Find Public Domain and Openly Licensed Materials

This guide to finding public domain and openly licensed materials is intended to highlight places where these types of materials may be found. This is not a definitive guide to such materials, nor do we make any guarantees regarding the license terms or copyright status of materials available through these sources.

Public domain works are generally free to use in any manner because copyright has expired or the work never had copyright protection to begin with. However, sources of public domain materials such as museums, libraries, and other institutions may impose requirements or restrictions on use in exchange for access to the materials.

Openly licensed works are available for use as long as users comply with the stated license terms. Many openly licensed works use a license from Creative Commons; see the page on our website about Creative Commons and our blog post about Creative Commons to learn more.

IMPORTANT: Always review the terms of use for the source you are using as well as the copyright status of each individual item you would like to use. Some collections include a mixture of public domain, openly licensed, and other copyrighted material.

Resources are sorted into broad categories by type of material and listed in alphabetical order within each category:

Audio and sheet music 

Free Music Archive: High-quality Creative Commons licensed new music.

Incompetech: Creative Commons licensed music by Kevin MacLeod.

International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP): Public domain sheet music (scores). This collection follows Canadian copyright; review IMSLP copyright page for considerations for U.S. users.

The Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection (John Hopkins University): Includes public domain sheet music (scores). Search for pre-1923 materials.

Librivox: Crowdsourced public domain audiobooks. 

Musopen: Recordings, sheet music, and educational resources related to music.

Mutopia Project: Includes sheet music editions of classical music, available under a Creative Commons license

The New York Public Library Digital Collections: Digital collections includes high resolution sheet music with no known copyright restrictions. Rights statement included for individual items.

pond5 Public Domain Project: Public domain audio. Registration/free account required to download materials. This resource also offers video and image files.

UCLA Sheet Music Consortium: Public domain sheet music (scores). Check “Conditions of Use and Copyright” link for individual items.

Images 

A Guide to Finding Better Images: A collection of free image resources, compiled by OSU's Office of Distance Education and eLearning. Resources are categorized by subject area. Many images are available under a Creative Commons license and may be free to use for personal or commercial purposes. Refer to the terms and conditions of each individual resource for specific license terms.

Bing Image Search: Enter your search. On search results page, use drop down menu under “License” to filter search results.

The British Library: A collection of over 1 million public domain images from digitized copies of 17th, 18th, and 19th century books.

Europeana: Description from Europeana: “Explore millions of items from a range of Europe's leading galleries, libraries, archives and museums … [including] [b]ooks and manuscripts, photos and paintings, television and film, sculpture and crafts, diaries and maps, sheet music and recordings...” Enter your search; on search results page, use the filters for “Can I use it?” or “By copyright” to filter for public domain and/or openly licensed works.

Flickr: Creative Commons: Description from Flickr: “Many Flickr users have chosen to offer their work under a Creative Commons license, and you can browse or search through content under each type of license.”

  • San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives on Flickr: “These are digital images from the San Diego Air and Space Museum's Library and Archives, which houses over one million aviation related photos, slides and transparencies.”
  • SpaceX on Flickr: “Official Flickr account for SpaceX, the future of space travel. SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches the world’s most advanced rockets and spacecraft.”

Flickr: The Commons: Includes photos with “no known copyright restrictions” uploaded by participating cultural institutions.

Getty's Open Content Program: Digital images of works believed to be in the public domain in the U.S. from the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Getty Research Institute's collections. Digital images are made available for free and without restriction. 

Google Image Search: Enter your search. On search results page, click “Search tools” and use drop down menu under “Usage rights” to filter search results.

Internet Archive: Contains books, movies, software, music, and more. Carefully review copyright information for individual items. Materials are available to read and link to but might not be available for reuse.

The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Reading Room: Description from the Library of Congress: The collection “include[s] photographs, historical prints, posters, cartoons, documentary drawings, fine prints, and architectural and engineering designs,” with an emphasis on U.S. materials. Review the “Rights Advisory” statement included with the metadata for individual items. See also: Assessing the Risk of Using a P&P Image.

Metropolitan Museum of Art: Selected artworks are available under the Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC) license. Users must search the collection and check individual items for the OASC icon. Refer carefully to the site Terms and Conditions and the FAQs about the OASC license to see if this license applies to the proposed use of the material.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Image Galleries: Public domain photos. See NASA terms of use page.

National Gallery of Art: Collections include digital images of public domain works made available under the Gallery's open access policy.

