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Shapeshifting Public Domain Content

Stories of shapeshifting exist in every culture and take on many forms of transformation…from Zeus in Greek Mythology to the recent Twilight series where members of the Quileute tribe shapeshift into wolves. Even in our childhood stories we see the Beast transform into a Prince in “Beauty and the Beast”…and let’s not forget the infamous Frog looking for that special kiss. But what do these “myths” of shapeshifting have to do with Public Domain content? Plenty!

Content from the Public Domain…whether it exists in the form of a book, a magazine, a photograph or something else…was already established, proven if you will, in that form. The books were already published and read by thousands or tens of thousands of people…the same with magazines. But because that book or magazine is now in the Public Domain, we can legally use its content for anything we choose without any type of royalty or legal recourse. And there are a LOT of ways that we can adapt, or shapeshift, that content.

As an example, take a look at the text found HERE. It’s an article I scanned from a 1950’s Popular Photography magazine in the Public Domain. It’s a great article, and certainly relevant still today. Now, in its original form, it was a magazine article.  How can we shapeshift that content into new forms? Here are some thoughts…

  1. A Blog Post
  2. An Article on Article Sites
  3. Break-up for an Autoresponder Series
  4. A Free Report
  5. Record an Audio Version for a Podcast
  6. Turn into a Powerpoint Slide Video
  7. Read Live on a Video Camera
  8. Discuss on BlogTalkRadio
  9. Include in an E-Zine
  10. Use as a Chapter of an E-Book or Print book
  11. Create a Squidoo Lens from It
  12. Re-Publish in a New Print Magazine

And so, as you can see from the dozen samples above, it’s pretty easy to shapeshift just about ANY text content from the Public Domain into a new form…whether free or as a money-making product. The same is true for images. Take the image of Sitting Bull shown below, for instance. On the left is the original image from the Public Domain. On the right is a new image I created in Photoshop from the original.

Now, with this new image (or even with the old one quite honestly), I could shapeshift it into…

  1. A T-Shirt Design
  2. A Poster
  3. A Skateboard Design
  4. A Blanket or Tapestry
  5. A Mousepad
  6. A Coffee Mug
  7. Any of the Other Products on CafePress or Zazzle
  8. A Postage Stamp Design
  9. An Illustration for an Article
  10. A Fine Art Canvas Framed Print

I think you get the picture (no pun intended). And the best part is that I can create nearly endless variations of new art based on that one original photograph from the Public Domain. Shapeshifting at its best!

So, hopefully, this post has inspired you to consider doing a little shapeshifting of your own. The possibilities are are waiting for your own innovation and creativity. And like it says in my blog header graphic:

Proven Content + Creative Innovation = Successful, NEW Products!

Learn MORE about how to “shapeshift” Public Domain Content HERE:

Public Domain Explained

Easy Money Picture Project

18 Responses to “Shapeshifting Public Domain Content”

  • I decided to get your Easy Money Picture Book e-book so I could find photos and illustrations to liven up the text on my various WEB sites.

  • Great Tony,

    Thanks for the reminder to keep it simple and practical.
    I need to make a banner across my office with your formula…

    Proven Content + Creative Innovation = Successful, NEW Products!

    Thanks again!

    Jim (site still under construction)

  • Hi Tony! Just purchased “Easy Money Picture Project” and am absolutely blown away by the amount of valuable info you’ve provided here! Just glancing down through the pages, without actually focusing on any one chapter, I found so many great ideas, links and examples, that I know this will provide me with fabulous design ideas for years to come. I recommend “EMPP” to anyone who works with any type of product that requires fresh, new visual design ideas in order for their business to survive. You will surely find them here, and then some! This is an 11 out of 10!!!

  • Dan:


    Those pictures the before and after of Sitting Bull are worth a thousand words about the potential of PD material.
    It is an extremely clear example of:

    Proven Content + Creative Innovation = Successful, NEW Products

    That after PS image would look awesome on a black tshirt!

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  • Tony Somma:

    First may I say, I have tapped into your knowledge by purchasing a number of your products and all have been very informative with great detail and insight. I’ve just started to take ‘action’ and have been using your tools to find a niche. I came across a book in ‘Google Books’ and after further research, I found that it has been reprinted, as is, by ‘Kessinger Publishing, LLC ( and sold on Amazon. With Amazons’ feature of ‘Look inside’, the pages are marked with ‘Copyrighted Material’. My question, is this book now off limits?

