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Wikipedia:Public domain resources

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There are many resources available on the net that are in the public domain, and therefore freely usable without restrictions for Wikipedia content.

There are also many copyrighted resources whose licensing terms are liberal enough that they can generally be used as well. For these, see Wikipedia:Free or semi-free non-Public-Domain information resources and Wikipedia:GNU Free Documentation License resources.

This page is intended as a list of only true public domain text resources. For images, see Wikipedia:Public domain image resources.

CAVEAT: Because there is no concept of public domain in Japan's copyright law, even though the materials are claimed public domain, there can be some restrictions such as about commercial use, which has a conflict with GFDL. Also, unlike the United States, most English speaking commonwealth countries exert Crown copyright. Please make certain that in any particular jurisdiction government agencies will allow you to copy materials without permission.

Table of contents

Please don't data dump!

The resources below are valuable, but many are very old, context-dependent, written from biased points of view, and otherwise are not in themselves good encyclopedia articles. The 1911 encyclopedia discussed below is a good example of this - it contains some useful information, but also antiquated writing style and innumerable errors of fact.

So please, if you copy material from these sources, make sure you take some time to edit, update, introduce, or otherwise produce a good article out of it rather than just dumping it here verbatim. But if you can't do that, put it in anyway because somebody else will come by and tweak it. Wikipedia articles are living texts, because everybody has the power to edit them. An entry that starts out incorrect, as a stub or even as something very inane will eventually be tweaked and evolve into something much more sophisticated.

Encyclopedic or general resources

US Government

  • Most publications of the United States Federal Government. Under the Federal Copyright Act material that is originated by the Federal government is not subject to copyright. In some cases, material may originate with a private contractor which assigns the copyright to the agency. However, material that is generated by the Federal government which doesn't have a notice can be copied. Entries below marked "(US Federal Govt.)" belong to this category. Note this only applies to the *Federal* government. United States state governments can copyright materials.



  • Project Gutenberg (http://www.promo.net/pg) See in particular The Project Gutenberg Encyclopedia (although only Vol 1 (ftp://ibiblio.org/pub/docs/books/gutenberg/etext95/pge0112.txt) of this seems to be available). Note that not all of the Project Gutenberg text are fully in the public domain. Read the license of the respective texts carefully.
  • 1911 Encyclopedia (http://www.1911encyclopedia.org) A scanned version of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica. The OCR quality is not very high. Some articles end in the middle and continue on the next page. The writing style is antiquated and archaic, contains a fair amount of bias, and the material contains many factual errors. Anything taken from here needs extensive fact-checking and editing. See Wikipedia:1911 Encyclopedia Britannica for ways of best using this material.
  • The Household Cyclopedia (http://www.cairns.net.au/~sharefin/Cyclopedia/contents)
  • The Catholic Encyclopaedia (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/)
  • The Jewish Encyclopaedia (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/index.jsp)

This website contains the complete contents of the 12-volume Jewish Encyclopedia, which was originally published between 1901-1906. The Jewish Encyclopedia, which recently became part of the public domain, contains over 15,000 articles and illustrations. This online version contains the unedited contents of the original encyclopedia. Since the original work was completed almost 100 years ago, it does not cover a significant portion of modern Jewish History (e.g., the creation of Israel, the Holocaust, etc.). However, it does contain an incredible amount of information that is remarkably relevant today.

We are considering inviting the Internet community to help us update the encyclopedia -- if you are interested in volunteering (as a writer, editor, etc.) please join our Mailing List. By putting this important work on the Internet, we hope to improve the quality of Jewish information available online -- and stimulate new discussion. Therefore, we have sections "Discussion Forums" and "Internet Links" which allow our visitors to converse and identify related websites.

  • ibiblio.org (http://www.ibiblio.org/) is a major repository of information, "the public's library and digital archive". All collections on ibiblio are assumed to be in the public domain unless otherwise noted. Check for copyright notices on any material you wish to use.

