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Open Educational Resources - OER: Public Domain

Public Domain

What is Public Domain?

The Public Domain encompasses:

  • Works published in the U.S. prior to 1923;
  • Works whose copyright has expired or were not renewed;
  • Works for which the copyright owner has intentionally and explicitly "dedicated" it to the public domain;
  • Works created by U.S. Government employees during the course of their employment;
  • Works which do not qualify for copyright protections (such as ideas, common knowledge, data points etc.).

Public domain is different than "publicly accessible" or "free online." Read more about the Public Domain here.

Government Publications

Everything published by the US Federal Government is free of any copyright restrictions. The research, reports and websites can be useful resources for your courses.


  • A great place to start a search is
  • Try to search a specific agency's website.  A-Z List of Federal Agencies. Many times these materials are not retrieved with simple Google searches.  

Here are some examples of US Federal Databases:

  • The Homeland Security Digital Library is a collection of documents related to homeland security policy, strategy, and organizational management. Topics include maritime, unmanned aerial systems, terrorism, epidemics and many more. 


  • SciTech Connect is a collection of science, technology, and engineering research information from the U.S. Department of Energy.


Interactive Copyright Slider

(Flash - may not be viewable on all devices) Slide the red arrow down to the date of publication and read the information in the boxes on the left. 

Creative Commons License

" Public Domain Slider" by Michael Brewer and ALA Office for Information Technology Policy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License

CC0 vs. Creative Commons "Public Domain" mark

CC0 - Creative Commons zero - donated to the public domain CC0: "No rights reserved"

CC PD. Creative Commons Public Domain mark. Identified as being in the Public Domain. CC PD: "No known copyright"


Some of the content on this page came from the LibGuides "Open Education Resources" by Anita Walz (Virginia Tech Libraries) and  "Open Educational Resources" by Carrie Gits (Austin Community College).

SUNY Old Westbury Library, Old Westbury, NY 11658
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