What Is Underlying Work?

Any audio or video recording of a performance of musical, choreographic, dramatic or literary work is considered to include two distinct works (and are thus potentially covered by two distinct copyrights):

  1. The underlying musical, choreographic, dramatic or literary work and
  2. The recording of the performance of such underlying work.

So if the underlying work is considered to be in the public domain (e.g., a Mozart concerto), that does not necessarily mean that the recording of the performance is in the public domain. The converse may apply to a U.S. government recording of a copyrighted musical, choreographic, dramatic or literary work (e.g., a speech by a public figure who is not a government official - although editorial use of the speech may often qualify as fair use). Pond5 curators have been extra careful about these issues when selecting the items which are available on the site. If you think, however, that there might have been some mistake on our judgement about any individual item, please contact the source institution following the link on the item page to verify the status of that item and let us know their final position.

Want more information? Click Here to read the Pond5 Royalty-Free License Agreement, check more articles about the Pond5 Public Domain Project on our Help Center, consult this Comprehensive Chart by Peter B. Hirtle from Cornell University Library about Copyright and the Public Domain in the US or watch our "Public Domain 101" video below.


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