How the public domain is part of copyright law

Having a copyright means having the legal right to prevent someone else from using or profiting from a creative work. The owner of a copyright may take legal action if someone else takes credit for the creative work or uses it in such a way that the creator is denied the benefits. However, there is a part of copyright law that some in New York may not understand, and that is the concept of public domain. After a certain amount of time, a copyright expires, and the work becomes available for the public to use without any restrictions.

Typically, a copyright is active as long as the creator of the work is alive and 70 years beyond his or her death. After that, the work is in the public domain and is no longer protected by the copyright. A creative person may also choose to put his or her work into the public domain before the expiration of the copyright. For example, photographers sometimes release their work for public use.

Some works, however, are never subject to copyright laws. Ideas, facts, recipes and titles usually cannot be copyrighted. Any work that is not fixed, for example written down as a novel or play, cannot have a copyright. Therefore, a spontaneous speech does not have a copyright unless it has been recorded.

Authors, artists, musicians and others depend on copyright law to preserve their rights and encourage their creative endeavors. When someone infringes on another person's intellectual rights, it may result in damages beyond the financial loss. Those who experience this loss in New York have the benefit of a dedicated intellectual property attorney to assist them in protecting their rights.

Source:, "The public domain and 5 things not covered by copyright", Timothy Vollmer, Accessed on March 10, 2018

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