This article/post was first on my main site www.BethSawickie.Com
That’s a weighty question now isn’t it?
If you don’t know what the “Public Domain” is you might think it refers to our National Park Land
Public Domain refers to published items that are no longer covered by copyright. This refers to all items published in the US prior to 1923, items published between 1923-1977 WITHOUT a proper copyright notice, items published between 1923-1963 that HAD a copyright notice, but copyright was not renewed, and lastly, many government publications. The above rules only apply to works published in the United States. The rules for other countries get all sorts of confusing. I have to look up the terms each time I encounter a possible Public Domain work published outside the U.S.
No copyright (in the U.S.) means that they can be used in any fashion, by anybody without any credit given to the original author – no permission needed!
Here’s where the questions and acusations come up…
- Isn’t that plagarism?
- You’re STEALING someone elses work!
- How could YOU do that !?!?
- Why would you do that? – that’s old useless stuff in them there ol’ books!
The reality is that it is LEGAL to “do that”.
There are plenty of people who have taken items in the Public Domain, slightly altered the text and re-published the same work as their own.
Do I totally agree with doing that? No, I don’t – but people are free to do that if they wish.
There are also numerous people who take a Public Domain work, improve upon it in some fashion, give credit to the original author and then publish the work. They might have their name on there as a co-author or editor. Do a web search for “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill – everybody and their brother has re-done that one. I don’t think you’ll find anyone trying to pass off that book as their own original work though – that would just be plain silly!
I believe that it is ethical to use Public Domain material. I believe that it is only fair to give some sort of credit to the original author.
Whenever I use Public Domain material I see it as a recycling project. I am taking long-lost ideas from books that are usually buried in someone’s basement or in the far off archive of the library – I’m taking these old musty books and turning them into something bright, shiny and new. Those almost lost ideas are then given new life and shared with a new generation that otherwise may not have known of their existence.
I could even get all Houdini like and say I’m helping long-dead authors to speak from the grave…spooky!
That’s my view on it
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