Tutt Library Research Guides
There are many sources of public domain work online, and we've listed some of our favorites below. When exploring public domain works online, please remember that just because an online source claims something is in the public domain, there's no absolute guarantee that it is! Use your common sense, and refer to Peter Hirtle's public domain chart. Also, even when an original work is in the public domain, there are separate copyrights that apply to any creative work done in translating from the original. So, a post-1923 translation of the Odyssey, for example, is probably still under copyright, even though the Odyssey is thousands of years old!
Through a Creative Commons (CC) license, creators can retain copyright of their works while expanding how people are allowed to re-use them. There are several different CC license "pieces," which are then joined together to create the different flavors of CC license. A very common CC license is CC-BY (Attribution) which means that works can be freely used in any way, as long as the original creator's contribution is acknowledged in the way they've specified. CC-BY-NC (Attribution, Noncommercial) means that the creator must be acknowledged, and the use cannot be commercial. CC-BY-SA (Attribution, Share-Alike) means that the creator must be acknowledged, and any new uses must be shared under the same CC license. CC-BY-ND (Attribution, No Derivatives) would mean that the creator must be acknowledged, and the work can only be reproduced in the exact form of the original. These are just a few of the different flavors, so it's really important to read the license on any Creative Commons works you want to use, and to make sure the license fits what you want to do! If it doesn't, don't give up: it's a really great idea to contact the original creator of the work. The fact that they've gone out of their way to increase the shareability of their work often means they are open to discussing uses that go beyond the CC license as well.
Here are some websites that help you find Creative Commons works and/or provide more information about Creative Commons:
Most but not all publications of the US Government have no copyright (for a full explanation, see USA.gov's copyright page). Here at Tutt, our Government Documents librarian, McKinley Sielaff, has put together a Federal Government Resources guide that is your best place to start exploring the vast numbers of US government publications. But here are a few particularly interesting sites that will help you get an idea of the broad range of resources available from the government, almost all of them free to reuse.
Open educational resources (OER) are teaching materials for classroom and self-teaching use, that are openly licensed for reuse. They consist of textbooks and articles, videos, audiorecordings, multi-media modules, and more. Different OERs are licensed in different ways, so be sure to read the fine print on the particular resources you're interested in using.
As part of an open access movement, scholars are choosing to make their original research and other intellectual work freely accessible to the public. Many colleges and government institutions have started to mandate open access for works that they fund. While open access works are free to read online (and usually to download or print), they may still fall under traditional copyright, or creative commons licenses, that define how they may be used. Here at CC, the best place to start learning about open access is the Tutt Library Open Access Guide. Digital CC is a website (aka "long-term repository") where we share our community's scholarly and creative work with the world.