Fletcher's Open Educational Resources

Public Domain

Public domain works or content that isn’t protected by copyright law may not be protected for a variety of reasons, including the following:

The duration of copyright in the work has expired. In the U.S., for example, the copyright in a book expires 70 years after the death of its author. (In Canada, copyright expires 50 years after the author’s death.) The minimum duration of copyright protection as set out in the leading copyright treaty, the Berne Convention, is life-plus-fifty but many countries now have a life-plus-seventy duration as in the U.S.

The work has been produced by the U.S. federal government. In the U.S., works produced by the federal government don’t have copyright protection. However, a work produced by a consultant or freelancer to the government may have protection and that copyright may be transferred to the government. Note that in other countries such as Canada, there is copyright protection in federal government works.

The work isn’t fixed in a tangible form. For example, a work such as a speech, lecture or improvisational comedy routine that hasn’t previously been written or recorded in any manner isn’t protected by copyright and therefore is in the public domain.

The work didn’t include a proper copyright notice prior to 1 March 1989. In the U.S., this doesn’t apply to works created after 1 March 1989 since a copyright notice is no longer mandatory to protect a work. However, prior to that date, notice of copyright was necessary on all published works — without this notice, the work went into the public domain. Note that most countries don’t have a copyright notice requirement.

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Public Domain Resources

  1. eBook - This site list sources that offer free public domain books in electronic and audio format.

  2. Teacher Tap - This page provides links to some of the better copyright-free and public domain resources. The ideas are intended for educators and librarians who wish to locate quality, copyright-friendly materials for educational, non-commercial, and nonprofit projects.

  3. Pic4Learning - Pics4Learning is an open project where anyone (particularly photographers) can join in and add their photos. 

  4. National Gallery of Art - For those of you looking for free downloadable and re-usable images of art, the National Gallery of Art has more than 25.000 art images to offer you. Each image is accompanied by a snippet of information on the original artist behind it together with an option to browse through related works.

  5. British Library - The British Library has recently released over a million images onto Flickr Commons for anyone to use, remix and re-purpose. These images are taken from books dating back to the 17th, 18th, and 19th century. The images were initially owned and digitized by Microsoft and then, later on, were given to the British Library to be released into the public domain.

  6.  Flickr - This is another great resource of free images and similar to Google Images, Flickr offers a search functionality that you can use to look for only public domain pictures. Refine your query in Flickr using an advanced search to look for and find free images.

  7. Internet Archive - This is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.

  8. Data.gov - The home of the U.S. Government’s open data. Here you will find data, tools, and resources to conduct research, develop web and mobile applications, design data visualizations, and more.

  9. Project Gutenberg - This site offers over 57,000 free eBooks. Choose among free epub books, free kindle books, download them or read them online. You will find the world's great literature here, with focus on older works for which copyright has expired. Thousands of volunteers digitized and diligently proofread the eBooks, for enjoyment and education.

  10. Public Domain Pictures - Home for Public Domain Pictures. Free for private and commercial use.

  11. Goodreads - Books shelved as public-domain: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Frankenstei...

  12. Free Music Archive  A Ton of Public Domain Songs.

  13. Royalty Free Music Resources - Free Music in the Public Domain 

  14. Free Music Archive: Classical - 20th Century Classical · Chamber Music · Choral Music · Composed Music · Contemporary Classical · Opera · Piano · Symphony ...