  • This is good indeed.What a lesson we are learning here.

  • support:

    Hey Tony…The “Copyrighted Material” deal is more an issue of Google covering their *ss than anything. The truth is, if the book is in the Public Domain, anyone, including Kessinger, can sell their own version. The GREAT news, of course, is that ALSO includes YOU! From my experience though, I’ve found that Kessinger’s printed copies are exact replicas of the original, meaning that those are also in the Public Domain as well. New copyright for a work that was previously in the Public Domain is defined by adding minimal creative effort…meaning…you have to add your own creative effort to it. An exact printing doesn’t qualify, but an audio version would because you are creatively using your voice. See the difference? So, if you found a book in the Public Domain on Google, and you think it would make a great product, go for it! The sky’s the limit!


  • support:

    Thanks Dan! Yeah…I love that print! And that style really works well with a lot of different types and genres of photos!


  • support:

    If you make that banner, shoot a picture of it! I’d love to see it…lol


  • support:

    Awesome Cathy…thank you! And you’ll learn how to do a whole lot more with them!


  • support:

    Thanks Debbie! Great to hear from you again! You provide such a great service…and I hope EMPP enhances your business and income in some new and exciting ways!


  • Hi Tony,

    I really enjoy your post. Changing the photo and the ideas you have come up with, have giving me a lot of ideas for different products. I’m new to the internet, but have purchased most of your products, but to tell the true, I have really done anything. I’m in the process of learning how to make blogs on my own account. Then I want to start using public domain for content and to learn how to make new product out of the public domain material. So again thank you for the great ideas and information on the public domain content. Thanks…

  • Tony,
    Somewhere while reading your material, I seem to remember that you had an issue with Google and I would like to learn more about it. Where can I find the story or could you post it here?

    Any suggestions for removing the Google watermark on their PD PDF’s?

    I favor facsimile editions (like the originals) otherwise, I would download the text file or convert the PDF to text and then convert either back into a PDF. which seems like some extra steps.


  • support:

    Hey Stuart…my primary issue with Google is that they keep kicking me off the book site for downloading too many books. Used to take about 60 downloads, now around 10. Rather annoying…just happened again the other night. As for the watermark…one trick I’ve used if I was planning to use the book as-is without converting it to editable text is to open up all the pages in Photoshop (there is a batch command for it) and then re-compile the PDF in Photoshop (there is a batch command for that as well). That seems to get rid of the watermark. Of course, if you convert the files to text, like with using Able2Doc Professional, then the watermarks are a non-issue.

  • support:

    You’re welcome William. I look forward to hearing about your first products. Go for it!


  • Tony,
    If Google has a problem with folks downloading their books, they should not make them available IMHO.

    How long did they ban you for?

    I am used to downloading PD books for my own use for research, performing, and history, but I have never been banned.

    I did publish some PD magic books a few tears ago, but I didn’t do much with them. I became disabled and can;t work, I feel that using and publishing PD items will afford me a way to earn money for my family at a pace that will suit my good days and schedule around Dr. appointments.

    Your emails and blog posts have been inspirational. After reading your post about whitewashing PD images, I opened a Zazzle store and have started uploading images and creating products. This seems like a good way to get started while I am working on books.

    I download the books 1 at a time, which is a pain. It is too bad that some of the download helpers won’t work with Google, but I would probably be banned for life, if I tried! Actually, I did try in the past which is how I know it doesn’t work! <double grin)

    I have also used the Google Patent search ti find patents about magic equipment and toys. They are now going to be turned into Zazzle products,

    Thanks for the info for removing the Google Watermarks. I will try some of my free PDF and Photo software to see if I can accomplish it. If they don't work, I will use the text version and sell enough products until I can afford Photoshop. What version do you use?

    Thanks again for the inspiration and information.

  • support:

    They only ban you for 24 hours (it’s happened many times…grin). I guess it’s just to make sure that people don’t try to use robots to download tons of books automatically. Love seeing you take action with the Zazzle store! Way to go!

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