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Copyright Essentials

Try these open resources


A dance in Penasco, New Mexico, 1943
A dance in Penasco, New Mexico, Taos County United States, 1943.
Image credit: Collier, John, Jr, photographer
Available at:


Where can you find materials that you may use, re-use, re-mix, and/or share without violating copyright? A growing number of open source or open education resources (OERs) are available. Many of these sites, especially Creative Commons, offer ways for you to contribute your own works to the community.

Open Education Resources (OERs) Other Sources for Educators

Creative Commons - Share, Remix, Reuse — Legally. Creative Commons licenses provide a flexible range of protections and freedoms for authors, artists, and educators.

HEAL Health Education Assets Library - HEAL "is a digital library that provides freely accessible digital teaching resources of the highest quality that meet the needs of today's health sciences educators and learners."

LibreTexts - "LibreTexts is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization committed to freeing the textbook from the limitations and costs of traditional textbooks. Our open and freely accessible LibreTexts provide a more engaging learning experience for students without the financial burden."

MERLOT Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching - Peer-reviewed online teaching and learning materials. From California State University System.

MIT OpenCourseware - Free lecture notes, exams, videos, and other educational resources from MIT.

Open Course Library - "A collection of shareable course materials, including syllabi, course activities, readings, and assessments designed by teams of college faculty, instructional designers, librarians, and other experts. Some of our materials (also called open educational resources, or OER) are paired with low-cost textbooks ($30 or less). Many of the courses can be taught at no cost to students. Unless otherwise noted, all materials are shared under a Creative Commons (CC BY) license. OCL courses and materials have undergone testing for accessibility and have been designed using the industry-standard Quality Matters (QM) rubric for assessing the quality of online courses."

Open Stax - A non-profit digital ecosystem. It serves millions of users per month, delivering free educational content to improve learning outcomes.

Open Textbook Library - A large collection of high-quality digital textbooks that can be downloaded for free as PDF or e-book files. The books come from multiple authors and publishing organizations and cover a wide range of academic areas, including the humanities, natural and social sciences, and mathematics, as well as medicine and law. It also includes detailed reviews written by faculty and instructors. From the University of Minnesota.


Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) - A directory of thousands of academic open access books from hundreds of academic publishers including DeGruyter, SpringerNature, Taylor & Francis, Peter Lang, and Oxford UP. All books carry Creative Commons licenses. Books are peer-reviewed prior to being added to the database. DOAB titles are also searchable in the Library's catalog.

Internet Archive - Using controlled digital lending to ensure 1 to 1 lending for a limited time period, similar to current library practices in loaning physical books, the Internet Archive offers 1,300,000 modern e-books that may be borrowed for a period of two weeks by anyone with a free account. Borrowers may read them directly online or download them to Adobe Digital editions. The Internet Archive (IA) also offers some 20,000 freely available books and texts, as well as films, music, audiobooks, images, and many more resources. The IA also acts as a search engine to other freely available resources in important collections.

Images, Photos & Other Art Work

Art Images for College Teaching - From the University of Michigan. Provides the free exchange of image resources for the educational art community.

Creative Commons Image Search - Allows discovery of openly licensed and public domain images from museums, image banks, and other image repositories. Click on "filter" to search by image provider or license type. As of this writing (May 2019), only images are included but plans to add other media types as the database grows in size and use.

Google Advanced Image Search - Be sure to use the Usage Rights search field to limit by license type.

Library of Congress Digital Collections - A free “digital record of American history and creativity.”

Library of Congress: Prints & Photographs Online Catalog - Photographs, prints, drawings, posters, and architectural drawings, and more.

NGA Images - Public domain artworks from the collections of the National Gallery of Art.

Noun Project - Free clip art images requiring creator credit.

NYPL Digital Gallery - Illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints, photographs, and more, from the New York Public Library.

Open ClipArt - Open Clipart is an online media collection of more than 160,000 vectorial graphics, entirely in the public domain. All graphics are stored using the Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) format. Major standard supported all across the web, SVG files are very portable and can easily be scaled, edited, or printed without deformation. Join and contribute your own clipart to this public domain resource.

Pixabay - Pixabay offers millions of royalty-free stock photos and videos.

The Commons on Flickr - "The key goals of The Commons on Flickr are to firstly show you hidden treasures in the world's public photography archives, and secondly to show how your input and knowledge can help make these collections even richer." Includes images from the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, the Getty Research Institute, and others.

Film & Music sources

Are you looking for film clips or even complete feature films that are in the public domain? Here are some works that you can watch or even use in your own remixes.

What is "the public domain" anyway?

A work is considered to be in the public domain if it is not protected by copyright law. Typically, works in the public domain are free for the public to use in any way that they wish. A work may be in the public domain for a number of reasons, including:

  • the copyright protection term on the work has expired
  • the copyright protection for the work was never acquired or was lost
  • the work is a U.S. government work. Note that state and local government works are not necessarily in the public domain, nor are works that have been created by agencies with which the federal government has contracted.

Generally, copyright expires 95 years after the work's publication date although there are exceptions. January 1st of each year is Public Domain Day as works enter the public domain. Duke University hosts a Public Domain Day website celebrating the annual entrance of works into the public domain.

Copyright protection terms have changed over time so it can prove challenging to determine when a U.S. work falls into the public domain.