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Public Domain Literature & Content: Public Domain

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg

The biggest collection of public domain e-books on the web. Many classics and primary sources.

Library of Congress

Library of Congress Digitized Children's Book Collection

From Humpty Dumpty to Little Red Riding Hood, the books in this collection were published in the United States and England before 1924, are no longer under copyright, and are free to read and share.

This special collection presents children’s books selected from the General and Rare Book Collections at the Library of Congress. The collection includes classic works that are still read by children today, and lesser-known treasures drawn from the Library’s extensive collection of historically significant children’s books. 


Hathi Trust

"HathiTrust is devoted to an array of archival and access services in support of the record of human knowledge. All objects in the archive are either in the public domain, have the necessary permissions to support the level of access afforded, or are simply archived in such a way as to ensure an enduring copy of the content."

Google Books also contains both public domain and copyright protected content. Public domain books are available in full-text to be searched and read.


Librivox Catalog

LibriVox is home to a group of worldwide volunteers who read and record public domain texts creating free public domain audiobooks for download from their website and other digital library hosting sites on the internet.

LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain, and then the audio files are released back onto the net for free. All the audio is in the public domain, so you may use it for whatever purpose you wish.

Please note: Readers are free to choose the books they wish to record. LibriVox sees itself as a library of audiobooks. Because the books being read are in the public domain, readers and listeners should be aware that many of them are very old, and may contain language or express notions that are antiquated at best, offending at worst.

So – try browsing Librivox recordings for ideas of public domain texts to read!

Traditional Copyright, Creative Commons, & Public Domain

What is Public Domain?

The term “public domain” refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it.

An important wrinkle to understand about public domain material is that, while each work belongs to the public, collections of public domain works may be protected by copyright.

There are four common ways that works arrive in the public domain:

  • the copyright has expired
  • the copyright owner failed to follow copyright renewal rules
  • the copyright owner deliberately places it in the public domain, known as “dedication,” or
  • copyright law does not protect this type of work.

For more information, see Copyright & Fair Use: The Public Domain by Stanford University Libraries

You can also find a great deal of public domain information (and inspiration) at The Public Domain Review.

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons works are published with a license that specifies what you can do with them. You are allowed to use them without permission and without any charge, but you must follow other specified restrictions depending on the license, which are explained here:

CC0 is the "no copyright reserved" license option in the - it effectively means relinquishing all copyright and similar rights that you hold in a work and dedicating those rights to the public domain.

CC0        Look for works labeled CC0. 


How to Access Public Domain Books Using Google books

  1. Use the Advanced Book Search Link
  2. Under the search box, in the Content category select the "Full View Only" button
  3. Enter your search terms above
  4. Choose a book from the returned results
  5. If public domain, a link to download in various formats (Plain test, PDF, EPUB) will appear in the upper right corner
  6. Download book or read in browser

The Public Domain Review

The Public Domain Review

Founded in 2011, the PDR is an online journal and not-for-profit project dedicated to the exploration of curious and compelling works from the history of art, literature, and ideas.

As the name suggests, the focus is on works which have now fallen into the public domain, that vast commons of out-of-copyright material that everyone is free to enjoy, share, and build upon without restriction.

The Main Parts Of The Site

The Collections – The vast majority of the content exists in their curated collections of images, books, audio and film, in which they shine a light on curiosities and wonders from a wide range of online archives. Some highlights include visions of the future from late 19th century France, a dictionary of Victorian slang and a film showing the very talented “hand-farting” farmer of Michigan.

The Essays – Every two weeks a new long-form essay is published in which leading scholars, writers, archivists, and artists offer insight and reflection upon the oft overlooked histories which surround public domain works – from a history of the smile in portraiture to the case of the woman who claimed to give birth to rabbits. Contributors include Julian BarnesGeorge ProchnikFrank Delaney and Richard Hamblyn

Conjectures – This series, edited by D. Graham Burnett, is a home for experiments with historical form and method. The reader is asked to keep a live eye on these texts, which thread between past and present, between the imagination and the archive, between dreams and data. All may not be quite what it seems.

Curator’s Choice – In this series, now come to an end, each month a curator from a gallery, library, archive, or museum picked out highlights from their openly licensed digital collections. Contributors included The British LibraryThe Getty, the Rijksmuseum, the US National Library of Medicine, and the UK National Archives.