justice scales

Using Public Domain Texts, Images, Audio and Film

As our name suggests our project is focused on showcasing works which are in the public domain and so are free to re-use for any purpose, even commercially. Important to understand, however, is that, although the majority of the content featured is in the public domain or under an open license worldwide, because of variations in local law, this is not always the case, particularly relating to film and audio content. Further to the underlying copyright status of works there are often additional rights claimed on digital copies of these works which can restrict re-use. For the items in our Collections section we state what we believe the rights to be, but this is very much to be taken as an approximation and we therefore highly encourage to do your own investigations before re-using any material, particularly for commercial purposes.

For more detailed information on the different kinds of rights statements you’ll find on our site, and for a more detailed explanation about the public domain and licensing, please see our “Rights Labelling on Our Site” page. For more information and further reading on finding out about local variations in copyright law we recommend the legal section of our “Guide to Finding Interesting Public Domain Works Online”.

If re-using public domain material from our site then you are under no obligation to mention us, but it would be really great if you did! Every credit and link back helps us grow an audience and continue the project.

Redistributing Our Articles

All unquoted text in our Collection posts and our Articles are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license. This means you can use our material for any purpose as long as you:
  1. attribute the original author
  2. attribute The Public Domain Review as the original source
  3. publish the piece under the very same license – if a whole article then also including the following before the main body of the text begins:
    “This article / [Article Title] was originally published in The Public Domain Review [hyperlink to article on The Public Domain Review] under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. If you wish to reuse it please see: http://publicdomainreview.org/legal/”
  4. do not use the attribution requirement to suggest that the original author or licensor (us!) endorses or supports a particular use of a work.

It would also be great if you could let us know if you are re-using some of our material. It’s always good to know how our work is being shared!
  • Anthony Hendon

    I work as a writer/editor in EFL (English as a foreign language) publishing. A large part of my work is writing practice tests for people preparing to take various exams, and the essays on Public Domain would make excellent material for the more advanced students (albeit in abridged/edited form). Can I assume that you’re happy for me to use them for this purpose? I would, of course, credit the author and the site as per the instructions above.

    • Public Domain Review

      Dear Anthony, apologies for the delay in getting back to you. Yes by all means please re-use the essays.

      • Peter L

        I have a similar request as above, although mine will be for a website/platform that provides lessons and learning content for students. I think the PDR content would make excellent learning material!

        What I am a little confused about is the mention of “unquoted text” earlier on this page. I have noticed that many essays are written by established authors and have links to the author’s website, where I can see that their work is protected under copyright. If an author publishes copyrighted materials on PDR, does that constitute “unquoted text”?

        I hope my query is not too complicated. Any guidance you can provide is greatly appreciated, and thanks again for creating this fantastic resource!

  • Deep Patel

    I have started a company for providing free entertainment (movies/theater plays/videos/books) to kill the boredom of long journeys. How can or what material can I reuse the material in my app? Apart from movies stuff (which I have plenty licensed movies), I would like to share knowledge vi books and documentaries.

    • Public Domain Review

      Hello, yes certainly you can reuse material, but make sure to check the licensing of the works in question thoroughly, as not all the material we feature are in the public domain all over the world (different countries have different laws about when a work enters the public domain, see here for more info: http://publicdomainreview.org/rights-labelling-on-our-site/)

  • Orawan Jaiboon

    I am a student who want to be a translator. I look for the articles, essays or journeys to translating into my native language on my blog, and I would like to run my blog by translating some essay of your site. Exactly, it’s not for sale. It’s for public knowledge and me. I am so happy if you give a permission about that. Thank you so much.

    • Public Domain Review

      Please, translate away! What language will you be translating into?

      • I’m going to translate into Thai.

        • Public Domain Review

          Great, well let us know when you have done a translation and we’ll happily send the word out.

  • LettuceBalm

    I make artisan lip balms and was wondering if using botanical prints found as part of my label art is fair use? I sell online and in some stores. Thanks!

  • Sarah Bouasse

    Hello and congratulations, this website is amazing and so full of ressources! There is an image I would like to publish in a magazine. Can you tell me if I can do so? I would of course credit the website I found it on…

    Many thanks for your help!

    • Public Domain Review

      You really have to consult the original source, to see if that would be possible. Laws vary from country to country.

  • Jane Taylor

    Hello, I work as a volunteer for Walsall Society for the Blind. I select articles that I and a few other volunteers read and record which are then copied onto memory sticks and sent out to our blind clients each week. Would I have your permission to read material from your project please?

    • Public Domain Review

      Yes, this sounds like a wonderful use!

  • Rob Milde

    I’m looking for passages to use in the Reading section of a statewide standardized test, which we use as a supplement to the ACT for placement in college level courses (so students have more than one way to place into college). Would it be okay to use passages from your essays in this way?

  • Tomas Manchester

    Hey! I’m looking for some artwork for a CD that may potentially receive distribution worldwide – would artworks on this site be suitable for such a purpose?

    • Ocelotl Chimalpahin

      I think they answered this for you. Just make sure it’s completely in the public domain, so a Peter Pan cover from it’s publishing is in the public domain but in the UK they have certain restrictions. Popeye is in the public domain in Europe but not in the United states. Weird huh?

      So be careful. In general if you used the Bayeaux Tapestry sure, even if it was copyrighted under current laws it would shill be public domain XD

  • Julian of Norwich

    Hi, I am a student at a UK university and I present a student-run radio show. Would it be possible to read an article (or extracts thereof) out loud during a show? The station is non-commercial we don’t sell advertising and no-one gets paid, if that’s any help. Obviously on air I’d explain where the article came from, who it was by and where I found it, and tweet / post links to the original on the programme’s social media pages. In any case I’ll talk about this site because I think it’s ace.

  • PKennedy

    Hello. I am putting together a few books for standardized test prep (SAT, ACT, GRE) in the U.S. There are several passages on your site that would be excellent fits for the requirements and would really engage the students who purchase the books. Would reproducing sections from some of your essays be allowed? Of course, the authors and the Public Domain Review would be properly cited and credited.