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Public Domain & Creative Commons Media: Introduction

What Is Public Domain?

Anyone can use Public Domain works without obtaining permission, making them ideal for many projects, especially projects that will extend beyond educational uses.

According to, "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."

Note: Even if a work is in the Public Domain, it is advisable to provide attribution for the work or keep a record of the attribution so that you or other interested parties can find the work later if necessary.

What Is Creative Commons?

You can use Creative Commons-licensed content as long as you correctly attribute the content to its creator and otherwise meet the terms of the license under which the content is offered. Learn more at Creative Commons FAQ.

Note: Even if content is covered by a Creative Commons license, you must always make sure that your use does not violate that license and that you properly attribute the content.

Watch this brief overview from

This infographic by adityadipankar introduces the different types of Creative Commons licenses. Learn more about these licenses at

Creative Commons Infographic


This guide was adapted from the guide Finding Public Domain & Creative Commons Media with the permission of the creator, Carli Spina, Emerging Technologies and Research Librarian at the Harvard Law School Library.


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