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What About Newspapers and the Public Domain?

My newest e-book, “Tony’s Public Domain Magazine Secrets”  (, shares about the HUGE number of magazines who have issues in the Public Domain. Just the content you find in magazines alone could keep you busy for a lifetime. But as I was working on the e-book, I was also wondering about newspapers. While I’m still researching the story with Newspapers and the Public Domain, I thought I’d share what I’ve found so far.

First of all, the copyright laws that apply to magazines also apply to newspapers, which are considered periodicals as well. That means that, in the United States, all the newspapers published before 1923, as well as those published between the years of 1923 and 1964 without renewing their copyright in the 28th year after first publication are now in the Public Domain. In the UK and other countries, the copyright rules are also the same as with other periodicals…including the application of the rule of shorter term (see my Magazine Secrets e-book for more details).

There is currently a massive project underway to put 30 million public domain newspapers pages online. The project, titled “Chronicling America” is sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). The site currently allows you to search and read newspaper pages from 1900-1910 and find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present. You can check it out here:

Also, I spent some time searching through the Catalog of Copyright Entries for newspaper entries ( and it appears that what was true for magazines (that very few publishers renewed their copyrights) also holds true for newspapers. I found very few renewals, even for major newspapers. That means that there is most likely millions and millions of newspaper pages printed between the years of 1923 and 1964 now in the Public Domain as well. It seems the Mother Lode of Public Domain riches continues to grow!

Now you’re probably thinking…who in the world would ever PAY for content from a bunch of old newspapers? Well…I’d like to direct your attention to a “small” website known as is perhaps the largest purveyor of Public Domain content in the world, providing paid access to billions of pages of content, from census records and immigration papers to passenger logs and, yes…newspapers. But don’t think that has the corner on ALL the options for newspapers. There are many other uses for that “old” news as well, and I’ve written about some of them before. Remember my report on Nostalgia? People LOVE the “Good Ole Days” and a LOT of opportunity exists there in a countless number of niches. If you haven’t read my “Power of the “N” Word” report yet, or want a refresher, you can read it online again here:
Let’s look at a few newspaper items that could have potential as good content for an information product.

Personal Record Information – Births, marriages, deaths, deed transfers, personal accomplishments, etc.

Headline News – Articles on world-changing events, sports, war, etc.

Recurring Features – Crafts, travel, advice columns, trends, etc.

Comics – Weekly serials, political cartoons, etc.

Advertisements – Illustrations, full-page ads, etc.

Photographs – Famous people, events, architecture, vehicles, etc.

There is one more advantage to considering the use of newspaper content for information products (the same advantage holds true for magazines)…laziness. Most people will be unwilling to put forth any effort to obtain or use the content. It’s sad but true. Unfortunately, it seems that the name of the game today is Minimal Effort for Huge Payouts…and that’s mostly just a fairy tale. But if you’re willing to be imaginative, do some research and apply some effort to newspaper (or magazine) content, you could tap into another of the great Public Domain goldmines that’s out there…waiting.


2 Responses to “What About Newspapers and the Public Domain?”

  • Great article. Thanks Tony! I’m looking forward to reading more about the PD. . . Charlie

  • I really love this tip & revisited the LOC again last night. While I was waiting for some files from there to download, I came across another great resource – The New York Times Archive:

    You have to register after accessing the articles more than 10 times (registration is free though).

    The best thing about it is it goes all the way back to 1851!

    Hope all your readers can use this tip too.


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