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What is Public Domain?

Public Domain works are works whose copyright has expired and so people are free to use, share, modify, copy or adapt these works.

  • As of December 30, 2022, works enter the public domain in Canada 70 years after the author’s death on January 1st of the year following the expiration of copyright
  • Before December 30, 2022, works entered the public domain in Canada 50 years after the death of the author and remain in the public domain, despite the change

Note that if a work in the public domain is modified into a new work, the modified work is protected by copyright. For example, if an artist modifies a photograph in the public domain, thereby creating a new work, that new work is protected under copyright. Also, sometimes parts of a public domain work may still be protected by copyright, for example, a drawing within a novel. For these reasons, it can be complicated determining if a work is in the public domain; please reach out to the Library if you are unsure how you can legally use a work.

Public Domain Images