Public Domain: Definition of what is included, description


All over the world there is a rule according to which works pass into the public domain when a certain period expires. In different countries, this term, as well as the order of transition, are in some way different. So, for works that are the property of all people in our country, copyright may exist in the United States, and vice versa.

In the overwhelming majority of European countries, these rights lose their protection after 70 years have passed since the author passed away. Or this period begins to run from the moment of publication of the work. More on the concept and mode of public domain will be described in the article.



To understand the essence of public domain in copyright law, you need to familiarize yourself with the second of these concepts.

The copyright in the civil legislation of our country is considered as an intellectual right arising on works created by literary and artistic workers, scientists. It arises from the moment the work is created, and includes:

  1. The rights of the author, which are non-property, for example, such as the right to name, to promulgation, to the protection of dignity, etc.
  2. The exclusive right of the author, based on which he, as well as his successors, who are the copyright holders, can either prohibit or allow to use the work in any way.
  3. The right to remuneration. It is established in the event that it is allowed to use the work without the author's consent or without the permission of the copyright holder. This should be paid remuneration.

Public domain


It refers to all creative works taken together for which copyrights have expired or these rights never existed. It should be noted that we are talking exclusively about property rights, that is, about remuneration.

Also in the public domain is understood inventions for which the patent has not expired. Anyone without limitation can use and distribute it. You do not need to pay remuneration to the author or copyright holder.

However, the non-property rights, which were mentioned above, must necessarily be respected. In most European countries, the work passes into the public domain after 70 years have passed since the death of its author. There is another option - after the same period, but it is counted after the work is published.

The public domain list in the Russian Federation is published annually on the Internet and on paper.

In Russia


In our country, a work in relation to which the following conditions are met is in the public domain. After the death of its author must pass 70 years. If he created during the Second World War or was directly involved in it, the time of protection of his copyright will be increased by 4 years. That is, to 70 you need to add 4 and get 74 years.

If the creator of a book, picture, scientific work was rehabilitated posthumously after he was repressed, the term of protection of rights will have a different starting point. Its course will begin on January 1 of the year immediately following rehabilitation.

But the term itself does not change, it will also be equal to 70 years. This right shall not be applied when the 50-year period for the respect of copyright has expired by the date of January 1, 1993

Other features in the Russian Federation

If the work was first published after its creator died, then the author’s right is valid for 70 years after its release. Until 2004, this period was 50 years.

There is a special group of works that are created in Russia and are in the public domain. This applies to:

  • images of official symbols of the state;
  • of money;
  • flags;
  • orders;
  • official documentation of the Russian Federation and the states of the USSR, of which it is the successor.

For legal entities

After the fourth part of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation came into force, from the date of 01/01/2008 legal entities that had copyrights that appeared before August 3, 1993, that is, before the entry into force of the Copyright Law of July 9, 1993, lose them after 70 years after the presentation of the work to the public. If it was not published, then the starting point for the 70-year term is its creation date.

Based on this provision, films that appeared on the screen more than 70 years ago are a social condition. At the same time, the law does not speak of the film-producing country And the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation provides information that the rule contained in the law applies to all films. The rights to later released studio paintings are the property of producer studios or their successors.

In the European Union


Prior to his formation, in most of the states included in it the copyright period was 50 years after the author’s death. The exception was Germany. There existed a figure of 70 years. After the formation of the European Union, the legislation of its members was subject to harmonization.

Due to the fact that attempts to reach an agreement with Germany on reducing the number from 70 to 50 years did not succeed, a general law on 70 years was adopted. At the same time for all works that have already become public property, copyright was renewed. Companies that began to publish such works were allowed to sell stocks, having received some compensation from the state.

If a work has not one, but several authors, then the term is counted from the day when the last of them died. For the performance of works and their recordings there is a 70-year term, which is counted out after the performance, the production of the recording. It should be noted that this norm was introduced in 2013, and it does not extend retroactive effect to works that became the property of all people before 01/01/2013. Even in those cases when the new norm indicates its protection.

Additional terms

They were in possession of several countries and extended the protection of copyright for the terms associated with the periods of two world wars. They fought most of the states in the European Union. After the disagreements were settled, additional conditions were retained only for France. This refers to the authors, in whose death certificate there is a direct indication that they died for this country.

In such a situation, a piece of music will pass into the public domain after 100 years have passed after bringing it to the public. If it was published during the First World War, the period of its protection will be 114 years and 272 days. If during the 2nd World War, then 108 years and 120 days. Consequently, works related to the 1st of wars will lose their protection of property rights to them no later than in 2033, and to the 2nd one - no later than in 2053.

For works that are not musical in nature, the term of protection is not definitively defined. Previously, it was 50 years from the date of publication, and in accordance with new laws, taking into account the existing features, it can last 80 years. As well as meet the deadlines for musical works.

In the United States


In accordance with the copyright law in force in the United States, all works published in their territory until January 1, 1923 are in the public domain. All that is made public in 1923 or after this date is protected by copyright law. The specified date plays a special role and cannot be changed until 01/01/2019.

A work that saw the light after 01/01/1923, as a rule, passes into the public domain if its author passed away more than 70 years ago. Or if it was published more than 95 years ago. There are a number of exceptions, according to which copyright protection may be terminated early.

In addition, in the general case, automatically become the property of the entire society of work, which are prepared by government officials within their official duties. This results from the fact that they are created on the means received from payment of taxes.

Digital and photocopies


According to the laws of the United States, two-dimensional objects of art such as paintings, photographs, book illustrations are not copyright objects. The exceptions are cases when during the creation of reproductions something creative, original, such as retouching, was introduced. So, if a jokond is photographed from a direct perspective, this photo will not create a new copyright object, and it can be considered as an object of public domain.

All this fully applies to scanned images. They inherit the original copyright. If the original is not protected by them, such a fate awaits a photographed or scanned copy. Reproductions of two-dimensional works protected by copyright are not independent works either. If you scan a cover image of a DVD or a book, it will be protected by copyright if the original has such protection.

In China

The laws of China for works set a term that protects copyright, which is 50 years after the death of their creator. If the author is not identified, and the rights to his creation belong to this or that organization, then 50 years begin to count from the date of publication or from the date of creation, if there was no publication.

Moving software into the public domain is regulated in the same way. Printed works published in books and periodicals are subject to additional protection. Since the first publication, they have been protected for 10 years.

Particularly regulated in China are the rights belonging to the authors of the allied countries. For them apply additional security terms. They are renewed when the author’s right was established from 12/07/1941 to September 1945. The extension period is 3, 794 days, which is more than 10 years.

In Japan

In this state, there are various terms for the protection of the rights of authors, which are made dependent on the country of origin and the type of work.


Cinematographic works in the public domain pass when 70 years expire from the date of publication, and if not, then from the moment of creation.

Until 25.03.1997, the 50-year term of protection was distributed on the photograph, which was counted either from the moment of publication or from the moment of its creation. He chose the one that was shorter. Now the legislation has changed and the author’s departure from life is taken as a point of reference for the said period. For those photos that were previously transferred to the public domain, the copyright was not renewed.

Broadcast and sound recordings have been guarded for 50 years from the date of publication. Everything else is 50 years after the death of the author, if known, or 50 years from the date of creation or publication. The latter of these principles applies either to anonymous works or to those for which organizations have rights.

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