Philosophy, mathematics and natural science

Astronomy and astrophysics


  • (US Federal Govt.) US Forest Service Fire Effects Database (http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/psemeng/index) Database of current information on a wide variety of tree, shrub, grass, mammal, bird, reptile and amphibian species found largely in North America -- great reference material


Earth science




  • Relativity: The Special and General Theory (http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/einstein/works/1910s/relative/) by Albert Einstein
  • Physics for Free (http://www.physicsforfree.com) has two public domain physics books by a Yale professor: one about basic physics, one about groups and particles.


Social sciences






  • (US Federal Govt.) United States National Archives and Records Administration (http://www.archives.gov/welcome/index), the U.S. federal government's official archive site
  • Historical Maps (http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/index) of the Perry-Castaņeda Library Map Collection at the University of Texas (Public domain usage statement (http://www.lib.utexas.edu/usage_statement) - "Courtesy of The General Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.")

History of science and technology

Language and Linguistics

Political science


  • Classics in the History of Psychology (http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/index.htm) is a collection of classic public domain works in psychology collected by Christopher D. Green: see here (http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/copyright.htm) for a note about the copyright status of the individual documents in the collection.

Applied arts and sciences



Business and industry

  • (US Federal Govt.) US Energy Information Agency (http://www.eia.doe.gov) - statistics and info on energy industry (mostly US but some stuff for the world) - they appreciate but do not require acknowledgement (copyright info here (http://www.eia.doe.gov/neic/aboutEIA/copy_right.htm))


  • (US Federal Govt.) Federal Standard 1037C, a telecommunications glossary, appears to be mostly in the public domain based on these principles, and is a source of a large number of bits of useful material. A few items are derived from copyrighted sources: where this is the case, there is an attribution to the source. Note: a substantial number of non-trivial 1037C articles are now incorporated into Wikipedia -- please note that only those articles that have substantial content and are from 100% public domain sources are appropriate to be used in the Wikipedia
  • (US Federal Govt.) DISA site about commercial telecommunications standards (http://www-comm.itsi.disa.mil/) From the site: "This site is maintained by the Commercial Standards Division of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) to provide information about the current status of commercial telecommunications standards."

Computer science







Public affairs

  • (US Federal Govt.) Federal Emergency Management Agency (http://www.fema.gov): Not sure how much of this is useful, but anyway it's under the same terms as the U.S. Department of State site: all in the public domain unless it carries an explicit copyright notice.
  • (US Federal Govt.) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (http://www.epa.gov): copyright notice here (http://www.epa.gov/region4/home/notice), typical U.S. gov't terms. Does have some good information for people patient enough to find it.
  • (US Federal Govt.) Voice Of America (http://www.voanews.com/) - All text, audio and video material produced exclusively by the Voice of America is public domain. However, some images and graphics are licensed for use and covered by all applicable copyright laws.




  • UNESCO Public Domain Resources and Virtual Library at this URL (http://www.unesco.org/webworld/public_domain/public_inf)

Arts and Entertainment











  • Writings by Greg Goebel (http://www.vectorsite.net/): Science, technology, military history, introductions to classical and relativistic physics.
  • Infoanarchy (http://www.infoanarchy.org): a weblog dedicated to copyright issues. All original material is in the public domain, although some redistributed articles may be under copyright.
  • "Ethical treatment for all youth" (http://www33.brinkster.com/ethical/), a website that documents therapy and detention of children and juveniles for consensual sexual activity. Author wrote to me in a personal email: "Certainly, I intend everything at my site to be in the public domain, to be used freely by anyone else. Of course, I would appreciate it if people who use it would link to my site, since I can use all the exposure I can get."

To be filed please file these resources under the appropriate topic headings above

  • There are no more entries to be filed at the moment

Sources for finding public domain resources

Here are some web searches which may help discover U.S. Federal Government and other public domain documents. Please note that you must still manually verify that documents are in the public domain. Please note that not all sites in the .gov domain are U.S. federal government sites: some may be U.S. state or other local government sites.

Google searches for links or exact phrases:

The Creative Commons initiative may become a valuable new resource for Wikipedia authors. The project provides a "wizard" for licensing information under various open content licenses (including the public domain, which is not a license), and also features a directory (http://creativecommons.org/works/) of these works. (See also Creative Commons License)


Lists of general resources:

Lists of U.S. Government resources:

See also:

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

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