How to Make Money Using Public Domain Content

We don’t believe in putting all our eggs in one basket and so we have been looking for other ways of diversifying and one of the things we have been seriously considering is using the public domain to make money.

We initially read about using Public Domain works to generate income on a forum and it tweaked our interest enough for us to go looking for the experts in this field for more information.

What we eventually found was an ebook package written by Logan Andrew and Debra Conrad called The Public Domain Treasure Hunters Survival Kit. These two are experts in this field and we were absolutely amazed with the information in it. We never really realized the potential that the public domain has for making money online.

If you’ve never heard of the public domain basically it is content (ie books, music, video, prints, images etc) that is no longer under a copyright…so it is free to use in just about any way you wish.

Hopefully that statement has made your jaw drop and if it hasn’t it should by the end of this blog post. It truly is mind blowing because there are so many different ways to make use of this information to start an online business or simply use it to supplement the amount of money that you are already making online.

Let’s take an example just to whet your appetite. Say for instance you have a website about dogs and you want to start building up an email list. One of the best ways to do this is to offer a freebie such as a mini report or ebook, which encourages people to sign up. So you sit yourself down and start writing an ebook or you may get a writer in Elance to do it for you. Either way, it takes time and/or money. But what if you could get the information for your ebook for free and within the next five minutes?

With public domain content you can do just that and you can have that ebook up and ready to go in as little as half an hour. Plus you can be confident in knowing that the information you use has been written by professional authors, and you are getting quality content for absolutely nothing.

You can also take that public domain content and turn it into an audio book or a series of audios for your email list. You can literally have never ending content readily available to send to your list…depending on your niche of course.

With public domain content not only can you create your own reports and ebooks but you can also use this free content for your website. Now we personally like to create unique content wherever possible but the thing with public domain content is that not many people have caught on to using it on their websites so you’re not likely to see the same content duplicated over and over.

So you can search for Public Domain content in your niche and simply copy it over to your website and it’s all perfectly legal and above board. You can actually create an entire website just from public domain content alone. This could also work really well if you have a membership site.

You can also legally change that content. So you can manually make changes to it or put it through a spinner if you like. (We recommend The Best Spinner – which in our opinion we have found to be the only spinner that really spins well written content.) So you can have fresh content added to your site for free or if you want you can use it for article marketing.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg…what about creating your own t-shirts or mugs using public domain images? With CafePress in conjunction with eBay you can do just that. How easy is that!! You don’t need to stock any inventory.

You can also find public domain cookbooks and take recipes to combine them into your own book which you can sell on Amazon or in the Kindle store. In fact, you can find content on just about any topic and compile it into your own book.

You can even simply republish books without making any changes and make money from them.

These are just a few examples of what you can do with public domain content but there are plenty more. We have decided to go with one method described in the Public Domain Treasure Hunters Survival Kit and have been working on it for a few months now and yes we are making money with it. It’s definitely not enough to retire on just yet but we can see the real potential in it…enough so that we are going to be devoting 50% of our time to it over the next few months.

You’ll also notice we’ve added a new category to this blog called ‘Public Domain’ so we’re not just playing around with this. It is something we are seriously getting in to.

So Where Do You Start?

One of the best places to start is with Project Gutenberg. This site has over 30,000 books to choose from with the majority in the public domain and they add more on a regular basis. Another excellent site is archive.org. Just remember that although both of these sites mainly focus on public domain works, not all the books listed are in the public domain, so you do need to check the copyright status as indicated against each book on these sites before using the content.

More Information

If you are looking for more detailed info on this then we do recommend the Public Domain Treasure Hunter’s Survival Kit. This is an extremely detailed and informative guide on how to use the public domain effectively. And it is written by people who actually make a living from it. It includes specific money making ideas using public domain content, where to find public domain content for books, movies, audio books and so on, how to tell if a book is still under a copyright, how to use public domain content to create your own products and even where you can sell your public domain content.

We’re talking over 200 pages of solid information and that’s only in one of the ebooks you get. They also include step-by-step videos and plenty of bonuses. And these bonuses are not your usual crappy add-ons so that they can make a sale. This is solid stuff that you will actually use.

We’re excited and we are sure you will be too once you grasp the full potential of using Public Domain works.

  • Ling Tung says:

    Wow…interesting…I will have to look into that cos it sounds like a new thing and not many people know about it YET….thanks for sharing…

    • Paula says:

      Well it’s not that new but yes I agree a lot of people still don’t know a lot about this. It’s definitely worth looking into.

  • What a great idea – there are really so many ways you can go with it. Love the idea of setting up a virtual book store with old classics!

