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Public Domain Day 2024

January 1st, 2024, is Public Domain Day. Copyright laws vary by country, but in the United States, works registered or first published in the U.S. in 1928 enter the public domain on January 1st, 2024!

The Public Domain and You

Did you know that copyright can expire? When the copyright of a work expires, the work enters the public domain. You are free to use all public domain works without permission. Items that enter the public domain can often be found digitized in repositories like HathiTrust.

If you would like to dedicate your copyrighted work to the public domain before your copyright is set to expire, you can do so by using the CC0 public dedication tool designed by Creative Commons. CC0 is also regularly assigned to datasets in repositories like Dryad or Figshare.

Medicine-Related Public Domain Works

We asked Historical Curator Drew Bourn Ph.D., MLIS, to spotlight items in the Stanford Medical History Center entering the public domain this year. His highlights include: 

Photo of George Starr White
George Starr White

The Story of the Human Aura by George Starr White. Dr. Bourn writes: 

White graduated from New York Homeopathic Medical College and settled in Los Angeles. There, his writings about reincarnation, aliens, and unorthodox forms of clinical practice put him outside the mainstream of physicians but in concert with Theosophists and other late 19th- and early 20th-century occultists.

 Eugenics: A Journal of Race Betterment. Dr. Bourn writes:

1928 saw the debut of this journal by the American Eugenics Society, founded in New Haven; its first president, Dr. Irving Fisher, served on the faculty at Yale. The society and its journal reflected and promoted eugenics thinking of that era, including the advocacy for eugenics policy at the state and federal levels.

The 19th century saw the emergence of what has later been called “scientific racism,” in which racist arguments were couched in the language of medicine and other disciplines. This lay the groundwork for a widespread embrace of eugenics among white people in the US in the first decades of the 20th century, including birth control activist Margaret Sanger and prominent Stanford figures such as President David Starr Jordon.

Illustrated portrait of David Starr Jordan
David Starr Jordan

Many other medicine-related works were published in the U.S. before 1928 and are also part of the public domain. The History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine (NLM) has over 44,000 public domain images available online. Additionally, the NLM Digital Collections catalog lists over 700 public domain films

Learn More

To learn more about copyright and the public domain, visit the Stanford Copyright & Fair Use Center or contact your liaison librarian at Lane Library. 

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