While not an official, legal symbol, the copyright symbol with a line through it has become the generally accepted way to indicate that a work is in the public domain. It is usually accompanied by one of the following two statements:
1. This image has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. This applies worldwide.
2. I, the creator of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. This applies worldwide. In case this is not legally possible, I grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law.
When copyright or other intellectual property restrictions expire, works will enter the public domain and may be used by anyone.
More specifically, the public domain comprises the body of knowledge and innovation, especially creative works such as writing, art, music, and inventions, in relation to which no person or other legal entity can
of the common cultural and intellectual heritage of humanity, which in general anyone may use or exploit.
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Works created before the advent of intellectual property laws are part of the public domain. The Bible and Qu’ran, the works of William Shakespeare and Ludwig van Beethoven and the inventions of Archimedes entered the public domain long ago. However, intellectual property rights may exist in translations or new formulations of these works.
In addition, works of the United States government are excluded from copyright law and may therefore be considered to be in the public domain. For example, works created by a U.S. government agency become part of the public domain at the moment of creation. Other examples include: NASA photographs, military journalism, federal court opinions (but not necessarily state court opinions), congressional committee reports, census data, and the U.S. government website. Availability of such documents may, however, be limited by secrecy laws.
In the United States, all copyrights and patents have a finite term; when this term expires, the work or invention is released into the public domain. For example, patents expire 20 years after they are filed. However, a trademark registration may be renewed and remain in force indefinitely provided the trademark is used, but could otherwise become generic. Copyrights are more complex; generally, they expire in all countries when a variety of specific conditions are satisfied.
Before 1978, unpublished works were not covered by the federal copyright act. This does not mean that the works were in the public domain; it means that they were covered under state copyright acts. Websites that claim that “pre-1923 works are safe” are wrong. These works, now under federal copyright, will not expire for several more decades.
Publishing the details of an invention before applying for a patent will generally place an invention in the public domain and prevent its subsequent patenting by others. For example, when a chemistry journal publishes a formula, this prevents patenting the formula by anyone. There is an exception to this; however, in U.S. law, the rightful inventor may file a patent claim up to one year after publishing it.
If guarded properly, trade secrets never enter the public domain. For example, a business may keep a product formula like that for Coca-Cola a secret indefinitely. However, if it is disclosed to the public, the former secret enters the public domain, although the former secret may still be patented in the United States.
A trademark registration is renewable. A trademark owner may maintain a registration indefinitely by paying renewal fees, using the trademark and defending the registration.
However, a trademark or brand may become a generic term for a particular type of product or service if people do not use it as a trademark (i.e. as a name or graphic representation exclusively identifying that that product or service originates from a particular business).
A genericized trademark — sometimes known as a generic trade mark, generic descriptor or proprietary eponym — is a trademark or brand name which has become synonymous with the general or formal term for a particular type of product or service, to the extent that it often replaces this term in colloquial usage.
One famous U.S, example is “thermos”. An interesting philosophical issue is that a manufacturer who invents an amazing breakthrough product which cannot be succinctly described in plain English (for example, a vacuum-insulated drinking flask) will inevitably find its product described by the trademark (“Thermos”). If the product continues to dominate the market, eventually the trademark will become generic (“thermos”). Other examples are: escalator, trampoline, raisin bran, linoleum, dry ice, shredded wheat, mimeograph, yo-yo, nylon, kerosene, cornflakes, cube steak, lanolin, and high octane, masonite, allen wrench, pabulum, styrofoam, and zipper.
One consequence of a trademark becoming generic is that the exclusive rights which may attach to the use or registration of the trademark can no longer be legally enforced. Genericide typically occurs over a period of time where the trademark owner does not maintain or enforce its proprietary rights (e.g. by using the mark or by pursuing infringement action).
However, genericide is not an inevitable process. In the late 1980s “Nintendo” was becoming synonymous with home video game consoles but Nintendo was able to reverse this process through marketing campaigns. Xerox was also successful in avoiding its name becoming synonymous with the act of photocopying.
A domain name, which may be bought and sold, never enters public domain. If nobody owns it, it simply doesn’t exist. Top level domains, such as .com, are controlled by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.
Internet Public Domain Resources
Many people are using the Internet to contribute to the public domain, or make works in the public domain more accessible to more people. For example, Project Gutenberg is coordinating the efforts of people who transcribe works in the public domain into electronic form in order to create e-book. See the Resources section of this newsletter for key links.
The information for this article was retrieved from wikipedia.org.