Friday, January 16, 2015

Can I Video My Dedication to Public Domain?

Dear Rich: I was curious whether or not an author can declare their work as being in the public domain verbally, like say on video, as opposed to something documented and signed on paper? Does a persons verbal statements (on video or simply witnessed) hold the same legal standing as those on paper, if even at all with regard to declaring a piece of work... photo, story, video, painting, etc. as being remanded to the public domain?
Courts have held that a copyright owner may dedicate a work to the public domain simply by manifesting the intent to do so through an overt act. A signed document is not absolutely required. Thus, including a statement in a video that the work is dedicated to the public domain would likely be sufficient. However, to avoid possible disputes and misunderstandings, it is always best for the copyright owner to sign a document dedicating the work involved to the public domain. Such a document need not be long or fancy. The Copyright Office says that it need only:
  • identify the work involved--preferably including the author(s), title(s), and registration number(s) for the work (if any) 
  • provide the copyright owner’s full name and state that such person is the current owner of the copyright in the work 
  • state “I the copyright owner of this work, hereby release it into the public domain,” and 
  • be signed by the copyright owner or co-owners or by an authorized representative.
Answered by Steve Fishman, author of The Public Domain.