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Scholarly Communication Services - Copyright for Teaching & Instruction: Public Domain

Public Domain for Teaching and Instruction

Public Domain

This page will assist with questions regarding the following:

  • For face-to-face teaching; For online learning (posts on Canvas or online courses):  finding books, articles, motion pictures, images, sound or other works to reuse for teaching, assignments, or other scholarly or creative purposes.

PubliPublic Domain Markc Domain is a status given to publications, creative works, or other types of works that are no longer protected by copyright (see top, right image).  No one legally owns these works, so they can be reused or repurposed by anyone!

CC0 Public Domain LogoHow can public domain works be used? 

  • Publications and Presentations: public domain images can provide examples or illustrations of concepts
  • Teaching:  public domain works can be used as readings, assignments, translations, or labs.
  • Scholarly Activities:  reuse, repurpose, or integrate into current research.
  • Creative Tasks:  update, revise, or make a work inspired by something in the public domain.

This LibGuide provides links to comprehensive information on public domain, when items enter it, and where public domain works can be found.

If I reuse a public domain work, do I need to cite it?  Although these works are free of copyright restrictions, attributing a public domain work is good practice from the standpoints of academic integrity and the respect of intellectual property.  Using a public domain work does not violate copyright, but failing to attribute it or wrongfully claiming authorship is considered plagiarism (Crews, 2020, pg. 58).  Therefore, citing a public domain work is just the ethically right thing to do!     

Disclaimer:  The FAU Libraries and its faculty, staff, and administration are not attorneys and cannot interpret the law.  This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not substitute for advice from legal counsel. 

Source:  Crews, K. D. (2020).  Copyright law for librarians and educators: Creative strategies and practical solutions (4th Ed.).  Chicago: ALA Editions.

Find Public Domain Works

Public Domain

Various web pages and meta-lists include links to public domain works; these may sometimes include works with copyright protection.

Recommended:  check on any copyright information that may be available on any work of interest to be sure it is actually in the public domain, and document it.

Web Pages & Meta-Lists

Books & Texts

Images & Museums

Quick Tip:  Use these sites' search features to limit items to Creative Commons or Public Domain works.

Music (Sound, Sheet Music)


Public Domain Essentials

U.S. Copyright Office & Federal Law

Public Domain in Plain Language

Determine If a Work is in The Public Domain

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Public Domain Books & Multimedia

Books about Public Domain