As a former commercial photographer and graphic designer, I was naturally drawn to the images side of the Public Domain first…even before books! It was from selling images that I made my first dollars from the Public Domain…thousands of dollars actually! Of course, images (photographs, illustrations, fine art, ephemera, maps, etc.) are those images whose copyrights have expired or that did not qualify for copyright protection. For this article, I want to focus on the latter option…how to find images that do not qualify for copyright protection.
Many people do not realize it, but most content created by our Federal Government does not qualify for copyright protection because, when created as a part of a Federal employee’s regular duties, the content is paid for by taxpayer’s dollars and is therefore “owned” by the people. Simply stated, that means that you are free to use Federal Government-created content (books, images, videos, audios, etc.) in any way you see fit because YOU paid for it! So let’s take a quick look at what your hard-earned money paid for in the way of image resources.
There are a TON of image resources available online (and offline) related to images…in this article, I’m going to focus on two of the best. One of my personal favorites is the U.S. Government Photos and Graphics site (http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Graphics.shtml) Most of these images and graphics are available for use in the public domain, and they may be used and reproduced without permission or fee. However, some images may be protected by license, so you want to make sure you thoroughly read the disclaimers on each site before use.
When you visit this page, you will discover that it is actually a directory of government website links where you can locate photographs and graphics. Nice of them to make it easy for us…guess they should since we paid for it! As you scan down through the list, you’ll quickly discover that there are LOTS of photos available to you from this portal…literally hundreds of thousands of them!
Some of my personal favorite websites listed on this page include:
America’s Historical Documents (http://www.archives.gov/historical-docs/)
Earth as Art (http://earthasart.gsfc.nasa.gov/index.htm)
Grand Canyon National Park (http://www.nps.gov/archive/grca/photos/index.htm)
National Park Service (http://www.nps.gov/pub_aff/imagebase.html)
Portraits and Stock Photos (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/pix/)
There is another Government-image site that I really enjoy digging through called “Government “Resources for Science Images” found at the Sciences Reference Services (http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/selected-internet/imagesources.html). This is another image portal site for Government-produced image content specifically related to the sciences. Yes, I admit it…I am a science geek…always have been! Anyway, there are a few sites that were also included on the previous resource website, but there are many new sites listed here as well. One of my personal favorite sites from this portal HAS to be the USGS Maps and Imagery site (http://www.usgs.gov/pubprod/) the very first Public Domain anything I sold (and made a lot of money from) was a USGS map of Atlantic City that was reproduced by the printing company I managed. Having access to big printing presses has its advantages! I was selling these maps 20 years ago at flea markets…now you can download them digitally and sell them literally anywhere! And again…because you paid for their creation, it’s your legal right to do so!
I always say that you can’t find what you don’t know to look for, and I hope that this brief article has peeled back the curtain just a bit to what is available to you image-wise courtesy our Federal Government (and your tax-payer dollars of course). In a future article, I’ll share some ways you can profit from all the image content found on these sites, but until then, let me leave you with one simple thought: Where do you think ALL the books, posters, t-shirts and all the other Obama-related products available out there got their image content from? You guessed it!!
In my popular e-book, “Easy Money Picture Project,” I go into great detail on how to locate and use Public Domain image content to create successful, money-producing image-based products. In the book I share a long list of websites where you can find Public Domain images of all types, how-to sections for actually creating products from Public Domain images, case studies of those who are using Public Domain images in successful business ventures and SO much more. I normally sell this 200+ page e-book for $97, but for a limited time, you can get it for $30 less HERE.