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INFO LIT: The Public Domain

A brief guide to the public domain, copyright, creative licensing, and more (or: how to figure out if you can use that image you found online!)

How to Find Public Domain Works


Painting of a cat lounging on a pink cushion.


  • For works of literature
    • Use Google to search for the title of the work you wish to read followed by "full text." Ex.: "Jane Eyre full text"
      • Project Gutenberg contains tons of free ePUB and Kindle books in the public domain — available for reading on your browser/phone or downloading!
      • Google Books regularly has full ebooks of public domain works. (Avoid listings that say "no preview available" — you want any listing that includes a "read" link.)
  • For artworks
  • Other Sources
    • Wikimedia Commons contains vast swaths of user-submitted works. Search for something specific or browse through many categories of images. Be sure to double check the licensing to ensure the work is available for use!
    • Creative Commons encourages license users to upload their work to Openverse — search there for stock images and audio.


What's your favorite source for public domain stuff? Email and let us know — we'll add it to the guide!


Image: "Winter: Cat on a Cushion" by Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, via Art Institute Chicago.

Citing Your Finds

While it won't technically be copyright infringement if you don't cite something from the public domain, it's always a good idea to let people know where you got something!

Thus, you should still cite public domain things in your papers and where ever else you use it.

Use NoodleTools as you would any other source. =)