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The Public Domain: How to Find and Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More Paperback – January, 2001


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Product Details

  • Series: Public Domain
  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Nolo; 1st edition (January 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0873374339
  • ISBN-13: 978-0873374330
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 7.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,646,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

A comprehensive and accessible key to a vast storehouse of knowledge and information. -- Peter Beren, co-author of The Writer's Legal Companion

An indispensable resource for writers, scholars, creative artists, editors, publishers and librarians. -- Emmy E. Werner, Ph.D. Research Professor, University of California, Davis

Lucidly written and amply illustrated, this book will become a landmark legal guide for the layperson. -- Emmy E. Werner, Ph.D. Research Professor, University of California, Davis

About the Author

Stephen Fishman received his law degree from the University of Southern California in 1979. After stints in government and private practice, he became a full-time legal writer in 1983. He has helped write and edit over a dozen reference books for attorneys. He is the author of Software Development: A Legal Guide, Copyright Your Software, The Copyright Handbook, Consultant & Independent Contractor Agreements, Working For Yourself: Law & Taxes for Independent Contractors, Freelancers and Consultants, and Hiring Independent Contractors: The Employer’s Legal Guide, all published by Nolo.

More About the Author

Stephen Fishman has dedicated his career as an attorney and author to writing useful, authoritative and recognized guides on taxes and business law for entrepreneurs, independent contractors, freelancers and other self-employed people, as well as books on copyright law and the public domain. He is the author of over 20 books and hundreds of articles, and has been quoted in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and many other publications. He lives in Alameda, California with his wife.

His website is at www.fishmanlawandtaxfiles.com

Customer Reviews

It's like a road map that lets you figure out what stuff you can use without permission (and without having to ask a lawyer if its okay).
benboy
Again, all of the information is easily understood and organized in a way to make the book not only easy to read and understand, but fascinating and enjoyable as well.
Alain B. Burrese
This fat and informative book is a goldmine for anyone interested in public domain works, weather writings, music, art, films or just about anything else.
Kurt A. Johnson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By benboy on April 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
Highly recommended! I'm an artist and musician and I've been waiting for a book like this for years. It's like a road map that lets you figure out what stuff you can use without permission (and without having to ask a lawyer if its okay). And there is a lot of free art out there ... not just old stuff but U.S. government art, etc. It's a very sharp, well-written book with lots of interesting trivia, too.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By AREALTHRILLER on March 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
As a writer of musical theatre, I am constantly brainstorming for new ideas and thinking about what works may be in the public domain to use. Finally there is a book that removes so much of the guess work. Stephen Fishman has written a book that is very "user friendly" and incredibly helpful. He gives all the important facts, and describes how to do your own research on copyright status (to avoid those heavy fees the goverment office charges!). It is also full of interesting sidebars, mini-charts of famous public domain works, tips, advice....everything you could ask for. I find myself just picking it up to flip through for fun....and now I practically I feel like an expert on the subject! In summary, this book is a must have!
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
NOLO writes legal books for the rest of us. I've used other NOLO books and gave this one a shot. I found this book to be a wonderful guide to the whole subject of public domain, from where to find it to how to use it effectively. It was also a great introduction to the history of public domain and its significance in the legal landscape of intellectual property. it's a great resourse for anyone that needs creative content for free!
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Reiter on July 21, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I made the mistake of buying the first edition of this book (published in 2001), but found it to be an excellent guide to the legal issues involved with public domain textual material. I have already published one book which relied heavily on public domain materials, and am working on a second, and when I bought this book I had several specific questions that I was trying to answer. This book answered all of them, as well as some that I hadn't thought of! I'll probably end up buying the second edition, just to see what has changed in the last few years.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Thomas M. Sipos VINE VOICE on August 22, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A copyright is the "right to copy." Only the owner of a copyright (to a book, article, song, film, etc.) can copy that book, etc., or give others (such as a publisher) permission to copy it.

However, the U.S. Constitution says that copyrights must EXPIRE after a LIMITED TIME (Article 1, Section 8), whereupon the work becomes PUBLIC DOMAIN. Then you, the public, are free to download that song, or write new Sherlock Holmes stories, or perform Shakespeare or Mozart.

Copyright's "limited time" has been repeatedly extended -- often due to big media lobbying. The 1790 Copyright Act set copyright protection at 14 years, renewable for another 14 years. By 1909, copyrights lasted 28 years, renewable for another 28. In 1976 copyright was set for "the life of the author plus 50 years," or 75 years for corporate owners. In 1998 copyright was extended to "life of the author plus 70 years," or 95 years for corporate owners.

Steve Forbes, of Forbes magazine, said of the 1998 extension: "It is fitting and proper that your creations be protected by law for your lifetime and a reasonable period afterward. But there is no justification for what Congress has been doing: transforming a limited monopoly into an unlimited one. Creativity and culture are enhanced by having works ultimately become public domain, particularly with the advent of the Internet."

Law professor, and Constitutional expert, Lawrence Lessig joined others in a lawsuit against the 1998 copyright windfall giveaway to big media. But in 2003, the Supreme Court rubber-stamped President Clinton and the Republican Congress's sweetheart gift to big media -- extending by decades the term before which a work enters the public domain.
Read more ›
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Tamara Thorne VINE VOICE on October 27, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Public Domain is not to be confused with books of public domain images published by Dover. As delightful as those books of art are, they don't provide what Nolo's book does: Knowledge. You'll get explanations, definitions, and guidance on where and how to find and use royalty-free art, music, writing, databases, and other works legally.

Most of us just assume that if something is in the public domain we are free to use it in any way, but that's not true. If you work in any arts from music to writing to art and web design, this book is a must-have. It has the potential to keep you out of twenty kinds of trouble if you follow its tips and heed its lessons.

Here's an example of how the book works for me: I'm currently writing a non-fiction book and am doing my own photography. The book is about historically haunted places in southern California. There are times when, in addition to my own photos, I'd like to include a historical shot or a map or drawing without jumping through hoops trying to get permissions. Here's another: The other day, I needed to know if I could use a photo I'd taken of an old photo hanging in an historic adobe. This book made it a snap to find out. It's also allowing me to choose items I need with a minimum of hassle for myself and my publisher.

The book is put together thoughtfully and logically, making research that could be a huge pain into something stress-free and manageable. This thorough and easy-to-understand legal book has become a must-have for me.
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