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Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Can the Public Domain Ever Be "Used Up"?

When discussing public domain, people often ask:

The public domain is limited. Even if it will never be ‘used up’, it’s going to be used more and more compared to what will be added to it in the next few years. What will happen
then? Will the public domain become useless?

First off, there is literally so much contained within the Public Domain already that so many of the regular people don’t know about, that there is no chance of the public domain
‘running out’ of options in the foreseeable future.  And then, of course, more work is being added to the public domain every day.

This is another area where people are often ignorant, or just don’t make the effort to think hard (no offense, it’s a big problem with the world today).

When most Internet Marketers talk about the public domain, they only talk about books
and recipes and self-improvement courses. Now, this is either because they don’t know
better, or they’re not telling you everything.  In both cases, they are doing you a huge

The future of Public Domain is in its diversity. With government publications on
environmental issues, public health issues, and many more subjects of relevant interest
being placed in the public domain every year, this is just ONE of the sources of public
domain that you can use to generate a stable income stream.

But there are literally THOUSANDS of sources of public domain.  You’ll find music,
software, art, movies, and more.  Most importantly, the public domain is full of ideas! 
Many of those ideas can help you in your business.

How does this help you?

There is more than one way of profiting from a market. For now, remember this:

The Public Domain is far wider, and far deeper an ocean than you think (and the Internet
Marketing gurus would have you believe).

What forms the public domain?

There are two main aspects of the public domain:
*    What forms the public domain?
*    How can we profit from the public domain?

At this point you must have a dozen questions: How does the copyright law work? How do
you find out if a work is copyrighted or not? Where do patents figure into all this? How do
we distinguish between ‘ideas’ and the work itself? What about derivative works?

Before we tackle the meaty issues such as copyright law and the other questions, let’s see
how something can fall into the public domain.

>    All generic information such as facts, figures, scientific knowledge (but not
inventions), mathematical formulas, ideas, etc. The work cannot be copyrighted.
This includes things such as ideas, facts, theories, mathematical or scientific
formulas, and also simple things like a list of ingredients or components. Therefore
you cannot copyright the Theory of Relativity, or the knowledge of how to make a
Molotov Cocktail (a type of a home-made bomb).

-    All publications by the government and its agents. Specifically, the US copyright law
prevents such publications from being ‘copyrighted’ (this has a lot to do with the
definition of copyright and copyrightable work) and thus they are directly part of the
public domain.

-    Previously copyrighted works that have passed into the public domain due to
expired copyright or other reasons. It is quite possible to find works published in the
late 1800s and the early 1900s (late 19th century and early 20th century) whose
copyright has expired and has not been renewed under current copyright laws.

-    Work that is placed into the public domain by its owners.  The copyright owner
dedicated the work into the public domain. This is more common than you think. An
often-quoted example is that of freeware software or freely distributed source code.
Sometimes artists tend to dedicate their work to the public domain as well.

-    Work created and published before there were copyright laws. This distinction is
very important and is the sole reason why the works of Shakespeare are
considered public domain while Darwin’s ground-breaking book, Origin of Species,
is protected by copyright.

-   The work was never copyrighted – This is a tricky issue. Logically, if a person
publishing his work does not acquire copyright, then by reason it is automatically
part of the public domain. However, all is not as simple as it first seems.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Public Domain Works - What Are These?

Here are some quick facts that you should know about the copyright laws applying to the public domain.

Note: These laws apply to works published in the US. For unpublished works and for
works published outside the US, see the resources listed later on.

·    Any works published (with or without copyright) before 1923 are in the public

·    Any works copyrighted in 1923 or later (with their copyrights renewed in time) will
stay OUT of the public domain till 2018 or longer. This is due to a 20-year copyright
extension enacted in the US in 1998. Usually you can check on the book itself the
copyright date, and if a copyright is renewed, that date is also placed on the book.

·    Certain works copyrighted in 1923 or later may have already entered the public
domain because of certain legal constraints. The following types of works
o    Works published in the US before 1989 without proper copyright notice
o    Works published in the US before 1964 whose copyrights were not

·    Works from 1923 or later that were originally published in countries outside the US
may still be copyrighted regardless of whether they were printed with proper notice
or renewed.

