Question Regarding Selling Public Domain Content

6 replies
Hello folks,
I have located a couple of Public Domain Sources that I wish to sell as it is. Now I know that you cannot claim copyright on these works since you are not doing anything to it. However if I were to sell it on Clickbank, can I include this message- 'Don't share this work with others. This ebook is strictly for your private use only?'

For Public domain sellers, what kind of message do you include in the download area?
#content #domain #public #question #selling
  • Profile picture of the author jacktackett
    Originally Posted by yourreviewer View Post

    Hello folks,
    I have located a couple of Public Domain Sources that I wish to sell as it is. Now I know that you cannot claim copyright on these works since you are not doing anything to it. However if I were to sell it on Clickbank, can I include this message- 'Don't share this work with others. This ebook is strictly for your private use only?'

    For Public domain sellers, what kind of message do you include in the download area?
    Public domain content is typically always PD - so you can not prevent folks from using what's public domain. They can take it and do whatever they want with it - just like you can. You can include your statement above, but (given IANAL) I don't think you could enforce it for the portions in the PD.

    Now, what you add to it is yours, and you can defend that portions with something along the lines of "Portions copyright 2009, Yours Truly'.

    Also, as has happened in the past, sometimes a legal body can pass a law and 'poof', what was public domain yesterday is now back under copyright. Doesn't happen often, and usually happens at a government level (government photos, documents etc). Not much of a risk - but something to keep in the back of your head.

    best of luck,
    --Jack
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    • Profile picture of the author yourreviewer
      Originally Posted by jacktackett View Post

      Public domain content is typically always PD - so you can not prevent folks from using what's public domain. They can take it and do whatever they want with it - just like you can. You can include your statement above, but (given IANAL) I don't think you could enforce it for the portions in the PD.

      Now, what you add to it is yours, and you can defend that portions with something along the lines of "Portions copyright 2009, Yours Truly'.

      Also, as has happened in the past, sometimes a legal body can pass a law and 'poof', what was public domain yesterday is now back under copyright. Doesn't happen often, and usually happens at a government level (government photos, documents etc). Not much of a risk - but something to keep in the back of your head.

      best of luck,
      --Jack
      Thanks Jack. I understand. So the best thing to do is to just give it away as a link to download without mentioning anything about copyright. What happens if I add a few pictures of my own in the work? I know that won't be enough to claim copyright but does that entitle someone to still freely distribute my ebook?
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      • Profile picture of the author Rufus Steele
        Originally Posted by yourreviewer View Post

        Thanks Jack. I understand. So the best thing to do is to just give it away as a link to download without mentioning anything about copyright. What happens if I add a few pictures of my own in the work? I know that won't be enough to claim copyright but does that entitle someone to still freely distribute my ebook?
        If you are only adding in a small amount of changes to the original work, you'd lose an argument for the validity of a Copyright notice - if anyone cared to challenge it!!

        There is nothing to stop you applying a copyright notice to the item you have created from PD works but as rightly stated above, the changes to the original need to be substantial - for which I have always worked on 'substantial' meaning a genral rewrite/redesign.

        One of the beauties of PD material though is that you can add similar items together to create an enhanced work that would constitute a copyrightable item! So if you were in the old fave example of 'Dog training' - find two or three PD works about different aspects of Dog Training and combine them - either by adding like for like chapters together or by just making a compendium item!

        Add a bit of artwork, a changed book design etc and bingo - a good copyrightable item for you to sell!

        HTH.

        Rufus
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  • Profile picture of the author fan994
    I think but not 100% sure that if you change the content in any way then you have copyright. That's why when you go to sell or re-work a PD piece you want to make sure you are working with the original copy.
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    • Profile picture of the author Dan C. Rinnert
      Originally Posted by fan994 View Post

      I think but not 100% sure that if you change the content in any way then you have copyright. That's why when you go to sell or re-work a PD piece you want to make sure you are working with the original copy.
      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."
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