Public Domain, Free Use and Copyleft Media
It feels good to get free stuff. In fact that’s probably why many of us get on the Web in the first place. But behind the usual blogs and Web sites lies untold fortunes of free-use content, all available for you to use legally and with a clean conscience. All the resources you need are there, whether to explore literature spanning the human experience or to find thousands of photos to spice up any project. There are even sites to help you understand all the copyright snags you might encounter along the way.
There are hordes of that ubiquitous stuff called "content" on the Web for the taking. ... read more »
Ideally all the free-use content in the world would be accessible and searchable from one massive ... read more »
With the spread of digital cameras, everyone has become a photographer-and photographers love to ... read more »
Though visual and audio media certainly rule the Web these days in terms of sheer quantity, there's still plenty of literary and textual content to be had online. A veritable race is on to get the last few thousands years of written language input and uploaded, and the options for how to navigate this growing body of revived literature are many. All literature written before 1923, and much of it since, is in the public domain. Furthermore, much of the textual content online is available as free-use material. These sites will help you find that morsel of language or feast of philology you crave.
- Photography is new, the written word is old. The online community is playing catch-up when it comes to literature, so patience is sometimes needed. If you can't find what you want, chances are it will be online soon.
- Many new organizations and sites dedicated to putting literature online are in their infancy, and the next few years promise quick growth in the list of useful sites.
- Often the copyright status of a book or eBook can be hard to decipher. The original text can be in the public domain, but a certain translation or edition may not be. Err on the side of caution when copying text, but if it's an original version of something before 1923 you can be confident it's in the public domain in the United States.
- The Internet Archive, featured in the "Where can I search all free-use content?" section of this guide, also has an impressive number of library catalogs within its text tab.
's mission is to provide the public with as many free-use eBooks as possible, and they employ a substantial army of volunteers to do so. Their catalog contains over 20,000 free eBooks, most of which are in the public domain. Specific copyright information is given for each eBook.
Google Book Search
is Google's attempt to digitally store and make available the contents of the world's libraries and publishing houses. Using the "full view" search filter, you can search their cache of fully viewable books. Those in the public domain are available for free download, but as of now the only way to approximate such a filter is by adding the text "date:1500-1923" in the search query, which will return only those books published before 1923 (by default public domain material). Like most Google tools, this is a well-designed and well-functioning engine, and the ability to search by actual content (e.g., "a rose, by any other name") is as useful as it is innovative.
Online offers an impressive collection of books, all in the public domain. You can read the books in HTML format on the site, or download them as text files. Don't let the distracting design of the site keep you away from this useful resource.
might not host the largest collection of public domain books, but the ease of use and clean design of the site is a welcome respite from the messier, headache-inducing interfaces of sites such as Project Gutenberg and PDBooks Online. All books here are presented in easy-to-read HTML format, and though modestly sized now the catalog is growing.
elaborates on the idea of Project Gutenberg by integrating all the different ways one might experience a book. This volunteer-built and growing database of public domain texts provides links to the e-text, Wikipedia page, and an audio-recording of the material. The site contains what is most likely the largest online catalog of audio books and is constantly adding new titles.
is another place to stop if you prefer to listen to your literature. With a much smaller title list than Librivox, Loudlit's virtues lie in the clever read-as-you-listen feature. Instead of downloading the audio book, you can choose to listen to it as streaming content while you read along on screen. This last feature, paired with a tiny children's books section, offers a nifty way to help kids learn to read.
The Internet is a noisy place, with many audio offerings such as sound effects, midi clips and ... read more »
With the proliferation of broadband access, digital video recorders like TiVo, and the massive ... read more »
Now that you've seen what the free-use world has to offer, you might want to get more involved ... read more »
Most Recent Guides