Want free content to add to your blog or online course?
I bet you do.
Because content creation is a bear. And it’s a constant need.
If you publish a blog or if you create online courses, you have to produce content to put into them, like:
You can, of course, outsource content creation. But did you know that there are also works out there that you can incorporate into your knowledge products?
I don’t mean to leave you hanging, but first: a disclaimer
I am not a lawyer. If you have questions about whether something is fair use or in the public domain, you should ask someone versed in copyright law.
Also, I am NOT saying that you should straight out copy anyone else’s work, whether it’s in the public domain or not. Let me make that clear.
Works in the Public Domain = Free Content
There’s actually a ton of content out there that you can use in your knowledge products that you don’t have to create yourself. It’s content that you can use to enrich your knowledge product with commentary, multimedia elements, or just to add more perspectives and examples to your content.
It’s content that exists in the public domain.
“Public domain” means that a work belongs to the public and is not protected by copyright. Which means that you may use it, even for commercial purposes.
A work usually enters the public domain because:
- the copyright has expired
- the copyright owner did not renew the copyright
- the copyright owner dedicates the work, meaning that he or she purposely places it in the public domain
Or, copyright may not apply to the work in question.
Public Domain Resources
I’ve listed some of my favorite resources for finding public domain works here:
The New York Public Library has a digital collection of works in the public domain
University of Virginia’s library catalog has tons of literary works in the public domain. Go to the advanced search and make sure to put the end date as 1923.
The United States Library of Congress has galleries of works in the public domain, including audio and some video. Go to digital collections and refine your results.
Internet Archive is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.
A Note About Fair Use
As teachers, you’re probably used to this thing called “educational use” of other people’s work. That’s how you can read a novel in your English classroom and not have to pay the author for the right to use it. Fair use applies to educators, but as soon as you use someone else’s work in something that you charge money for, that’s where you need someone’s express permission. In many cases you will need to pay for this express permission, and enter into a full-on contractual agreement.
I am not a copyright lawyer, so I can’t tell you whether something is definitively fair use or not. What I can give you are the following resources:
- Straight from the US Government herself, this overview from Copyright.gov
- An overview of Fair Use by Rich Stim
- The Educator’s Guide to Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons
I hope you found at least one resource you can use as a free content source to help you share your knowledge!