Use these cool tools to help determine if the U.S. work you wish to use is in the public domain.
Creative materials that are either no longer protected by copyright or never were protected by copyright are in the public domain. Anyone can use them without obtaining permission because nobody owns them. Works enter the public domain typically because the copyright has expired, the copyright holder did not follow copyright renewal rules, the copyright holder purposely placed the works in the public domain, or copyright does not protect this type of work. Works authored by U.S. federal government employees as part of their official U.S. government job are in the public domain. Other works available for immediate use include those covered under a Creative Commons license and those available via Open Access.
Creative Commons: Search for items covered under a Creative Commons license or in the public domain. Always be sure to verify that the work is actually under a CC license by following the link. When in doubt, contact the copyright holder directly, or try to contact the site where you found the content.
Flickr: Search for the photo or video content of interest, click on the Advanced search link, and limit to All Creative Commons.
Biodiversity Heritage Library: Over 158,000 free plant and animal illustrations.
Open Library: Over one million free e-book titles to read.
Pixabay: Search for the free images and royalty free stock of interest. Over 1.9 million high quality stock images, videos, and music are shared.
Project Gutenberg: Over 50, 000 free e-books and free Kindle book titles to read.
Sherpa-Romeo Database for Publisher's Open Access Policies: Search for journal article permissions that are normally given as part of each publisher's copyright transfer agreement.
U.S. Library of Congress: American Memory: Search written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music from the collections from the Library of Congress and other institutions that document the American experience. These items chronicle historical events, people, places, and ideas. All items are free and open access.
Wikimedia Commons: Search for the media content of interest, click on the file of interest, and read the usage limitations. Most items are covered under a Creative Commons license or in the public domain.
YouTube: Search for the video content of interest, click on the filter pull-down menu, and select Creative Commons.
YouTube USA.gov Channel: Search for the video content of interest. Most content produced by the U.S. federal government is in the public domain. Content produced by a sub-contractor of the U.S. government is often not if the public domain.