Public domain - Can it be sold?

39 replies
Can public domain de sold, changed etc? & where can public domain works be located?
#domain #public #sold
  • Profile picture of the author SteelDanno
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  • Profile picture of the author Valorie
    Works that are in the public domain can be sold as-is, or with your personalizing touches. I believe your published version can be copyrighted if you have changed the original by 20%. There was a fantastic WSO offered a while ago, it's at home, so I can't tell you who it was, right now, that put it up. It has a great explanation of public domain, and huge lists of public domain authors, where to go to find PD works, etc. I will post the name of the product tomorrow, if no one has beaten me to it.

    I have a hard copy book that also describes PD, and gives the name of two law firms the author double checks the work with. I will bring that info tomorrow as well.
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    • Profile picture of the author Dan C. Rinnert
      Originally Posted by Valorie View Post

      I believe your published version can be copyrighted if you have changed the original by 20%.
      I don't think a percentage rule applies at all. That's too subjective anyway. How will you determine what is 20%?

      New material can be copyrighted. If you add a chapter to a public domain book, your chapter can be protected by copyright as it is a new work. You cannot necessarily claim a copyright on the book as a whole, though.

      Also, "changes" is a vague term. For example, you could go through a change words here and there, and even change 20% of the material that way, but that may not be considered of sufficient creativity to merit copyright protection. The intent of copyright is to protect artistic and creative works, so if your changes have not contributed anything of sufficient artistic or creative merit, such changes may not merit copyright protection. If I recall correctly, courts have ruled in the past that grammatical changes, punctuation changes and even word changes may not merit a new copyright claim on a public domain work.

      However, even if you cannot claim copyright on it, you can still sell and distribute a public domain work; you just cannot stop anyone else from doing the same. It is also illegal to claim a copyright on something for which you do not hold a copyright, including a public domain work.

      If you want to be able to claim a copyright on your "edition" of a book, you can create a derivative work. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, "To be copyrightable, a derivative work must be different enough from the original to be regarded as a 'new work' or must contain a substantial amount of new material. Making minor changes or additions of little substance to a preexisting work will not qualify the work as a new version for copyright purposes. The new material must be original and copyrightable in itself. Titles, short phrases, and format, for example, are not copyrightable."

      In other words, if you update an old book, add new material, perhaps rewrite it in a more modern way, and otherwise create something new and/or different, then you can claim a copyright on it as a derivative work.

      But, if you just do something like run it through an article spinner where changes are made, but nothing new or of substance is added to it, you're probably not going to be able to claim a copyright on it. You can use it, of course, but you can't restrict anyone else from using it too, even the version with your "changes" because your changes aren't protected by copyright as they aren't copyrightable.

      Also, be careful with using public domain works and claiming them as your own. While doing so does not constitute copyright infringement, it would be considered plagiarism. While not a legal transgression, it is one that can damage or ruin your reputation.
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  • Profile picture of the author Thomas Wilkinson
    That thread was started by Kneb Knebaih and it was excellent. I'm sure
    its archived.

    Tom
    Signature
    When you hear someone telling you what YOU can't do, they are usually talking about what THEY can't do.
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  • Profile picture of the author Pat Ordenes
    excellent WSO by Kneb.
    I actually stopped buying WSO after I bought his.
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  • Profile picture of the author charlie9751
    Hi.

    The beauty of public domain material is that you can make it your own. e.g. you can alter the title, change the text add pictures, diagrams and anything else you feel will benefit the overall quality of the product.
    Charlie
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  • Profile picture of the author James A. Miller
    PD can be edited, sold or you can do virtually anything with it.

    See my site (sig). I'm giving my members 4 PD packages every month.
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  • Profile picture of the author astaga
    It is my understanding that PD can be hanged, sold, and if you make significant changes to it, the totality of the entire work can be copyrighted. The key is adding value to the PD content which addresses or differentiates your offering from another.
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  • Profile picture of the author greenovni
    Thanks guys! Very informative information. I have never used public domain works but it looks like there can be some $

    Once again, thanks!
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    • Profile picture of the author Baystreet
      Originally Posted by greenovni View Post

      Thanks guys! Very informative information. I have never used public domain works but it looks like there can be some $
      Just make sure and get a good course and learn what is and is not in the PD before you start.
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    • Profile picture of the author Ancientone
      There are literally hundreds of places to source PD The American library of Congress for 1. I will bring further info on a couple of hundred more if there is a demand covering photos, books, films, works of art etc. Paul
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  • Profile picture of the author dwt
    I don't see where anyone mentioned this, but I believe most government reports, pamphlets, etc. are also public domain. Correct me if I'm wrong...:rolleyes:
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    • Profile picture of the author Dan C. Rinnert
      Originally Posted by dwt View Post

