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DSCI 350M/LIB 350M Humanities Research Data Management

A course guide for Humanities Research Data Management

Defining Public Domain

What is Public Domain?

Public domain represents creative works that are not protected by United States intellectual property rights law. The “public” in public domain means a work is owned by the public, not an individual.

Anyone can use creative works if the work is in the public domain.

Every year on January 1st new works become copyright free and in the public domain because copyright has expired.

If a work was created by the United States government then it is automatically public domain.

Works created before 1929 are in the Public Domain.

Where to Find Public Domain Content

Where can you find Public Domain Content?

There are several places on the Internet where you can find public domain content. Usually the organizations and institutions who make public domain content available are libraries, archives, museums, governments, and non-profit organizations. The resources listed below are only a handful of online resources for finding publicly and freely available materials.


Oregon Digital

Oregon Digital is the University of Oregon Libraries and Oregon State University Libraries & Press’ cultural heritage repository for unique historical materials. There are over 100,000 objects representing Oregon’s history, the universities, and other types of special materials. Not everything in Oregon Digital is in the public domain.


Historic Oregon Newspapers

Historic Oregon Newspapers provides access to almost 2,000,000 digitized pages from Oregon’s newspapers dated 1846-2021. Not everything in Historical Oregon Newspapers is in the public domain.


Digital Public Library of America

The Digital Public Library of America is where hundreds of libraries, museums, and archives have rathered all of their historical materials in one single place. There are millions of resources to explore and support your research. Not everything in DPLA is in the public domain.


Library of Congress Digital Collections

Find thousands of public domain resources through the Library of Congress. The scope of these digital collections pertain to historical topics and significance to the United States. You can find sound recordings, photographs, documents, and other resources here.


Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg is an online eBook library that contains over 60,000 free books. All content made available through Project Gutenberg are copyright free and in the public domain.


The Getty’s Open Content Images

The Getty makes available over 160,000 digital images of artworks and manuscripts copyright free for anyone to be able to use. 


The Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is a non-profit organization that’s mission is to build the world’s largest digital library for web pages, books and texts, audio recordings, videos, musical performances, images, and software. There are billions of historical materials are available through this resource. Not everything in the Internet Archive is copyright free or in the public domain.