« Criminal Justice Faculty Spotlight: Alissa Pollitz Worden, Associate Professor | Main | Don’t let overdue library books drain your wallet (that’s what tuition bills are for) »

Copyright Corner: The Public Domain and Creative Commons Licenses

The Public Domain
Items that are not protected by copyright are said to be in the public domain. Items in the public domain may be freely copied and distributed with no permission from the author or creator. Copyright protection in the United States is of limited duration, and when copyright expires the work is in the public domain. Some publications, such as many U.S. government publications, are never protected by copyright and are always in the public domain so that the information that is created with tax dollars does not require license fees or royalties for use and distribution.

Commercial publishers, who are often the copyright holders for journal articles wish to charge royalties and license fees whenever possible so that they can profit from their publications.
Within the world of scholarly publishing we have special interests and needs when it comes to the distribution of our work and the work of our colleagues. While we try to take advantage of the services offered by commercial publishing businesses, we also wish our work to be widely read and used for the advancement of knowledge and art, with as few barriers as possible. We don’t necessarily wish our work to be in the public domain because we may wish our work to always be attributed to us.

Creative Commons Licenses
Creative Commons was created specifically for authors and other creators by lawyers so that their work would carry the message that it is available to be freely copied and distributed without permission. Typically a work that is protected by copyright and permission must be given for it to be copied and re-used will have a message indicating that it is protected, and who owns the copyright. A work that has a Creative Commons license may indicate very different terms regarding re-use and distribution of the work. The license may be used to indicate that the author/creator will allow copying and distribution, but that each copy must indicate who originally created the work. It may also stipulate that the work may be used/copied only if the work within which it will be placed will also be available for copying and distribution without permission.

Creativecommons.org/ explains all of the various licenses that may be used to help clarify what terms the author/creator wishes to explicitly make clear for subsequent readers/users of their work. This is a very different way to look at copyright and may be a useful alternative, especially for those who do not need to make a profit from their work and want a very wide distribution of their work and ideas.

If you would like more information or advice on copyright issues, please contact Lorre Smith in the University Libraries: lsmith@albany.edu, 442-3946.

Blog post created by Lorre Smith