In the field of documentary it's not uncommon to have to use copyrighted works such as photographs, music, historical footage and artwork. Copyright laws can spell serious problems for your documentary if not followed properly. Many amateur documentarians will simply turn a blind eye to copyright laws which results in legal consequences if they sell or show their documentary to anyone (this includes posting to YouTube and/or other video-sharing sites). Other documentarians will claim the copyrighted item falls under fair use. However, the fair use exception isn't always as black and white as one would hope. One way to avoid copyright legalities altogether is to use material that is in the public domain. The public domain is a collection of work that isn't owned by anyone, therefore free to use by everyone and without requiring special permission. In the United States, there are many different factors that determine when a copyrighted work enters the public domain:December 17th, 2010
- Anything published before 1923 is in the public domain.
- If the work was published between 1923 and 1963 without a copyright notice it is now in the public domain.
- If the work was published between 1923 and 1963 with a copyright notice, but the copyright was never renewed, it is in the public domain.
- If the creator decides not to obtain copyright, but rather contribute a work specifically for the public domain.