Skip to Main Content

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!)

Why Should I Care?

right-facing male wearing red headdress  left-facing male wearing burgundy headdress


Why is it important to learn about the public domain?

  • Works in the public domain are essentially up for grabs — you are able to use, adapt, remix, etc. them without needing to seek permission from anyone. There's no fee for using these works!
  • How creative can you get? Here are some ideas:
  • You're only limited by the confines of your imagination — no rules or restrictions on the source material!


  • Ownership of creative works can be important to creators, especially in their lifetime. It can be helpful (and important!) to understand how to avoid infringing anyone's rights over their own work. In some cases, copyright infringement can be a big — and expensive — problem!


Images: Matteo Olivieri (?), 1430sProfile Portrait of a Young Man, 1430/1450. Both via the National Gallery of Art.

Schauffler-Rockey Memorial Library | Northfield Mount Hermon | One Lamplighter Way | Mount Hermon, MA 01354 | (413) 498-3484 |