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The Public Domain: How to Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More 5th Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 90 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1413312058
ISBN-10: 1413312055
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"How do you tell the difference between what's copyrighted and what isn't? A good starting point is Stephen Fishman's The Public Domain." (Associated Press 2008-03-05)

"A superb offering showing how to avoid lawsuits by getting one's hands on thousands of public domain songs, movies and manuscripts that can be used on websites or anywhere else free of charge." James Coates, Chicago Tribune (James Coates, Chicago Tribune 2008-02-02)

"The constitutional guarantee of a public domain was one of the Framers' most important gifts to our cultural tradition. This extraordinary book makes real the value of that gift in the 21st Century." (Laurence Lessig, author,Code & Other Laws of Cyberspace 2008-03-02)

About the Author

Stephen Fishman is the author of many Nolo books, most recently Tax Deductions for Professionals. Other titles include Deduct It! Lower Your Small Business Taxes, Every Landlord's Tax Deduction Guide and Home Business Tax Deductions - plus many other legal and business books. He received his law degree from the University of Southern California. After time in government and private practice, he became a full-time legal writer.
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Product Details

  • Series: Public Domain: How to Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art& More
  • Paperback: 462 pages
  • Publisher: NOLO; 5 edition (May 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1413312055
  • ISBN-13: 978-1413312058
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,293,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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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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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.
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