The New York Public Library Digital Collections: Digital collections includes high resolution prints, images, and maps with no known copyright restrictions. Rights statement included for individual items.

The Noun Project: Creative Commons licensed icons/symbols in black and white. Registration/free account required to download materials.

The Ohio State University Health Sciences Library Digital Image Collections: A list of resources available through the OSU Health Science Library. Terms of use may vary by resource and may require OSU authentication. Freely available image resources are also provided.

OpenGLAM: Open collections of images from galleries, libraries, archives, and museums from around the world. Collections include public domain and Creative Commons licensed materials.

pond5 Public Domain Project: Public domain images. Registration/free account required to download materials. This resource also offers audio and video files.

Public Health Image Library (PHIL): Provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Types of image categories/collections include influenza, natural disasters, environmental health, bioterrorism, health behaviors and more.

Samuel Zeller Archive: Professional photographs available under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license.

U.S. Government Photos and Images: A collection of photo and image galleries for multiple federal government agencies. Description from USA.gov: "Some of these photos are in the public domain or U.S. government works and may be used without permission or fee. However, some images may be protected by license or copyright. You should read the disclaimers on each site before using these images."

Wellcome Images: Description from Wellcome Images: “Thousands of images and centuries of medicine, science, society and culture.” Use the search filter for “Historical Images” to find images licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

Wikimedia Commons: Description from Wikimedia Commons: “A database of freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute.”

Open educational resources (OERs) 

College Open Textbooks: Public domain and openly licensed textbooks.

Lumen: Openly licensed courses for several subject areas.          

MERLOT II: Teaching and learning materials for a variety of subject areas. Available for “personal and noncommercial” uses; review the Acceptable Use Policy to evaluate whether your proposed use could qualify.

OER Commons: Teaching and learning materials for a variety of subject areas including “full courses, modules, syllabi, lectures, homework assignments, quizzes, lab activities, pedagogical materials, games, simulations” and more.

Open Professionals Education Network (OPEN): Aggregate list of open educational resources from various providers.

Open Textbook Library: Creative Commons licensed textbooks.

OpenStax College: Creative Commons licensed textbooks.

The Orange Grove: Teaching and learning materials for K-12 and Higher Education for a variety of subject areas.

Teaching Commons: A collection of high-quality OER selected by individual campus groups from leading colleges and universities. Resources include textbooks, course materials, lectures, and multimedia for a variety of subject areas.

Text 

arXiv.org: Open Access (OA) scholarly papers. Materials are available to read and link to but might not be available for reuse.

engrArXiv: Open Access (OA) archive for scholarly papers in engineering. Materials are available to read and link to but might not be available for reuse.

Internet Archive: Contains books, movies, software, music, and more. Carefully review copyright information for individual items. Materials are available to read and link to but might not be available for reuse.

Knowledge Bank, The Ohio State University: Open Access (OA) scholarly papers, technical reports, conference proceedings, and other research material. Materials are available to read and link to but might not be available for reuse.

Media History Digital Library: Collection of public domain classic media periodicals.

The New York Public Library Digital Collections: Digital collections include high resolution texts and manuscripts with no known copyright restrictions. Rights statement included for individual items.

Project Gutenberg: Public domain eBooks.  

PubSpace: Open Access (OA) peer-reviewed papers resulting from NASA-funded research.

SocArXiv: Open Access (OA) archive for scholarly paper preprints in the social sciences. Materials are available to read and link to but might not be available for reuse.

Social Science Research Network (SSRN): Open Access (OA) scholarly papers. Materials are available to read and link to but might not be available for reuse.

Video 

Internet Archive: Contains books, movies, software, music, and more. Carefully review copyright information for individual items; materials are available to read and link to but might not be available for reuse.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Video Gallery: Public domain videos photos. See NASA terms of use page.

The New York Public Library Digital Collections: Digital collections includes high resolution streaming videos with no known copyright restrictions. Rights statement included for individual items.

Open Images: An open media platform offering Creative Commons licensed video content.

pond5 Public Domain Project: Public domain footage. Registration/free account required to download materials. This resource also offers audio and image files.

YouTube: Enter search. On search results page, use the “Filters” drop down menu and select “Creative Commons” to filter search results for Creative Commons Attribution licensed videos. 

 

DISCLAIMER: The information on these web pages and that received from Copyright Services at OSU Libraries and the Health Sciences Copyright Coordinator is not legal advice, nor is either office legal counsel to the university or any members of the university community.