Public Domain is a type of intellectual property. Code or other content released to the public domain is explicitly unconditional – it can be used by anyone, for any reason, including for-profit distribution or modification. The author does not need to be credit or acknowledged, nor informed that their content is being used.
Technipages Explains Public Domain
In order for a work to be considered public domain, it has to be explicitly marked as such. Work that does not have an explicit copyrights disclaimer does not automatically become part of the public domain, nor is it the ‘default’ for any type of created content.
International copyright dictates that only if the author clearly states that their work is intended for it to be part of the public domain, and even then also only if they relinquish all their rights to it.
Anyone can do anything to public domain works – this can be art, but also software. That said, a lot of free software is NOT in the public domain – just because it doesn’t require payment does not mean it is in the public domain. Free software is often still not allowed to be sold, modified or reused without explicit permission.
Software does exist in the public domain, but it always needs to be clearly and explicitly marked as such – in cases where it isn’t clear, the law states that a work is NOT part of the public domain.
Common Uses of Public Domain
- Public domain works can be modified, distributed, sold and used by anyone, anywhere and for any reason whatsoever.
- The author of a public domain work gives up their rights to it in perpetuity.
- Using public domain software can be a great way for users to personally customise a program to their liking.
Common Misuses of Public Domain
- Public domain is a type of licence for software.