The How and Where for Finding Public Domain Material


<< previous page: What exactly is the public domain

Finding Free Material


So, first things first, what should you look for to determine whether or not a work is in the public domain?  Well, as I said above all works created in the United States before 1923 are by default, now in the public domain.  Also Government forms and documents are not subject to copyright law, which means you can use them as you wish, without any concern for copyright laws. 

Another large group of works that are in the public domain are those that were published before 1964 and the copyright was not renewed. Copyright renewal was a requirement for works published before 1978. A smaller group of works fell into the public domain because they were published without copyright notice as a proper copyright notice was necessary for works published in the United States before March 1, 1989. There are also some works that are in the public domain because the owner has indicated a desire to give them to the public without copyright protection. The rules for establishing the public domain status for each of these types of works are different and more details are provided throughout this ebook.  

Once private works that have entered the public domain, can be found everywhere, but of course we are trying to make this a profitable venture, so the easier we can find them, the better off we will be.  This is not to say that you should not consider sourcing your own material, should you be the first, or one of the first few to recreate or refuse a work, you will stand a much better chance of realizing higher profit margins.  Now, there are a few places on the web that have created large scale databases of work that has entered the public domain and they are worth a look, as there are some great gems to be found.  Below is a list of just such web sites, for you to find, use and profit from publicly owned, copyright free material:


Government Works


  • The CIA Library online has a lot of literature and reading that you can use.
  • holds some interesting public domain material you may consider using in your projects.
  • The reports and publications section of the FBI website has some great documents.
  • We of course can not forget the home of facts and statistics, so make sure you take a look at the U.S. Census Bureau .
  • The Internal Revenue Service is not a favorite among many of us, but they do have various forms and publications.
  • The Consumer Action website holds some great links and resources for U.S. consumers.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a fairly extensive publication library on their website, it includes a lot of the information and material they have released over the years.

Fine Literature, Children's Books, Images and More


  • Project Gutenberg is an online database that has tons of digitally reprinted fine literature works that are found within the public domain.
  • Access a large database of public domain photos online at .
  • is the website of nonprofit organization interested in art and literature.  On their website they offer public domain sounds, images and texts. 
  • The Springfield Township High School Virtual Library has an extensive list of web sites that offer copyright free images for use on the web.
  • has a list of public domain music in mp3 format available for download.
  • Take a look at the Public Domain Works Database for a great list available public domain works categorized by titles and artists.
  • is the home of public domain comedy videos.  You can find greats like The Frank Sinatra Show, Charlie Chaplin, Daffy Duck and the House on Haunted Hill.
  • The Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts has a searchable database of over 14,000 classic public domain literature works.  You can find everything from classic children's books to copyright free images.
  • is an online column featuring poems, short stories, essays and other literary works in the public domain.
  • LibriVox takes classic literature found in the public domain, records and then re-releases them to the web.  They have a searchable catalogue with tons of works including children's books.
  • Authorama features public domain books from a variety of different authors.
  • Read Print has tons of classic literature, that is freely available in the public domain.  Some examples are Peter Pan, Hamlet, Julias Caesar, Tarzan and more.
  • Internet Archive has a great list of classic feature films like Night of the Living Dead and Charlie Chaplin.

Other Places for Finding Public Domain Material


  • Check out your local library for classic literature and other books that have entered the public domain.  I will tell you how to use them later on in this ebook.
  • The search engines hold thousands of web sites that contain or provide links to sites where you can find additional public domain material.  Start with Google and Yahoo and perform searches for "public domain literature" or whatever else you may be in search of.  Make sure you include the quotation marks to get the most specific and accurate results.
  • Your local and state colleges and universities have extensive libraries that often contain historical and classical works.
  • Court houses and Government institutions often have documents and resources available to the public, being that they are Government documents they automatically fall into the public domain.
  • Book stores, antique stores and thrift stores are all great places to find vintage and classic literature.  Obviously finding these works in thrift stores would be a great find and you would likely be able to pick them up at very bargain prices.  Book and antique stores will probably charge more for these items, but if used correctly your profit margins will be much higher than your costs. 


Next Page >>  |  Return to main article  |  Free Videos  |  Free Music  |  Free Games  |  Free Books


HOME  |  Copyright: All content on this site is copyright the site owner