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What is in the Public Domain?

Any work that is not protected by copyright, either because it is ineligible for protection by its nature or because its copyright has expired, is in the public domain, meaning that it can be freely reproduced or distributed.  A work may be copyrighted by registration; by publication with notice; or, for certain time periods, simply by virtue of its being "fixed in a tangible medium of expression."  Cornell University's Copyright Information Center maintains a Public Domain Chart that will help you determine if a work copyrighted in the United States is still protected.

Note: Works produced by the United States government are not protected by copyright and are always in the public domain.

Copyright Permissions Requests

Determining When Permission is Needed

Copyright law makes faculty responsible for copyright compliance regarding copyrighted materials they distribute to their students, including materials digitized and distributed at the faculty member’s request through library reserves.  Faculty are therefore responsible for seeking copyright permission when appropriate. 

The Library Reserves submission forms provide most of the information needed to determine whether permission is required.  Copyright law is inherently complex.  We have simplified the requirements for faculty as much as possible. If information provided on the forms is insufficient, further information is available on the Library Reserves webpage.

Persons who are not licensed attorneys can not offer legal advice. Library staff can advise faculty regarding the Libraries' application of copyright law to library reserves. Advice provided is limited to what the library will and will not allow under its policies and within the operations it supports. This advice does not constitute legal advice. Faculty needing advice on copyright matters not related to library reserves are encouraged to read the copyright information provided by the Libraries.

Options for Seeking Permission

  • Writing to the publisher

    This can be done using either e-mail or “snail-mail.”  It involves slightly more work but is typically much less expensive, often resulting in no fees.  A sample permission request letter is available.

  • Copyright Clearance Center

    The Copyright Clearance Center is convenient but can be very expensive.  The Colgate Libraries do not have funds available to assist with the paying of fee.



Page Created & Maintained by: Matthew R. Smith | Last Updated: February 25, 2014 | © 2009

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