Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Open Educational Resources (OER)

Why would I want to look for course materials in the public domain?

Unlike openly licensed materials, public domain materials have no legal restrictions on their use (though of course, there is an ethical, academic obligation to cite your sources). Public domain materials may be right for your course if you are looking for older materials such as art, literature, or other historical materials that may help provide context for more current work in your discipline.

What's in the public domain?

Works in the public domain include:

  • All works published in the United States before 1924 (as of 2019)
  • Works by an author who has died more than 70 years ago
  • Some works created between 1924-1964 that were not renewed - research of copyright office records is required to determine this
  • Works dedicated to the public domain (this is different than creative commons licensing!)
  • United States government works

For more details on when copyrighted works may enter the public domain, see the chart at the link below.

Public Domain and Open Culture Sites