Copyright does not last forever, and when a copyright has expired the work is considered to be "Public Domain". Material that is in the Public Domain does not require copyright permission as long as it is properly cited. The general rule of thumb for public domain in Canada is 50 years after the death of the author, but there are exceptions to this.
After copyright expires, and a work becomes part of the “public domain”, it can be freely copied, distributed, adapted and performed without having to request permission from the author or having to pay any royalties.
Where to find public domain works:
Creative Commons is a non-profit that offers an alternative to copyright licenses. It provides licenses that allow you to make and use created works with varying degrees of openness. There are a variety of different creative commons licenses, and not all of the licenses allow for commercial use of the work. It’s important to verify the details of the license and make sure you follow all listed stipulations before using the material.
Open access means free public online access to research literature - continuing the existing generous practices of scholars who volunteer their writing, review and editing services. There are many approaches to open access, and although none are cost-free, many significantly reduce distribution costs while maintaining high levels of rigor and quality and simultaneously increasing research access and visibility. For more information, please refer to our open access collection guide & open access publishing guide.