      I don't see where anyone mentioned this, but I believe most government reports, pamphlets, etc. are also public domain. Correct me if I'm wrong...:rolleyes:
      That's true, if it is the federal government (U.S.) you're talking about. But, even with the federal government, there are exceptions, so you still have to be careful. Usually, though, if a work falls into one of those exceptions, it will have a copyright notice. But, you still have to do your due diligence. These days, most federal government websites have a pretty good terms of use page describing what may or may not be copyrighted.
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  • Profile picture of the author GuruGazette
    I love Public Domain. In fact, it's sort of what got me started online

    Roughly 15 years ago I wrote a children's story... it was a modernized version of "Sir Gawain and The Green Knight". A few years after that I discovered the online world and My idea at the time was to package the book into some sort of digital form, and sell it online (what we now call an 'ebook' but it didn't exist back then)

    These days I release occasional products created from government materials. Usually I create a unique compilation or package but sometimes I'll completely rewrite the content into something new too.
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  • Profile picture of the author Hereandthere
    I believe that even if you don't change much text, if you format it into an ebook with distinctive layout and design, that is enough to copyright it.
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    • Profile picture of the author jacktackett
      IANAL, and folks should definitely not take legal advice you find on a forum, but the text below is completely wrong - Re-Read what Dan has posted here, he's spot on and knows what he's talking about.

      Basically anything published before 1923 in the US is considered in the PD. Other countries have different laws, so you have to aware of them too.

      Nolo has some pretty good books on this topic as well which I highly recommend you read and some pretty good general stuff on copyrights on their website.

      Good luck - folks have made a lot of money off PD works, just make sure you have a good understanding of what you're doing.

      best,
      --Jack


      Originally Posted by Hereandthere View Post

      I believe that even if you don't change much text, if you format it into an ebook with distinctive layout and design, that is enough to copyright it.
      Signature
      Let's get Tim the kidney he needs!HELP Tim
      Mega Monster WSO for KimW http://ow.ly/4JdHm


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  • Profile picture of the author Valorie
    The book I was thinking of that has a section on how to use Public Domain materials, and specifically a couple of law outfits to double check the copyright status is: Moonlighting on the Internet by Yanik Silver
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  • Profile picture of the author Raz
    Kneb Knebaih has proven that someone can be rich by selling public domain.
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  • Profile picture of the author enigma2k
    Is it allowed to change the title of a public domain product and sell it? so nobody knows the real title...
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    • Profile picture of the author pizzatherapy
      Originally Posted by Don Schenk View Post

      Anyone know if it is still available?

      I went to the link posted by bizideas and found it, but the PayPal is in Spanish!
      Don't let the Paypal in Spanish bother you. When I saw the spanish, I was a little nervous, also.

      Everything is in english...

      However, Kneb Knebaih's WSO, is without a doubt the best Public Domain Resource, I have ever encountered. Ever!

      It is a massive work with tons of extremely valuable information.
      (As I write this, it is still available.)

      Honestly, if you are the least bit interested in doing anything with Public Domain, I highly recommend this. This was one of the best WSO's I have ever purchased.

      FYI: the Public domain covered in Kneb's WSO is not just print, there are also public domain images, recordings even films... and more....

      This WSO could easily sell for $197, $297 or ???

      Don't let this one pass you by, I think the offer may not be there forever.

      Kneb Knebaih's WSO, is simply incredible!

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      • Profile picture of the author FredJones
        Yes, it can be sold. It is "public work" since the author no longer owns the copyright.

        If you really want to understand it, I strongly recommend Kneb's WSO (I see other have posted a link to it, so I am not doing that - you just need to follow the links they posted). It is wonderful, and if you don't know what public domain is then it will open a whole new Universe for you.

        He gives you all the resources for public domain that you shall probably ever need.
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    • Profile picture of the author Loren Woirhaye
      Originally Posted by Don Schenk View Post

      Anyone know if it is still available?

      I went to the link posted by bizideas and found it, but the PayPal is in Spanish!
      He writes perfect English. He's active on the WF. Mostly posts to
      the "Mind Warriors" subforum.
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  • Profile picture of the author seasoned
    Actually, you have to watch it. PD works can be seeded with original content, or even PD content in a unique way, and become COPYRIGHTED!

    And Project gutenberg is not 100% PD. SURE, most of those works STARTED OUT PD, but they want credit. And Project gutenberg, of course, doesn't have ALL PD works. PD works have no current license, but look at the PG license:


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    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author nyrsimon
    I also recommend Kneb's WSO - some nice sources there

    From a legal perspective the best resource - bar none - is the NOLO book: The Public Domain: How to Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More

    You can find it on Amazon.

    I have sold HUNDREDS of PD products from books, magazines, Government & Military (yes they are an AMAZING source).

