Blogging Tips / Copyright / public domain / Public domain images / reblogging / Tips

Copyright and Public Domain

Along with blogging comes responsibility and ignorance of the law is no excuse.  Copyrightable works include but are not limited to literary works such as articles, blog posts,  stories, journals, or computer programs, pictures and graphics, as well as audio and video recordings. Copyrights do not need not be applied for as they are vested in the creators of intellectual property.  When we create something — we own the copyright, which is our exclusive right as the creator to control who else can use our work and in what manner.  *

Berne Convention – International Copyright Agreement

The Berne Convention (for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works) was established in 1886 and is an international agreement that governs copyright. The Berne Convention requires its signatories to recognize the copyright of works of authors from other signatory countries (known as members of the Berne Union) in the same way as it recognizes the copyright of its own nationals.

In the United States, the Library of Congress officially registers copyrights which now last for the life of the author plus 70 years.

  • In the case of a joint work prepared by two or more authors who did not do a work for hire, the term lasts for 70 years after the last surviving author’s death.
  • In the case of works for hire, and for anonymous and pseudonymous works (unless the author’s identity is revealed in Copyright Office records), the duration of copyright will be 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.

Public Domain

Thanks to organizations like Creative Commons, licenses like the GNU Free Documentation License, and the public domain, there are many images,  songs, movies and documents freely available for you to download and republish without fear of  violating copyright.

Public domain definition: The public domain is generally defined as consisting of works that are either ineligible for copyright protection or with expired copyrights. Public domain refers to the total absence of copyright protection for work The public domain is a range of abstract materials commonly referred to as intellectual property which are not owned or controlled by anyone. The term indicates that these materials are therefore “public property”, and available for anyone to use for any purpose.

Once in the public domain, it is always in the public domain. However, any variation on any public domain work becomes the property of the person making the variation, and it receives an automatic copyright, just as do completely original works.

When Copyright Protection Becomes Public Domain
The data below will let you know when you can safely use a piece of art or music without permission because it is now in public domain after copyright protection expiration, or how long the copyright protection will last.

Published before 1923 – now in public domain.
Published from 1923 to 1963 – When published with a copyright notice © or “Copyright [dates] by [author/owner]” – copyright protection lasts 28 years and could be renewed for an additional 67 years for a total of 95 years. If not renewed, now in public domain. Published from 1923 to 1963 – When published with no notice – now in public domain. Published from 1964 to 1977 – When published with notice – copyright protection lasts 28 years for first term; automatic extension of 67 years for second term for a total of 95 years.
Created before 1/1/1978 but not published – copyright notice is irrelevant – copyright protection lasts for the life of author and 70 years or 12/31/2002, whichever is greater. Created before 1/1/1978 and published between 1/1/1978 and 12/31/2002 – notice is irrelevant – copyright protection lasts the life of author and 70 years or 12/31/2047, whichever is greater. Created 1/1/1978 or after – When work is fixed in tangible medium of expression – notice is irrelevant – copyright protection lasts for the life of author and 70 years based on the longest living author if jointly created or if work of corporate authorship, works for hire, or anonymous and pseudonymous works, the shorter of 95 years from publication, or 120 years from creation.

* Reblogging and Terms of Service: “By submitting Content to Automattic for inclusion on your Website, you grant Automattic a world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish the Content solely for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting your blog.”


I have listed many free sources of images on my Resources page and my list is by no means complete.  Do you have favorite sources of free images,  songs, movies and documents you would like to share? If so please comment so I can include your sources on my Resources page as well.

Related posts found in this blog:

Copyright basics for bloggers
How to copyright your digital works
Content theft: The come and get it solution
Splog Off! Dealing with content theft
SplogSpot: Dealing with content thieves
Copyright: Fair Use Limitations
What is copyright?

21 thoughts on “Copyright and Public Domain

  1. The copyright issue is really confusing. I read this entire article, but still confused. For example, the “Red Dress” post I recently published. I read the copyrights of the website and it stated (if I understand it correctly) that as long as I put the copyright under the photo, that I could copy the photo.

