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public domain

n. 1) in copyright law, the right of anyone to use literature, music or other previously copyrighted materials after the copyright period has expired. Although the copyright laws have been changed several times, a rule of thumb would be that the last possible date for copyright protection would be 50 years after the death of the author. Thus, the works of William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Jack London and other classic writers are in the public domain and may be published by anyone without payment of a royalty. 2) all lands and waters owned by federal, state and local governments.

See also: copyright 

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