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The information presented in this guide is intended for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice or guidance. If you have specific legal questions pertaining to the University of Arizona, please contact the Office of the General Counsel.
Finding and Using Works in the Public Domain and Works with Creative Commons Licenses
Very briefly, works in the public domain can be used by others without violating any existing copyright protections. As the U.S. Copyright Office explains: “A work of authorship is in the ‘public domain’ if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner.”
Works released with a Creative Commons license are still copyrighted materials, however they have been released with a copyright license that allows certain types of re-use without seeking the express permission of the copyright holder. The 6 different Creative Commons licenses signal the allowable terms of reuse. Any reuse of a work release under a Creative Commons requires attribution of the source and author.
NOTE: Whether you use works that are in the public domain or protected by copyright, it is always advisable to provide proper attribution for the work.
Images available through this program can be found by searching on the Getty Search Gateway and then filtering the results by checking the box next to "Open Content Images", an option in the Highlights section of the filters in the left menu. All images found through this program should be credited as "Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program" (see Getty Open Content Credits).
Use the search “Tools” tab to limit your search by “Usage Rights”. Though the options under Usage Rights do not use the exact language of Creative Commons licenses, you can limit your searches to items that allow reuse or modification.
Since 2017 the Met has made images of artworks it believes to be in the public domain available for unrestricted reuse and at no cost. Works in the public domain will be tagged by an Open Access (OA) icon on the Met’s search interface.
The NGA Images collection is a repository of digital images of the collections of the National Gallery of Art and includes over 51,000 open access digital images that the Gallery believes are in the public domain and free of other known restrictions. Use the “More Search Options” link under the Search box to limit your search to the open access content.
Images in the NOAA Photo Library are in the public domain and cannot be copyrighted. There is no fee for downloading any images on the site. Educational use is encouraged as the primary goal of the NOAA Photo Library is to help all understand our oceans and atmosphere.
Copyright free images and videos. All content is released under the Pixabay license, which makes the content safe to use without asking permission or giving credit to the artist, even for commercial purposes.
Download, share, and reuse millions of the Smithsonian’s images -- both 2D and 3D digital items -- from across the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives, and the National Zoo.
All photos published on Unsplash can be used for free. You can use them for commercial and noncommercial purposes. You do not need to ask permission from or provide credit to the photographer or Unsplash, although it is appreciated when possible.
Access to media -- including images, sounds and videos -- that has been uploaded by users, mostly for use on Wikipedia. Most of the content is available under some sort of Creative Commons license and licensing information is clearly provided for each item.
A community music remixing site featuring remixes and samples licensed under Creative Commons licenses. Music on the site is licensed under a Creative Commons license. You are free to download and sample from music on this site and share the results with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Some songs might have certain restrictions, depending on their specific licenses. Each submission is marked clearly with the license that applies to it.