    IMHO the value of what you sell is related to how "difficult" it is to source the product. If it is freely available on Gutenberg (for example) then the value is lower than if it doesn't exist anywhere online in digital format. Or if you can put it in a new format (think images, photos, posters etc) you can increase the value. The key to the big bucks (again IMHO) is to not do the "easy" stuff. Take a little time and effort and you can reap big rewards

    Also look for evergreen niches. For example I have researched some people making a killing of blacksmith & metelworking material from the late 1800's/early 1900's...who would have thunk it?

    Simon
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  • Profile picture of the author Online Bliss
    If you change the public domain works and re-sell them as your own works then I think it is covered by the law.
    I always thought the public domain works for music standards
    would be the same for any other pd works.
    You people have given me lots of reading to do this Sunday.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jeiyanthy
    When I click on Kneb Knebaih WSO, it goes to the page without any link to purchase his pdf. Someone please help let me know the active link, or where can I find his WSO, or his direct email. God bless you.
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    • Profile picture of the author LynnM
      Originally Posted by Jeiyanthy View Post

      When I click on Kneb Knebaih WSO, it goes to the page without any link to purchase his pdf. Someone please help let me know the active link, or where can I find his WSO, or his direct email. God bless you.
      It's here: http://www.warriorforum.com/warrior-...ain-works.html
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      • Profile picture of the author bullseyemarketing
        I believe Imran Naseem had a WSO on public domain last week.

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      • Profile picture of the author Jeiyanthy
        Thanks so much LynnM...
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  • Profile picture of the author theteach
    It is important to consider using the pd material and creating your own spin on it. I have used pd literature and appended reading strategies and my books are starting to sell nicely. I think that this is due to the fact that I am one of the first (if not the first) to have done this.

    Ultimately, you want to find the pd material you are looking for, MAKE SURE that it is in the public domain, and then find a way to make it unique.
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  • Profile picture of the author Josh Anderson
    Yet another thread filled with total malarkey and bad legal advice given by people who have little to no knowledge of the public domain and copyright law.

    Its better not to give advice at all than to give wrong legal advice. You are not helping anyone when you do.

    I wish there was a "NO THANKS" button because some people posting to this thread deserve it.


    If you are a new here and reading this thread just be aware that "Thanks" means nothing to the credibility of a post. Its just a way for people to express themselves without posting replies just to say thanks.

    Once something is in the public domain it is always in the public domain and if it is truly public domain you can do whatever you want with it... sell it, use it as toilet paper etc.

    There is no magical % of change that makes it so you can copyright the portions of a work that are already in the public domain.

    And don't think I am singling you out... there are plenty of just as bad replies in this thread... or even worse.

    Folks the best thing you can do is ignore any legal advice you get in the warrior forum and consult a lawyer... or at least pick up a book written by an attorney who specializes in the public domain and copyright law so that you can properly educate your selves:

    The Public Domain - Law Books - Nolo

    If you get that book you will never need to post another legal question about the public domain in the warrior forum again. You will have more knowledge at your fingertips than 99% of all the public domain gurus in the internet marketing world combined.

    Then the only questions you will need to post to the WF is "Anyone got some tips on places to dig for public domain gold?"

    Beware though... a lot of people throw around the term "public domain" on the internet referring to works that are NOT truly in the public domain.
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    • Profile picture of the author Dan C. Rinnert
      Originally Posted by Josh Anderson View Post

      Once something is in the public domain it is always in the public domain...
      Technically, that's not necessarily true. The Public Domain has a whole chapter on it.

      In 1994, the U.S. signed onto an international treaty, the GATT, which, as of January 1, 1996, restored copyrights in certain foreign works that had previously been in the public domain in the U.S.

      So, when considering using a foreign work claimed to be in the public domain that was first published outside the United States, it would be a good idea to do due diligence to make sure that foreign work wasn't one which had its copyright restored.
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      • Profile picture of the author Josh Anderson
        Once U.S. works reach the public domain they cannot be removed. That is why Disney fought so hard to get the law changed to deny us public domain use before some of their most popular works entered the public domain.

        The treaty you mention is a unique situation regarding foreign works... but its another great reason to do the research and due diligence by consulting qualified sources ;-)

        Originally Posted by Dan C. Rinnert View Post

        Technically, that's not necessarily true. The Public Domain has a whole chapter on it.

        In 1994, the U.S. signed onto an international treaty, the GATT, which, as of January 1, 1996, restored copyrights in certain foreign works that had previously been in the public domain in the U.S.

        So, when considering using a foreign work claimed to be in the public domain that was first published outside the United States, it would be a good idea to do due diligence to make sure that foreign work wasn't one which had its copyright restored.
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  • Ancientone, I am very interested in receiving the information you have available. Please provide it here or send me a PM.

    Thanks in advance.
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