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Open Education: Public Domain

What is the public domain?

Works in the public domain (PD) are not protected by copyright. Attribution is not a legal requirement, but scholars traditionally cite PD works to avoid plagiarism.

What's in the public domain?

  • Most works published in the U.S. in 1923 or before.
  • Works with expired copyright.
  • U.S. government works
  • CC0
  • Works that can't be copyrighted (ideas, titles, something without minimal creativity such as the white pages telephone directory)

Locating works in the public domain

There are thousands of places to locate PD content. Since much of the content ends up in the PD due to expired copyright, archives are generally a good place to look. Also, try your library catalog, or locate newer content through websites with U.S. government publications or websites that let you filter to CC0 or public domain content. Here's a list to get you started. Be sure to check each item for copyright restrictions as most websites contain a mix of copyrighted content alongside PD or CC works.

My top three pics:

...and many more sites:

Read more about the public domain...

How to tell if a work is in the public domain in the U.S.



Creative Commons License
Unless otherwise stated, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

This work contains links to content in the public domain and content with a variety of licenses or copyright restrictions. Additionally, the uploaded items under examples are in the public domain.