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Copyright Essentials

Try these free or open access resources

A dance in Penasco, New Mexico, 1943

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


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."


MERLOT Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching - "Find peer reviewed online teaching and learning materials. Share advice and expertise about education. Be recognized for your contributions to quality education."
MIT OpenCourseware - Free lecture notes, exams, videos, and other educational resources from MIT.
Open Textbook Library - This resource offers high-quality digital textbooks. The large collection of openly-licensed 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.
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 Intenet 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.  
Z-Library Z-Lib offers over 5 million digitized books. If authors wish to remove their materials to avoid copyright violation, they can apply here

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: American Memory -  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.

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.


Image credit: Collier, John, Jr, photographer. Penasco, New Mexico. A dance. New Mexico Penasco Penasco. Taos County United States, 1943. Jan. Photograph.

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.

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