·    Works that were never registered for copyright prior to 1978, and were never
published prior to 2003, are now in the Public Domain in the US if:
o    The author(s) died more than 70 years ago before the most recent New
Year’s Day. For 2005, this means authors who died before 1935. For
more than one author, this applies to the last surviving author.

This is just a quick overview of the copyright law to help you understand what you will be
dealing with when venturing into the public domain. There are other people who have
written comprehensively on this matter – one such resource is from the Cornell Copyright

That contains a detailed and comprehensive table that tells you how the copyright law and
the public domain applies to unpublished works, works published in the US and even
works published outside the US. It is a truly remarkable and useful resource to have for a
public domain businesses.

Another brilliant (an understatement at best) resource is by the law firm Bromberg &

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Public Domain Materials as a Source for Your Business

There are many potential business opportunities that you can launch with public domain  works. Government publications are one of the popular categories where the public  domain is very strong, where you can find your own niche within and build a thriving  money-making business out of it.

The core process here is to brainstorm – once you understand what the public domain is  about and get a clear idea of the sort of information available in the public domain, you can  then sit down and brainstorm the different sort of niches suitable for public-domain driven  businesses.

Here, instead of finding a business idea first and then finding the right public domain  resources, we will look at finding public domain works and creating businesses out of  them.  But, you'll need to make sure that the right market exists for any of these topics  before you start running with the idea!

The US government routinely releases information on taxes, health care and other  government policies into the public domain. If you are involved in providing consulting services in any of these areas, using the public domain as an important resource for your  website will help build trust and more importantly, increase both your traffic AND your  conversion rates.

There are two important lessons when working with the public domain, though:

The public domain is a resource – not a business itself. Use it as one of the supports in  your business, but using just the public domain won’t get you anywhere. Even if you have  to do something as simple as do some minor editing, repackage the product and write a  sales letter, you’ll still have to put in some effort and strategy into the business – it’s not  instant coffee, although in a lot of cases this is instant content.

There are two ways to make money from the public domain. You can have a business or  business idea and then use public domain works as a source of content, or you can search  the major categories of the public domain and brainstorm new business ideas. Use both  techniques to make money from the public domain.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Make Money with Public Domain Works

Aside from just using public domain works for personal and research, there are also countless ways that you can make money with public domain works.  Let me just suggest a few to give you an idea of the possibilities:

1. Re-publish public domain content – A lot of the information is relevant today. Books on recipes, public speaking, hobbies and learning languages all contain knowledge that is applicable to our time (50 or 60 years don’t change the way you bake a cake, for example). All you need to do is to find the relevant public domain work, re-package it according to your needs and then create a business model around it.

2. Use Public Domain as a source of content for your website. Whether you want to start a membership website or just an informational website that earns money through advertising and affiliate revenue, the important thing is that you won’t have to wait for months to create the content – it’s ready for you to use immediately.

3. Create a derivative work – Use the public domain work to spawn targeted, niche-relevant products by creating your own product around it.

4. Change the format of the public domain work – create an audio course for a how-to-manual to increase the ‘perceived value’ of the product so you can make more money off the same information.

5. Release the product in multiple, complimentary mediums. This is a combination of  the above two ideas – You can teach a course using audio CDs, instructional watch- and-learn DVDs and package a learning manual together to make a killer course  that is a physical product instead of allowing people to simply download your book.  This immediately raises the value of what you’re selling.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens and dozens of concrete examples of using  public domain works within your business, either to supplement your business model or to  create a new income stream.

Some people say that because the information in the public domain is limited, there’s no  point in going after the ‘public domain riches’. In fact, there has never been a better time to  start.  What you should concentrate on is to find new ways to market old ideas.

How can you do that?
* Differentiate your product – Instead of selling old and rare books, work on
building a niche for yourself on old philosophical works only. This is a very viable business idea and I’ll tell you how in a little while.
*  Find new ways to sell an existing product – The usual example given here is to convert an eBook or how-to course into a series of audio tapes or videos.
However, you can also take an existing public domain work and split it up into
several parts, and sell them separately – a public domain work on poker
strategies could be divided into 3 parts – poker games, poker history and poker
*    Create a new product out of an old idea.