The Digital Media Project



Martin Springer


TRU #07 to use content whose copyright has expired





Martin Springer

Affiliation/additional information:

Active Contributor, Luebeck, Germany

Date submitted:







Name of TRU

TRU to use content whose copyright has expired


Summary description of TRU

Under the Berne Convention [1], the minimum duration for copyright protection is the life of the author plus 50 years (Art. 7(1)). Signatory nations may provide longer durations if they so choose [2]. The copyright law causes all copyrighted works which have reached the end of their term of copyright protection to fall into the Public Domain.

Public Domain means that the creator of the work has given up or lost all rights to the work. It means that users may do anything with the work - read it, copy it, publish it, change it.


Use records of TRU

  • Electronic Books: Project Gutenberg [3] is the Internet's oldest producer of free electronic books.
  • Music: Public domain songs may be used for profit-making without paying any royalties. [4]
  • US Government Works: Works by the U. S. Government are not eligible for U. S. copyright protection. [5]


  Nature of TRU

Supported by copyright law.


Benefits of TRU

The expiration of copyright was initially conceived as a way to balance the rights of the Creator to exclusive ownership with Society's need to have free use of ideas/works that become commonly used and a part of our intellectual and social vernacular.

However, under existing copyright law, the likelihood of a new work entering the Public Domain during the lifetime of the average user is minimal. (see footnote in [6]).


Possible digital support

  • Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication [7]
  • Automatic determination of copyright expiration date in the user's country via a trusted online date/time clock, a nationally set term limit information and an author-set profile of the first publication details [8]



The expiration of copyright protection or the willingness of the creator to dedicate the entire copyright in the work to the Public Domain.

8. References [1] - Berne Convention
[2] - Project Gutenberg Copyright HOWTO
[3] - Project Gutenberg
[4] - The Choral Public Domain Library
[5] - U.S. Copyright Office
[6] - The Beginning of the Gutenberg Philosophy
[7] - Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication
[8] - proposed by Philip Merrill