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Public Domain and Creative Commons: A Guide to Works You Can Use Freely

Here is an in-depth guide to using public domain and Creative Commons materials for your theses, dissertations, publications, and other scholarly projects.

Written Works

Visual Arts and Images

Locating Art reproductions, photographs, other images in the Public Domain:
This selective list of links will help lead you to public domain art reproductions, photos, and other images.  Again, it's important to remember that even though an art object might be in the public domain, its reproduction may not be.  Here are a couple of resources to consult which further explain this potential problem area when using reproductions of public domain visual works.

"Finding Images" Art LibGuide (Mansfield Library)

I put together this guide initially to help users locate a variety of images.  Some of these links may take you to public domain image reproductions.

"Finding and Using Public Domain Photographs" Public Domain Sherpa

This page is from an informative public domain site written by an independent entrepreneur/attorney.  Author provides a lengthy list of sites that provide access to public domain photos because the original work's copyright duration expired or the original work was created by a U.S. Government agency.  

U.S. Government's Official Web Search (for images)

Use these sites to help you search for images created by the U.S. Government.

Flickr: Public Domain

This is a newer group pool for Flickr where contributors are dedicating their images to the public domain.  There are also other groups in Flickr that do similar things about a more specific topic.  If you have images that you'd like to dedicate to the public domain, you can also join the group.  As always, be sure to verify the copyright status before using any of these images. 

Wikimedia Commons

This site not only provides access to Creative Commons-licensed images, but also to reproductions of public domain images.  Recently they've been teaming up with the National Archives to provide access to thousands of photos. 

New York Public Library Public Domain Collections

Have a look at the New York Public Library's digital materials that are in the public domain.  This collection includes photos, lithographs, illuminated manuscripts, and more!

Movies and Multimedia

Music (Sheet Music, Scores, and More)


"Maps Library Guide" from the Mansfield Library

Contains maps by topic: historic, scientific, topographic, Montana maps, etc.  Ones created by U.S. Government Agencies by U.S. Government employees are in the public domain.  You need to verify the copyright status of other maps you find by using this guide. 

Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection-- University of Texas Online

Includes maps from all over the world.  According to their frequently asked questions many of their maps are in the public domain.  The ones that are not are clearly marked as being protected under copyright law. 

"Sources of Public Domain Maps" Public Domain Sherpa

Another recommended link from the Public Domain Sherpa site.  Site provides many more links to sites where you can access public domain maps. 


Disclaimer: This tutorial on using public domain materials, Creative Commons licensed materials, and copyright law is provided for informational purposes only!  I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal advice.  None of what you read in this tutorial should be construed as legal advice.  Should you require legal advice, please contact an attorney.