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Public domain resources

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The public domain is a range of abstract materials (or intellectual propertyW) which are not owned or controlled by anyone. They can be used by anyone for any purpose. For more information on the concept and laws regarding public domain, see Wikipedia:Public domain; for how public domain content relates to a wiki such as Appropedia or Wikipedia, see Wikipedia: Project: Public domain.

US Federal government work (but not that of contractors, nor of state or local governments) is probably the largest source of public domain content by far. See US federal government websites and public domain and Wikipedia:Copyright status of work by the U.S. government.

Websites such as Public Domain Resource are teaching webmasters how they can use Public Domain information to use for website content or to create products to sell.

Critique of the CC licenses from the Public Domain standpoint:

The Public Domain represents a completely different perspective from Creative Commons:

  • It emphasizes culture solutions based on ethics rather than law.
  • It allows and encourages people to use their own best judgment, rather than negotiate permissions.
  • It avoids chains of licenses and the questions of what are the boundaries of a work?
  • It filters in people who truly want to share, and filters out those who want control.
  • It recognizes that knowledge is worthless outside of context, but wealth is human relationships that are the context, thus orients us around people rather than content.
  • It is a genuine solution that encourages genuine respect for licenses and the law.
  • In the form of "Public Domain except as noted", it is compatible with all licenses except for "share alike" licenses, and it makes it possible to gradually migrate to the Public Domain.

See Andrius Kulikauskas (, Minciu Sodas and Worknets for more information about the Public Domain.

Problems with public domain

Public domain is not copyleft and so has no protection against being modified and then copyrighted, or licensed under a more restrictive license, that does not give the Four Freedoms.

Public domain search (broken)

This is planned to be fixed soon (first half of 2010) - contact Chriswaterguy with questions.

You can search for Public Domain work using Public Domain Search. Results are mostly public domain (we're improving the search engine, but can never guarantee the results). Take your own precautions before using the material. See Appropedia's Public Domain Search for more information.

Marking your content as public domain

Marking your work is important to ensure that users easily see that your website content is public domain, and to unable it to be indexed as open content by search engines. (E.g. in Google, click advanced search and select usage rights).

Creative Commons provide a way of doing this. Although public domain is not the "responsibility" of Creative Commons, their marking scheme includes it as an option, with a link to an explanation of public domain. See Marking your work as Creative Commons.

See also

Interwiki links