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Public Domain Media

Updated on August 29, 2012

Simply Put, media you can use

The public domain refers to works whose intellectual property rights have expired, been forfeited, or are inapplicable as defined by Wiki sources.

There is plenty of free media out there and everyday media becomes public domain. Anything that was copyrighted before 1923 as intellectual property has lost the right to be copyrighted anymore. Therefore something like Beethhoven compositions or quilted prints of Rembrandt paintings can be produced for anything including profit. For example the Mona Lisa is free domain art and can be graphically altered without permission long as you don't physically touch it. Also commercial prints of the painting, quilts, pencils etc, can be sold worldwide without infringement of rights because it is in the public domain. There are so many PD depositories that it's hard to keep up. Below I have stated some categories and examples to give you insight as to types of Public Domains.

Please read this article on public domain usage from Stanford


With music anything created before 1923 is lawfully public domain. So that means if it predates 1923 then you can sample, remix, alter for use commercially. A few samples of great music to sample is Liberace or Beethoven who's compositions are PD. Also you can record CD's of classical compositions and sale it without having to pay royalties to any entity.

Here are some links to access Public Domain music resources:

1. Public Domain Music

2. Royalty Free Music

3. Public Domain 4 U


Any Art produced before 1923 is considered public domain. Basically any image up for PD can be Google searched but every year more are available as the copyright is not renewed or the artist has passed over 70 years of death, which forfeits the piece to public domain. Images like the Mona Lisa is public domain and can be reproduced without permission.

Take a look at some sample art (pictures of) that are in the public domain @ this link:

Google search for PD art pictures

Public Domain Pictures


There's a lot to consider when coming across what's public domain for the movies. Any video or monologue recordings before 1923 are public domain because rights were not establish-able before then. Movies that were produced thereof that have have lost or gave up their intellectual rights (missing the re-copyright deadline) can be free to use. Many earlier silent movies and modern educational documentaries are PD examples of video . Search and you shall find which are PD.


Any publication of any sort before 1923 is officially public domain. There are so many books, magazines and poems that you can sample, make a movie out of, twist or bring back to life without having to pay a cent. Alice In Wonderland is one of those PD books that has been remade in many different ways.

Here are some great links to Public Domain Literature

1. Feed Books - 1,000's of free books

2.Project Gutenberg - Free ebooks

Computer Software

There is plenty of public domain software and can be referred to as freeware. Some freeware is like Ubuntu, a kernel based operating system that can control your MSN OS. Libre Office is another good example, which is a open source-public domain version of Microsoft Office. Aside of freeware there is also computer technologies that are open source therefore considered digital public domain.


Public domain libraries online are growing rapidly making it easier for us to find pictures for our articles. Check out these sites of public domain picture depositories that can offer free graphics as well.

1. Pic Drome - for the photographer

2. Ars Publik - for the designer

3. P.D. - for clip art


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    • DRG Da Real Grinc profile image

      Felix J Hernandez 3 years ago from All over the USA

      at Paddycat

      It depends on the year for the most part. Also it can be so old there is no copy write.

    • Paddycat profile image

      Annabelle Johnson 3 years ago from Charente, France

      This is a useful hub, and as the previous commentator says, very useful to be able to refer back to. I am wondering whether there are any country-specific issues. For instance, am I right in thinking some music seems to be public domain in America but not in Europe? Also, with regard to music, I believe it is possible to make a new arrangement of an old tune and claim intellectual property rights. I would be interested in any thoughts on this.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 5 years ago from Canada

      Thank you for this, PRG. This is very useful information and I want to bookmark it somewhere to refer back to. I did not know that 1923 was the magic number. I guess that is 90 years before this year.

      Right, I am really trying to inform myself of copyright, etc, because I made some mistakes when I first started writing online. I just read something tonight about a lady being fined by a photographer for using his image without permission. It is quite serious. Great hub on a great topic.