Friday, 1 January 2010

Public domain - images, music, writings etc you can use for free

Today is Public Domain Day. Creative works protected by copyright are meant to become "public domain" after a certain length of time, which depends on the country and type of work - e.g. literary, musical, or artistic - usually depending on the lifetime of the work's author. If the author is still alive, the work can't be public domain.

Anyone is free to copy or use a public domain work, enabling people to build on it and adapt it etc, for the benefit of culture and society generally - and no one can say they don't have influences, we all stand on the shoulders of giants.

That's the deal society makes with creators. They get exclusive rights to exploit their creations for a period, and after that it's available freely for the cultural enrichment of all.

There's a new Public Domain Day website to mark and publicise the fact that on 1 Jan every year, more works go into the public domain. It was set up by Communia, the European Thematic Network on the Digital Public Domain.

The site has some useful links including the following.

Sprixi image search - mini review

Sprixi image search is an excellent and very well thought through, user friendly site for finding images that you can use for free. Very helpful, better than the Creative Commons search page. It covers both public domain and Creative Commons licensed works (works still in copyright, but which the owner is allowing people to use quite freely, depending on the exact terms of the individual licence. Used a lot e.g. on Flickr.)

It's simple and intuitive. You enter a search keyword for the type of pic or photo you're looking for, which can be an abstract concept if you want, and it gives you a bunch of pictures or drawings etc to choose from. Here's my search for kittens, to continue on from my Firefox about:kittens post:

But what I really really like is that it makes it very easy for users to help out - when you roll over the main image presented, it just asks whether the image is a useful image for your search term and you answer Yes, No or Maybe with one click, to influence future search results. (Votes from registered users are weighted higher.)

Then it just takes another click (on Use wouldja believe) to Use the image. You can use the link, or download a copy of the graphic.

Here's what I downloaded, note the attribution at the bottom:

So it's incredibly easy to get the link or Download the image, and if you download it the pic file has automatically got the right credits overlaid on it so you don't have to do anything more yourself, you can just use the downloaded image in all good conscience.

Public Domain Works registry

I mentioned the Public Domain Works registry previously in my post trying to puzzle out the complexities of UK music copyright.

It's not easy for people to figure out which works are in the public domain, and which aren't. (See e.g. the many public domain calculators!)

This site lets you search for a work you know some details about e.g. its title or the name of its author or composer, to check if it's in the public domain or not. Note that though it says the site covers "artistic" works, that's "artistic" in the broadest sense, and the database includes music and writing as well as artwork.

Tip: search just for surname. Trying both first name and surname doesn't usually work with that database.

Try also the Public Domain Sherpa.

Happy New Year's Day, and happy Public Domain Day!

No comments: