Keeping it Legal

Hello SErs, Harmony here! Well, it’s September already, and I cannot believe where the time has gone. Speaking of time, it has great relevance for our writing, or more specifically, what we might want to use therein. The timing of a work with copyright determines whether our use of it remains within legal limits. Two things work in tandem here: Copyright and Public Domain.

PUBLIC DOMAIN … what is it and when does Copyright fall into it?

Public Domain status on a work allows a person unrestricted access and unlimited creativity. Any works that fall within Public Domain are not restricted by Copyright and do not need a license or fee to use.

Some writers and artists enter their work into the Public Domain immediately so that it is freely available for others to use. Most writers, however, will put a Copyright on what they produce. By adding the © (Copyright) symbol and a year, you remove your creation from the Public Domain and set a time-limit on its restriction. Copyright doesn’t last forever.


  1. The creator assigns it to the Public Domain.

  2. The Copyright expires (see below).

  3. Certain things are excluded automatically because they are not Copyrightable:

  • Titles, names, short phrases and slogans, familiar symbols, numbers
  • Ideas and facts (e.g., the date of the Gettysburg Address)
  • Processes and systems
  • Some Government works and documents


The following pertain to US Copyright laws. Individual countries have their own specific rules and guidelines, so if you are not a US citizen, it is worth researching your particular country’s laws on this.

US works in the Public Domain:

  • All works published in the US before 1923
  • All works published with a copyright notice from 1923 through 1963 without copyright renewal
  • All works published without a copyright notice from 1923 through 1977
  • All works published without a copyright notice from 1978 through March 1, 1989, and without subsequent registration within 5 years

WARNING: Even though the original work might be in the Public Domain, if it has been translated, then the translators may still own Copyright, so it is always worth checking, if the original author is of foreign nationality to yours.

To keep it legal, you can go to certain sites on the Web that hold most works in the Public Domain. The most useful of which I have found for books is Project Gutenberg. And Pixabay is a great resource for images. Do check the licenses, though, before downloading.


Thank you for stopping by today!

Harmony Kent

@harmony_kent / Harmony Kent Author Pages Facebook / Amazon


30 thoughts on “Keeping it Legal

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    • Thanks, Jan! I don’t know why, but we keep having to rescue you from spam, lols! I reckon WordPress has a thing for you. Glad you found the information helpful, and thanks for stopping by! Despite being a spam jailbird, it’s always great to hear from you!! 🙂


    • Hi Charles. Good point about Disney. I believe that all relates to copyright on ‘corporate’ authorship, a whole other thing that I don’t want to get into. And these rulings wouldn’t stop me from taking, for example, original Brothers’ Grimm stories available in Public Domain on Project Gutenberg and doing a little re-imagining of my own! Thanks for the link and for stopping by! 🙂


      • True. Things that are already in the public domain are there to stay. It’s just newer stuff coming in. By the way, I was reading that it isn’t only fiction that falls into public domain at times. Scientific reports and findings are there too. Once they fall into public domain, other scientists can use the info with more freedom.


  4. Interesting info, Harmony! Thank you!
    Yes, I met this problem of Public domain when I had to choose the tunes I used for my trailers. But I read somewhere that, for example, we aren’t allowed to use in our stories the names of songs or use lyrics from them. Quite odd, though. If in a movie we see a chaacter listening to music and recognize a certain band/singer does it mean they broke the copyright?

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