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Works that are in the public domain are no longer owned or controlled by anyone. The length of time that a work is protected under copyright is specified by law, and copyright laws vary by country. If you violate a person's copyright to a particular work, you can be held accountable by the respective legal system.

Works by Shakespeare are no longer protected under copyright, as are the books that are available through Project Gutenberg. Public domain photos and clip art are sometimes available online, though it is more common today to find online retailers who allow you to purchase the right to use, for a small fee, royalty free images. In such cases, the retailer requires you give credit to their Website or to the author of the content. One such retailer is Royalty free means that the images are still under copyright, but you can obtain the right to their use, without further payment, as long as you give the Website credit.

If you cannot verify that a book, image, graphic, or music clip is in the public domain, and you cannot get use permission from the copyright owner, then you should not use the item. When in doubt, play it safe with copyright.

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