To understand the Public Domain , we need to understand what Copyright is , as we’ve already covered the subject, let’s just recap the essentials.
Copyrights are the rights that the intellectual owner, creator or owner of a work has over his creation. It is the registration that guarantees the exclusivity of the rights of use and transmission to the author.
How Does the Public Domain Work?
This expression is used to say that a work is free to be translated, adapted, transmitted, distributed, published, reproduced without the need for authorization. This happens because each country determines the time from which a work enters the public domain, that is, it loses its copyright protection. In Brazil, book rights last for 70 years, counting from the first day of the year following the author’s death.
However, this period refers to the author’s economic rights, also guaranteed in Law nº 9610/98, but does not apply to moral rights, these are imprescriptible. This means that no one can rewrite your work or mischaracterize it.
It works like this: you registered your work and decided to publish a book , after your death, your family or your legal heirs will be the copyright holders of your work. Any unauthorized reproduction will result in proceedings and defense of the rights of the heirs of the record, a protection that ensures that no one uses your creation without prior authorization.
In Public Domain Can We Do What We Want?
As previously mentioned above, the Moral Rights of the author are not extinguished.
These rights basically protect that the work belongs to its creator. The creation cannot be modified, remade or circumvented. As if it were a right of paternity and credit. Even if the author is already dead. Creation is his and that doesn’t change.
This is important to remember, as it means that you cannot remake Romeo and Juletta, the creation of the play will always be Shakespeare’s, and the law ensures that he is credited as the intellectual owner of the text.
You can make adaptations, you can reproduce it in many ways and translate it into many languages, but you cannot remake the story and call it your own. It already exists and the moral rights of the author ensure that he has the integrity of the work and authorship guaranteed forever.
This is important because when we are going to quote, reread or use excerpts from works in the public domain in our creations, we need to ensure that we are preserving the moral rights of the author.
If anyone is caught, they will face claims for damages, removal of their work from circulation, and paying a fine to the government that holds the author’s domain on record, in addition to other penalties.
So what can we do with a work that falls into the public domain? We can read them for free. Quote them, use excerpts, paraphrases, etc., in our books.
In the case of publishers, or even authors, they can freely publish and market works in the public domain.
Even if other publishers or editorial services and platforms have already published the works, this does not prevent their free use. Have you seen how many publications of Jane Austen’s books, for example, exist in the world? This is free placement.
National Classical Works, many of them used during our school education, are in the public domain and can be acquired for free. This helps us to have contact with great works of inestimable value for the history of the country and humanity.
So, did you manage to understand what public domain is and what it involves?
The coolest thing about having access to works that enter the public domain is taking the opportunity to have contact with authors who made history, with universal literature and with works that inspire to write even more.
Copyright rights have a deadline
But copyright does not last forever. Each country sets its own rules and determines how long a work falls into the public domain. Here in Brazil, for example, copyright protection for books lasts 70 years, counting from the first day of the year following the author’s death.
This year, since January 1st, the work of Monteiro Lobato (1882-1948) has fallen into the public domain. From now on, his books, articles, characters he created (Pedrinho, Narizinho, Emília, among others) are no longer protected and, in practice, any publisher will be able to publish his stories. But, of course, as long as you indicate authorship and do not change the works themselves.