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Public domain images & resources

Posted by Michael Bloch in web development (Tuesday December 12, 2006 )

Looking for free images or other resources such as sound, film or texts you can use on your web site without fear of infringing copyright? – think public domain.

What is public domain?

Public domain encapsulates creative works including writing, art, music, and inventions that no party can exercise copyright over. These works are considered cultural and intellectual heritage and can be used/edited for commercial and non-commercial purposes.

Works can become public domain through a declaration by the creator, or when copyright protection expires.

An example of a web related invention put into the public domain by its creators is, well, the web itself. You can view the 1993 public domain declaration from CERN here.

Copyright expiration can vary from country to country, but generally speaking protection expires if the work was first published before January 1 1923 or if the author died over 70 years ago, or if there has been no copyright term extensions or perpetual copyright applied (the latter being quite rare).

In the USA, I believe there is also a large of chunk of works in the public domain that were published before 1964 as their copyright was not renewed, which was a requirement at the time.

Instead of trying to determine what is and isn’t in the public domain yourself; for some comprehensive listings of public domain resources, WikiPedia seems to be the place to go:

General resources listImage resources list

By the way, if you haven’t checked out the pricing on quality commercial stock photography recently, you may be pleasantly surprised. These days you can buy stock photos for commercial purposes for as little as $2 per image! Read more.

If you are interested in putting something you’ve created into the public domain; I believe it is as simple as accompanying the work with the declaration: “This work is dedicated to the public domain” :).

Read more about using and sourcing stock images and photos



 

 
3 comments for Public domain images & resources
  1. Can I please recommend my web site for lots of free Public Domain Images . Thanks!

    Comment by Karen — December 17, 2006 @ 2:02 am

  2. Thanks for letting us know about your site Karen – it’s a great resource! :)

    Comment by Michael Bloch — December 17, 2006 @ 2:19 am

  3. Looking for photos of Anna Nicole Smith, that are public domain material. Also I could use some short film clips.
    Thank you
    Martin Lopes

    Comment by Martin Lopes — April 18, 2007 @ 10:36 am

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