Determine If Your Sources Fall Within the Public Domain

Public Domain 

Published or translated before 1926

Published by a governmental body or organization (.gov) – Example:

Available online and denoted by a Creative Commons license

Copyright-free items that have been released to the public domain


Not in the public domain 

Published or translated after 1926

Published by a government-adjacent organization (.org) – Example: (An easy way to confirm this source is not in the public domain is that their website states “© World Federation of Public Health Associations” at the bottom.)

Available online, but without any sort of Creative Commons license

Royalty-free items such as clip art

Keep in Mind

Just because something was written before 1926 doesn’t necessarily mean it’s automatically in the public domain. For example, recent translations of ancient texts may still incur permissions fees, because translations have a separate copyright date.

Anything that is solely created by the federal government is in the public domain. However, that doesn’t always mean that we can use everything that appears on the website of a federal government organization as they often include third-party content, materials, and images that are licensed to them and that they did not create. Our licensing team will need to review any and all third-party materials found in federal government materials or on federal government websites.

State government websites are typically not in the public domain.

Verified Public Domain Sources

Sacred Texts
An excellent source for religion and philosophy texts from around the world.

Project Gutenberg
Thousands of public domain titles ranging in subject including fiction, psychology, history, political science, biographies, and more.

A wide range of texts including historical primary sources, constitutional and governmental documents, Supreme Court decisions, poetry, literature, and more.

Google News Archive*
Global newspaper archives dating back from the early nineteenth century to modern day.

*Only articles published prior to 1926 will be available in the public domain.

The Internet Classics Archive
Translations of well-known classical literature from ancient Greek, Latin, Chinese, and Persian thought leaders.

Denied and Expensive Materials

Please peruse our Publisher Rates and Reprint Limits list for information about affordable, moderately priced, expensive, and restricted publishers.

While there are only a few restricted rightsholders, they happen to be high-profile publishers such as Harvard University Press and Pearson Education.

Note that the list of publishers whose material is expensive to republish includes several well-known newspapers and magazines, as well as journals published by Wiley, Taylor & Francis, and Elsevier.

Your project editor can offer suggestions for alternative sources in cases where we are unable to obtain permission to use a piece of content.