  • Dawn says:

    This Public Domain content sounds very interesting. It is something Ive heard about with being very sure exactly what it was. I know that copyright expires after a certain number of years – does that mean these are old books. I’m not knocking old books – some of the universal truths are timeless – I’m just wondering WHY these books have ended up in the public domain.

    It seems sad that the original authors aren’t making money from their own content.

    However, I also believe in not looking a gift horse in the mouth!

    Will definitely take a look at it.

    • Paula says:

      A lot of theses are old books which is why they are in the domain. But as you say the info can be timeless. You only have to check out Project Gutenberg to look at the number of downloads to see that people are still interested in these books.

  • Debra Conrad says:

    Well just call me tickled! I’m so happy to have you two on board my public domain treasure hunting ship. And… can I just say that combining the Amazonian Profit Plan with public domain content can be a very powerful 1-2 punch.

    In fact – just yesterday I showed an Amazon commission of $73.40 (one product sale). That one sale just about paid me back what I spent on APP. Cool beans!


    Can’t wait to see how you gal’s have used public domain content to grow your business.

    These are exciting times – so many options are floating to the top for building good – strong – evergreen – businesses.

    Thank You for sharing this with your readers!

    Debra Conrad

    • Paula says:

      No problem Debra, you’ve developed a really good product so it was well worth sharing. I am still yet to get through the entire kit. There is a lot of info in there.

  • Cathy says:

    I have heard about public domain before but the draw back that has kept me away from using it was that the info is so out of date. For example, the subject of dogs you mentioned. Dogs was one area I looked into since it’s my main interest ( I have 5 doggies). The dog training techniques of 50 years or more ago were almost barbaric. No way would I use them or promote them to others. Same with the veterinary care and most other things related to dogs. Even the breed info has changed quite a bit over the years.

    • Paula says:

      I think it will depend on the niche of course. I just chose dogs because that is the subject I always choose when giving a niche example so maybe not the best one in this case.

    • Paula says:

      See Debra’s comments below on this one Cathy.

    • Before and after photos often make sales of products so why not then and now comparisons of dog training techniques, using the dog training public domain material for valuable content?

      This could be done with many topics using “old” approaches for which you now have a better approach or solution. The fact that public domain addresses a problem shows that the topic is evergreen over the years or even centuries.

  • Excellent article. :)

    PD sure seems to be making a comeback. I remember it being all the rage in early 2000. I was new and did nothing, I’m second guessing that now for sure.

    I just wish I had the $67 liquid right now, that looks like an awesome resource.

  • Debra Conrad says:

    Cathy – LOL – see this is where people who don’t know the power of finding great public domain content loose the chance to use all the really good content.

    For instance – a book published about Command Dog Training by AKC has this in the intro:

    “There is little doubt that the people of the United States need further education in the training and handling
    of dogs. Such an education lies between the covers of this book. It is a firm though intensely humane type of
    education, devoid of whipping and hunger punishments; devoid also of forcing the dog beyond his inborn capabilities
    yet taking advantage of them to the full.

    This is a book not for casual reading if maximum benefits are to accrue. Rather is it for study, word by word
    and lesson by lesson, in gradual and successive progress from the simplest to the most advanced exercises, all of
    which can be acquired by the dog of average intelligence when handled in the right way.”

    This book has 250 pages of fantastic content that only needs a bit of “rewording” – sort of like rewording PLR content.

    Dawn – Gift horses don’t come along every day. ;)

    Ling… using Public Domain content was made popular years ago by Russell Brunson, Yanik Silver and James Jones (and so many other “gurus”). I don’t know why more people don’t use public domain content to help their business grow… but more room for us.

    Kelly – have you read about my crazy idea of rewriting Public Domain content and using it in my PLR Business. It’s so much fun and so many niche ideas.

  • Monja says:

    Thanks a lot for the article, I´ll definitely have a look at it. I´m just wondering – isn´t it a little like cheating to make people paying for content we get free? I think it´s the modification together with additional value which actually makes it a new product, or?

    • Paula says:

      Sometimes people are happy to pay for a product that they can normally get for free because it is in a format that they prefer. For example instead of reading a book on their computer through Project Gutenberg they may prefer a hard copy version or an audio version.

    • Debra Conrad says:

      You have nailed the whole idea Monja!

      Many have published content directly from public domain sources.

      I always – always – always suggest rewriting or modifying the content. Adding value is key.

      Just think of public domain content as an endless supply of PLR articles and books written about a nearly endless supply of topics.

