First of all let’s get one thing clear – apparently there are NO SOUND RECORDINGS available in the Public Domain in the USA until 2067.
In fact sound recordings are usually adaptations of the original works which means in the UK it’s the same as it is for books – 70 years from the composers or creators death.
You can however record your own version of a musical composition by a composer such as Mozart as the sheet music is in the Public Domain which you can download for free.
There is also another way to get around this anomaly. There is a great source of freely available recordings from a company called Incompetech. Here you will find a collection of songs/music produced by American artist Kevin Macleod.
These are distributed under a Creative Commons licence. The only condition of use is that you credit him if you use it – not too much to ask is it!
This is the main product sought by those interested in making a business out of the Public Domain. Trouble is there are so many sites offering such books just where do you start?
A fantastic site to visit is http://www.ebookfriendly.com. On this one site you get 25 different sites offering free books which are all in the Public Domain.
There’s one that offers access to millions of items from European libraries, museums and archives whilst another called Librivox, specialises in audiobooks.
I had a quick scan of it and it looks promising as they’re always adding to it. They’re also looking for volunteer readers if you fancy recording a book yourself!
The New York Public Library has released 20,000 16th – 19th century historical maps mainly the USA and New York but also some other countries for free download.
You can also digitally align them with current maps if you download their mapwarper.
Go to http://www.openglam.org for more information.
IMAGES, SOUNDS AND VIDEO
For these types of creative works try visiting Wikimedia Commons. It has a database of millions of such items all freely available.
One important thing to note is even though the product you want is in the Public Domain which means it’s free to use as you want, it doesn’t mean it’s free to download! After all you may find an old book in a second-hand shop and it may well be in the public domain but you still have to buy it to use it.
The same applies online – there is one website where the owner has burned 80+ self-help books,on to a CD, all of which are in the public domain. You can use all of these books as you wish but you have to buy the CD to be able to do so.
You may have noticed that all of the above are available online but don’t forget that you can find many creative works which are in the public domain such as prints, books, sheet music etc. offline in secondhand shops, libraries, auctions and car boot sales.
Don’t limit yourself by sitting in front of a computer, it’s a big world out there!