When to and When Not to Use Public Domain Copyright Materials
Can copyrighted public domain works be used? The answer is yes.
US have allowed this freedom in the First Amendment of the constitution. Public domain copyright can be copied, reproduced or duplicated for purposes such as commentaries, teaching, research, news reporting and criticism.
If you are using copyrighted public domain works for these purposes, then you are not committing an infringement on copyright.
But then, you still have to consider some factors when you plan on using copyrighted materials and works. These are the factors that will assure that you are not violating any laws of the state when using these public domain books or documents.
1. The nature of the copyrighted work.
The law states that making use of the protection of copyright will not depend on the merit or the artistic quality of the work. On the other hand, it will depend whether the work has been copied or published before.
The solution to this was to amend the law on fair use. An additional line was added wherein it is stated there that even if the work has not been copied or published, it can still be used for purposes that are considered fair and legal.
2. Character and intention.
People use public domain copyrighted books to enhance creativity, develop new ideas and support valuable information. Adding something new to what is already available, knowledge advancement and artistic development should be the result of the use of public domain materials.
What it should not be used for is to gain profit to an individual or a group. This excludes commercial gain of public domain copyrighted materials. The reason for this is that fair use was the sole purpose initially. Persons cannot be blamed if what they do have started gaining recognition to the point that they are paid for doing so.
3. The effect on the public domain copyrighted work and its value.
The use of public domain materials should always benefit the owner in every possible way. It should not harm the ability of the owner to profit or sell his or her work. Moreover, if the work is copied, it should not replace the original material once it gets out in the market.
Simply put, negative result and outcome should not come out and affect the owner directly. The only factors that are exempted from this are when the work is to be used for criticism, parody or negative reviews. These things are still considered fair use.
4. The amount of the public domain material that is copied or published.
Keep in mind that the less copy you made, the more it will be considered as fair use. There are standards set that controls the percentage and quantity that should only be copied. As long as you abide the rules, you will not be committing a violation on the copyright law.
Copyrighted music is an exception in this case. Samples of music should be licensed. This law was created back in 1991. No fair use is allowed to violate this law.
It is acceptable to reproduce copies for teaching purposes. It is also fair to quote a copyrighted work to criticize or comment about it. The secret is to use as little of the public domain copyright materials as you can. That is the only way you can make the most of these materials.