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Public domain

Public domain

Published: 19.09.11 at 13:59

When a work falls into the 'public domain' it ceases to benefit from copyright protection. Once a work is in the public domain it is effectively public property and may be used freely. But how is 'public domain' defined? A recent news story highlighted the fact that not everyone appreciates what is, and what is not in the public domain.

While reporting on the recent London riots, the BBC showed images found on Twitter without permission and without properly attributing them. When it was brought to their attention that this may be infringing copyright the BBC argued that Twitter is a social network platform available to everyone and so its content is in the public domain. This is incorrect.

This argument seems to interpret 'public domain' as meaning 'available to the public' however, this is not what it means. Works only fall into the public domain once the period for copyright has expired or if the owner explicitly puts it in the public domain.

The BBC has since admitted that it was wrong and released a statement indicating that it makes every effort to seek permission from copyright holders and to credit them.

To see the official complaint made to the BBC by Mr Andy Mabbett, see his personal blog 'Pigsonthewing'.

Also see this story posted on the IPKat.

Photograph (some rights reserved) by Miles Davis (Smiley)


Please note that this article discusses the legal position in the UK at the time of publication. It provides general information only but is not to be regarded as legal advice. You must take advice from a specialist lawyer in relation to your specific circumstances. Further, you should seek additional legal advice when dealing with parties based in other parts of the world or works originating from other parts of the world as the legal position may vary.


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