In the context of copyright law, publication is an important concept and has a very technical meaning. According to 17 U.S.C. §101, “Publication is the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership (i.e., a rental, lease, or lending). The offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display constitutes publication. A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute publication.”
Generally, publication occurs on the date on which copies of the work are first made available to the public.
[Last updated in May of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]