Can Anything Be Posted in its Entirety Without Violating Copyright?

Nolo had an update on Facebook that is an excellent follow-up to my post about copyright yesterday.

The question asked of Nolo involved whether a statute could be posted in its entirety. The answer, correctly, is yes.

Anything in the public domain can be posted in full. A statute is in the public domain because it was created by the government. Government work, for the most part is in the public domain.

An important caveat, special items added by a third party are not in the public domain. That is why, for years, PA statutes could not be placed online. The format of the statues were unique to a non-governmental company.

Similarly it would be improper to copy and paste a case from Lexis or Westlaw. Also copying of any headnotes would be inappropriate. Use a government website to get a copy of a case or statute. For example for cases in PA go to

Other items in public domain include those for which copyright has expired. A number of websites are able to provide full books due to copyright expiration. Make sure the copyright is truly expired first please.

Pictures, videos, etc., fall under the same rules. Full movies for which the copyright has expired may be found online.

Some assume a lack of a copyright notice means copyright does not exist. This is a false assumption. All the copyright symbol or statement does is offer some specific remedies. Failure to note copyright has not left a work without copyright  protection for many years. Copyright protection is also immediate.

There are times when an author or creator chooses to give up copyright completely or certain aspects of copyright. If this is the case the author will note what she is allowing to be done with her work. Creative Commons is an example of this alternative copyright structure.

Side note: Sorry for any typos, I created this post on my phone.

Second note: I edited this post to add some links and fix a broken link.

Subscribe to This Blog