Need More Public Domain Material?

from the whopping-plentitude dept

The Public Domain may not be growing (thanks to endless retroactive copyright term extensions) but it still contains a “whopping plentitude.” The biggest challenge to users is simply discovering PD works in the first place. Fortunately the Open Knowledge Foundation (one of the best Free Culture organizations anywhere) has just given everyone a leg up with its new web site, the Public Domain Review. From their About page:

The Public Domain Review aspires to become a bounteous gateway into the whopping plenitude that is the public domain, helping our readers to explore this rich terrain by surfacing unusual and obscure works, and offering fresh reflections and unfamiliar angles on material which is more well known.

Go there to find all kinds of delicious images, texts, sounds, and other treasures that, thanks to our collective cultural amnesia, are as fresh and exciting as anything Big Media tries to force down our throats today.

Crossposted from

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Comments on “Need More Public Domain Material?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Thank you.

Now my little contribution.

This is a non-profit from what I read and they are making available point clouds of ancient sites great for those wanting to build ancient locations in Blender.

And there is also other places to find some CC0 content. not CC0 but CC 3.0 GPL3)

Jesse Townley (profile) says:

Just in time?

I’m trying to track down if a photo used for a punk record we’re reissuing is in the public domain or not. I have a one-use letter from 1981, but I can’t figure out if the copyright was renewed or not, let alone find a trace of the photo in the libraries of the major photo licensing companies.

(Luckily, it’s a well-known documentary photographer, so at least there’s a good chance to find it if it’s still under copyright. I think.)

It’s really frustrating though. The amount of fruitless searching I’m doing shows me how tempting it is to just go ahead & use the photo and cross my fingers that it won’t be noticed. Ugh.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Just in time?

Copyright expiration flowchart:

More sources:

Probably what you wanted.
Welcome to the Digital Image Rights Computator!

No it may be in the public domain depending on how the guy released it, but by judiging the date there(80’s) you probably need to find the release terms to prove it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Just in time?

Seriously, you have a better chance finding stuff in open repositories than trying to hunt down a copyright release term of some copyrighted work.

As a rule of thumb that work in the 80’s is still copyrighted so you either get permission or don’t use it.

Those copyrighted works are probably lost forever for people since they keep retroactively expanding them.

Jesse Townley (profile) says:

Re: Re: Just in time?

The photo dates from the 1950s, so it was actually near its copyright expiration date the 1st time it was used for this release.

I can’t use a different photo because this is a repress and if we’re going to use the original art, well, yeah. I can’t substitute another photo, or at least I can’t without a lot of back and forth with the band.

P.S.- I’ve found the photo in a college’s photography collection. They should know if the image is public domain or not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Just in time? its a drawing

not a photo, photo’s usually look you know “real” this is a drawing, and I would say that drawing was far earlier than the 1950’s, it may have been photographed in the 50’s, but the scene looks more like the 1850’s time frame.

it does not show ANY form of ‘culture’ that could be considerd unique. two guys picking up sticks, saying nothing about where, when, why, or anything else, it could just as easily be from china, or europe.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Just in time?

I’ve found the photo in a college’s photography collection. They should know if the image is public domain or not.

Since photos taken in the 1950’s were “in its first term” as of Jan. 1, 1978, when the modern copyright terms first started. Those have a maximum of 28 years from first publication, unless the copyright holder renews the copyright, in which case they get another 67 years.

So, unless they actually renewed the copyright, it should be in the public domain. Since renewal isn’t automatic, there should be a record of it in the Library of Congress. You might even be able to find it at the Copyright Office web site.

If it’s not registered there, it’s safe to assume it’s now public domain.

darryl says:

what free curture ?

This is a picture, not a culture, you dont get to have someone elses culture, but by observing it, nor do you really learn anything about the culture depicted on it’s own.

What does that picture have to show you about early Australia settlers ?

because you have seen that picture do you now ‘have’ that Australian early settlers culture ?

darryl says:

Re: Re: Re: what free curture ?

you both talk as if you think ‘culture’ is something you can buy and sell, or is old pictures or whatever.

If it is not ‘YOUR’ culture, no matter how many pictures you have or how much you study it, or how many puzzle peices you put together, it is not and will never be YOUR culture.

its a very American centric character coming through, USA as a Country, does not really have much of it’s own ‘culture’ to attach too, and it’s the American way to think ‘we want that, so we can just buy it, or take it from some other group’.

I am very interested in Australian Aboriginal culture, but no matter what I know about it, or what I acquire in the way of art or literature, I can never be A PART of that culture, I can never purchase enough items to state that “I have that culture”.

I find it odd to think that there are people who believe they can buy and sell ‘culture’, or that somehow you have a ‘right’ to take the culture of another group to call your own !!!!

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 what free curture ?

USA as a Country, does not really have much of it’s own ‘culture’ to attach too, and it’s the American way to think

So the USA has no culture, but then you go on to say that it’s the American way to think a certain way? So part of our culture is to have no culture?

I can never be A PART of that culture

You can, but not because you’ve bought stuff. You could go out and live with the aborigines, like the aborigines, doing the things that the aborigines do, talking like them, using their idioms, etc. Then you can be a part of their culture. Acquiring items from their culture, however, is what you do when you really like a culture. In fact, acquiring stuff from other cultures is a big part of many people’s culture.

I find it odd to think that there are people who believe they can buy and sell ‘culture’, or that somehow you have a ‘right’ to take the culture of another group to call your own !!!!

I know right. It’s ridiculous that Warner Brothers can think that they own the Looney Tunes when that’s part of my culture. They can’t take that away from me. That’s why copyright is such a sham. No one but me can own my culture. No one can sell it, it can’t be bought, and they can’t take it away from me. I can, however, share it with others. Why do we allow copyright when it is trying to lock up my culture and declare that someone else owns it? It’s ridiculous.

btr1701 (profile) says:


What’ll you freetards think of next. The public domain is nothing but a zit on the ass of progress and it was never intended to be so easily accessible. You guys are skating right up to the line of what’s legal and it’s got to stop.

The party’s over. Get used to it.

There has to be something Congress can do to either stop this disgusting wholesale conglomeration of ‘free’ or at least pass a law making it a crime to publicize and promote it.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Damn...

The public domain is the default state of all art. Copyright is the exception, not the other way around. Copyright was intended to serve as a means to add to the public domain so that people would have (get this) free access to knowledge and culture to advance human progress, not to prevent “freeloaders”. You’d have to be a pretentious dick to think that the art you create is your “property”. To do so, would imply that you claim ownership of all that influenced and was incorporated into the new art. It isn’t yours, it’s everyone’s. Talk about entitlement issues. Damn indeed!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Damn...

When the joke could easily be mistaken for the real thing, then you know this world has problems.
I dare anybody visit the onion and try to tell if it isn’t real news.
Somewhere along the line, we’ve crossed into the bizzaro world thanks to the rich greedy bastards in charge. It’s madness I tell you!

Meek Barbarian (profile) says:


Something like this in a searchable index would be great. Or maybe if you could restrict a Google search by things like open source, public domain, although I understand that tagging search entries with flags like public domain, copyrighted, open source, closed source, etc, would be a massive undertaking, I could see a fairly big benefit in terms of usefulness for doing so.

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