There is an enormous amount of content, online and offline, that is free to use, with no restrictions whatsoever. This material is said to be in the public domain. Some of this material was copyrighted at one time; however the copyright has since expired and so it is now part of what has come to be known as the public domain.

How to Tell if Content is in the Public Domain

You may have to do a bit of work in order to discern whether or not the content you have discovered is indeed part of the public domain. Otherwise, you could infringe on someone’s copyright and this could spell trouble for you. There are a few basic rules to follow when you are looking for public domain content but you may still need to verify that the content you want to use is really part of the public domain.

Public Domain Content from an Expired Copyright

Before 1923, works that received a copyright had a 75 year reign of copyright protection. Although there was a renewal process that could extend the copyright, many creators of those works had passed away before the copyright ended and so did not extend the copyright. Those works are now in the public domain and many savvy Internet marketers have taken advantage of that and made a lot of money using those materials.

Works Never Copyrighted

Although today’s copyright laws are vastly different from those of the past, there are an unlimited number of resources in the public domain that never received a copyright at all and so are free for others to use. In some cases, the author meant for those works to be a part of the public domain; that is, he or she wanted to share their material with the world. In other cases, since no copyright was ever registered, those works became a part of the public domain. Today, however, you don’t have to register your word in order for it to be copyrighted as copyright is automatic. Still, there is a lot of material from days gone past that you can use today; either as it is or by modifying it.

Examples of Public Domain Works

Although the written word as it exists in books and other text comprises a large part of what is available in the public domain, there are far more resources than just writings. Music, photographs, images, and software are all available in the public domain as well. While there are many online resources where you can find material in the public domain, there are offline resources as well. Used bookstores, for instance, are a goldmine when it comes to searching for works in the public domain. You may need to conduct a search at the federal government’s copyright website to verify that no copyright currently exists, but it will be time well spent if you are able to produce products from these materials.


Images can greatly enhance your website or blog and you can get them for free from the public domain. Whether you need pictures, clip art, cartoons, or a plethora of images, you can find them in the public domain.

What to do with Public domain Posters

You can find a variety of public domain posters on a wide range of subjects. Since they are in the public domain, you can edit them in any way you like and use them as you like. Scale them down and use them as pictures, ebook covers, make wallpaper out of them, the possibilities are endless.

Themed Posters

A search for War posters, for example, led to hundreds of government pamphlets from World War II that are in the public domain in addition to World War II posters. Can you imagine how you could use these images and pamphlets on a site or blog about World War II? The possibilities are endless! In fact, the government is a rich source for all kinds of public domain documents and images. Be prepared to devote some time to searching for public domain material because you can spend hours and hours searching and become so enthralled with what you find that you forget you had originally set out to make a quick buck!

Clip Art

You can do so much with clip art and editing and resizing it is easy too! You can add clip art to virtually anything and really make it stand out! While you will find many sources of free clip art online, not all of them are truly in the public domain. states that all clip art on that site is in the public domain and they have a huge library of clip art images. However, you’ll also run across many sites that let you use their clip art images for free if you cite the source or provide a link back to the source. Make sure you realize the difference as you won’t be able to modify or sell clip art that is not in the public domain.


Pictures can liven up blogs, ebooks, articles, and almost any form of the written word if used correctly. While the Internet is rich with free pictures and stock photos, they are not all in the public domain. Be extremely careful if you are using free pictures or images that are not in the public domain because if you decide to sell a product that contains one of those images or pictures, you could be in trouble if doing so is against the author’s rules for use. Because of this, it is best to use only those pictures that are truly in the public domain if you are going to be reproducing them or selling the work.