and consulting legal counsel.

If you’re looking for a quick reference, check out Cornell’s Peter B. Hirtle’s excellent chart on copyright term and the public domain (also available as a PDF.)


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