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Open Educational Resources (OER): Public Domain

This guide is maintained by NOVA librarians to assist faculty with OER initiatives and sources to locate OER materials. If you have questions or comments, please contact

Public Domain

What is Public Domain?

The term "public domain" encompasses materials for which:

  • The copyright has expired;
  • The copyright owner has intentionally and explicitly "dedicated" it to the public domain;
  • The copyright owner did not follow copyright renewal rules; or
  • Copyright law does not protect (such as works created by U.S. Government employees during the course of their employment, and works that cannot by copyrighted (such as ideas, common knowledge, data points etc.))

Public domain is different than "publicly accessible" or "free online." Read more about the public domain here.

Selection of Public Domain Resources


Some of the information on this page came from the LibGuide titled, Open Education Resources, by Anita Walz and Ginny Pannabecker of Virginia Tech Libraries and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0  International License.

Finding Public Domain Resources

Even though grade school teachers have told us otherwise for years, writers and artists can copy other people's work and get away with it. How? By dipping into the public domain, where everything is free for the taking. The Public Domain is the definitive guide to the creative works that are not protected by copyright and can be copied freely or otherwise used without paying permission fees. The book explains step by step how to recognize when a work is in the public domain. Chapters cover: writings, music, art, architecture, maps, choreography, photography, film and video, computer software and databases.The book also lists hundreds of resources, such as websites, libraries and archives, useful for locating public domain works. Destined to become a classic reference guide, The Public Domain is indispensable for anyone who deals with creative works, including publishers, web developers, writers, musicians and composers, artists, librarians, photographers and filmmakers.