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Stony Brook University

Copyright Guide

Public Domain

Works in the public domain are not covered by intellectual property and are free to use, reuse, and re-purpose without permission. A work that is in the public domain can not be owned by someone else, it is for the public. If a collection is made using images of public domain work, the entire collection can be copyrighted. A work enters the public domain when it is no longer in copyright because: its copyright duration has ended according to the law, the copyright owner failed to follow copyright renewal rules (most works created up to Dec. 31, 1977), the material is not something copyright law covers (such as a Federal Government publication, law, facts), or the author personally placed it into the public domain (a dedication).

Public Domain Day, starting January 1, 2019, brings new work into the public domain each year.

Tools to help determine if a copyrighted work has entered the public domain:

  1. Is it Protected by Copyright? For works published in the U.S.A., 2020, Michael Brewer & The ALA Office for Information Technology Policy
  2. Welcome to the Public Domain, Stanford University Libraries
  3. Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States, aka the Peter Hirtle Public Domain chart, managed by Cornell University Library

*Many public domain sliders, tools, and info found online require updating if they were created before January 2019. Make sure they have been updated after this date.

Creative Commons Licenses

Creative Commons licenses allow for the creator of  a work to share it openly or with some restrictions.

Types of Creative Commons licenses:

AttributionCC BY license button
Attribution-CC BY: This license lets others distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.


Attribution-ShareAlike license button
Attribution-ShareAlike: CC BY-SA: This license lets others remix, adapt, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.


Attribution-NoDerivs license button
Attribution-NoDerivs: CC BY-ND: This license lets others reuse the work for any purpose, including commercially; however, it cannot be shared with others in adapted form, and credit must be provided to you.


Attribution-NonCommercial license button
Attribution-NonCommercial: CC BY-NC: This license lets others remix, adapt, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.


Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license button
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike: CC BY-NC-SA: This license lets others remix, adapt, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license button
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs: CC BY-NC-ND: This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.


Additional information can be found at

Information on sharing your work can be found at Share your work - Creative Commons

Information on using work can be found at Use & remix - Creative Commons