    However, I still have no idea if by copying the photo from the dress catalog website and putting on my site (with the copyright and website address) if I am infringing upon the copyrights of the person who took the photo. Even though I am actually driving traffic to their website by putting the dress and link to the vintage dress site on the post.

    It is just really confusing.

  2. I only registered with wordpress because I thought it would help me get a wordpress blogger to remove one of my photos which she used without my permission. I am getting nowhere with this. What can I do? I can’t find anyway to contact wordpress, can’t send them snail mail, etc. BTW, why don’t these sites have any physical mailing address? I have written to the blogger several times, and called her (!) asking the photo to be removed. There are two wordpress bloggers who have stolen my photos (four altogether) and the other one does not respond to my requests or threats either. It took my a lot of time to create these photos, extensive photo shopping, cost in purchase of a wedding gown I used, etc. I am really mad about this.

  3. Timethief: What is permissible in using images from other sites if you are discussing their content? For instance, I wanted to grab an image of George Carlin from his Website to go with a mention of a post he had put there several years ago, but I wasn’t sure if I should request his site’s permission so I left it out.
    I don’t take images shot by photographers who sold their work to a particular site, as I assume they had granted rights only to that site. But what about obvious promotional sites like an entertainer’s Web site? I guess I could try Creative Commons, but I doubt they have many public-domain celebrity shots.
    I don’t have any ads on my WordPress site (that I know of!) but I’d like to use my blog to attract business, so I’m not sure I could argue that I am purely educational under Fair Use.

    • 1. My advice is to read the Terms of Use before using any image.

      See here >

      I don’t have any ads on my WordPress site (that I know of!) but I’d like to use my blog to attract business, so I’m not sure I could argue that I am purely educational under Fair Use.

      2. has been running advertising on our free hosted blogs since 2006. Many bloggers do not know this because despite the fact they ticked the box required to get a free blog, they did not read the ToS. Many also do not read features page, or advertising entry in the support documents after registering their username and blog(s). Also note that as the ads do not display to us when we are logged in many bloggers do not realize they are there at all, and as many use browsers with Adblockers . they may not have witnessed the ads either. The only way to get rid of all advertising on our free hosted blogs is to purchase an annually renewable No-Ads upgrade.

  4. As always, very informative. I do not want to let my enthusiasm for sharing important information look like I spamming your blog, timethief, BUT I wonder if you saw yesterday’s news release from Access Copyright, the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency, regarding Heather Robertson’s second settlement. Any freelance author who wrote articles for any publications published by Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd., Rogers Publishers Limited or Canwest Publishing Inc., may be eligible to make a claim under the that settlement. The deadline for submitting a claim is Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 5:00 p.m. EDT. Che

  5. Timetheif your blog has been a great help so far but I am wondering. Am I violating copyright in a re-blog I twisted into a different perspective on the same topic as another blogged? The article I am talking about is at:

    [link removed by timethief]

    Thanks you!

  6. TiTi this is SO convenient having this information all in one place like this. I just bookmarked the post so I can come back here anytime I have question about whether I can or cant use material.

  7. Hi, timethief. I appreciate the tips you share on your blog here. One source of photos that I fairly recently learned about is Flickr. (As far as I saw, this was not on your resources page.) While it is important to differentiate between photos on the site that are exclusively copyrighted by the author and those that are made available for sharing, it is a fairly simple task if you go directly to Flickr’s Creative Commons photo page. A person should familiarize themselves with the meanings of the various Creative Commons licenses–all of which at least require an attribution line giving credit to the original author of the work. I have personally found the site quite helpful.

  8. Whoa! I just clicked on your Resources link above– guess that’s something I’d completely missed before. I was truly astounded!!

    That is one amazing collection of resources you’ve assembled, TT. I couldn’t believe how many free photo sites you’d listed– absolutely mind-boggling. When it comes to assisting bloggers, you are simply The Best. Many thanks!!

    • Hi Mark,
      When I have the time I will be updating my Resources page. I focus on free resources but I do incude a few paid resources as well. I’m hoping my readers will point me to some of their favorites so I can incude them.

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