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Public Domain Day

What is the public domain?

The public domain is everything that is not covered by copyright. It is a commons of creative content that is free for anyone to use and build upon without asking permission or paying a fee.

Copyright protects creative works for a limited time in order to incentivize creation and allow creators to profit from their work, but no one creates something from nothing. The public domain is both the foundation for future creativity, and the most fundamental public library: stuff that has no barriers at all to access and to use.

What is Public Domain Day?

For the last 20 years the public domain in the United States has been frozen at the year 1922. That changed on January 1st, 2019, when works published in the US started entering the public domain once again. At MIT Libraries, we celebrated in 2019 by releasing digitized copies of 100 newly public domain works from 1923 in our collections. For 2020, we’ve digitized 10 books from 1924, with a focus on women in academia in that era.

Explore and celebrate the public domain with us! Through the month of January we will be collecting stories on this page of the content we’re able to make available thanks to the public domain.

Read and use our Public Domain Day collection via the Internet Archive.

Explore the collection