Copyright Backgrounder

Report by:

Michael Donaldson, Esq.,
Attorney and author, Clearance and Copyright

Michael Donaldson is an attorney in Los Angeles, many of whose clients are leading documentary filmmakers. His book, Clearance and Copyright (Silman-James Press, October 2003), from which much of this information has been drawn, is widely regarded as a basic text for documentary filmmakers.

Who owns the Public Domain?

Public domain materials are not copyrighted, and freely available for use. These include materials whose copyright has expired, and federal government products. For further information consult:

Peter Jaszi, “Yes, You Can! Where You Don’t Even Need ‘Fair Use


Paul Hirtle, “How to Find Out What Is in the Public Domain