  • The family of a person I went to school with in the mid-80s was rich beyond belief because of information in this article. Basically, he found tons of movies that didn’t have a copyright (there are many) and were in the public domain. He started a company and marketed these movies to Wal-mart (at that time major studios wouldn’t touch WM). Meanwhile Wal-mart had tons of VHS tapes on their shelves to sell, and he became filthy rich!

    Also, was a guy who paraphrased government documents, and his book became a bestseller(the name slips my mind). Imagine ranking a site on how to apply for government benefits on spun government documents? Lots of possibilities there.

    PLR articles can be gold if you know what to do with them. For affiliates, they make great freebies while you build your list!

    Also, there PLR is great for video presentations on youtube. You can get video robots to read the info, or do it yourself. Meanwhile you have a video and a backlink. If people get bored of the video they click to your site!

    • Paula says:

      I don’t think people realize that movies can also be in the public domain. We generally only think of books and images.

      Here’s just one site that has public domain movies for download – http://www.publicdomainflicks.com/

    • Debra Conrad says:

      Hey Dave… just in case others didn’t “get” the part about government documents.

      Almost everything the U.S. Government has ever written to date (or filmed or photographed or recorded) is in the Public Domain.

      Just today, I was gathering some content on a .gov site for an “energy saving” project I’m working on.

      Oh… an I’ve made some really cute home decorating YouTube vids by chopping up some old Public Domain movies.

      The ideas are almost endless. LOL

      • The infamous guy who published the govt documents is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Lesko
        looks like he is on our bandwagon too: http://www.myamericanbenefitsplan.com/lestvplan.php
        He is a bit extreme but you can definately profit over government documents. After all, your taxes are paying for them, no?

        Scholarships and college are profitable niches that have tons of information free from the government. I do a bit of programming here and there and I did a job for a guy who pulled tons of college info of a dept of ed gov website. He ended up with a great informative site with relatively little work. The gov site said you can do anything you want with the info.

  • I came to you through Debra Conrads blog. I have purchased the PDTH Survival kit because I absolutely trust in Debra & Logan and the world of the Public Domain truly interests me. Everytime I open up the kit to read, I get lost in it and learn so much.

    Debra has been awesome in coaching me as a newbie.

    Your Amazonian Profit Plan which I also learned about through Debra’s blog sounds like something to delve into a little down the track for me. I’ve bookmarked it!

    Thanks for this informative post :-)


    • Paula says:

      Thanks for visiting Christine. I agree it’s easy to get lost in their Survival Kit. There are so many ways to make money with it. I have practically highlighted the whole ebook.

    • Debra Conrad says:

      Awww… Christine, you are so sweet. But… now I think you might really be stalking me. (Kidding people – kidding).

      Christine is pretty new to IM and she is getting the hang of it really fast. I’ve sent her over here to this blog to devour every word. Love to share my favorite “finds”.

  • Chris says:

    Thank you very much for this post. This post is sure to make me money. I hope to get that book soon.

  • Lisa says:

    I looked into this a couple of years ago and I could not for the life of me find any good content. I know that sounds stupid, but all I saw were novels from the 1800’s or something. I got discouraged and gave up (probably too quickly). But the idea has always been in the back of my mind.

    • Wanda says:

      Keep digging Lisa. I have finally managed to get some of my family interested in working on the web with the Public Domain treasures. Have been doing some lessons with them to show them how easy and how much fun it is. My sister turned up a gem on her second search attempt. So she is hooked.
      This is definitely something that Paula and I will be spending more time on.

  • Gregory says:

    I’m glad to be revisiting PDWs once again. I think it has largely been forgotten due to the proliferation of PLRs out there. And yet, many of the PLRs were probably taken from PDWs.

    Definitely, it can be a goldmine if one knows how to dig and find the gold. I would think evergreens – recipes and inspirational, for example.

    Sure, some of the works might need some updating and sometimes the English used is just old-fashioned. So, it is like opening the gift horse in the mouth and putting in new implants.

    I have not thought of using PDWs on Amazon type sites. So, this post is really an eye-opener for me. Thanks a lot.


    • Paula says:

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head Gregory – it’s knowing where to ‘dig and find the gold’. But I think that is just a matter of practice. We’ve already noticed that it is becoming easier and easier the more we delve into this.

      • Debra Conrad says:

        It does become easier as you get familiar with the concept.

        The problem is “It’s addicting”!

        I try to stay Focused… but there is so much to choose from and so many ideas… sigh.

  • Lisa says:

    This is very interesting! I’ve know Debra from SSWT and she is super smart. In my online endeavors, I knew very little about PD content. I have tried navigating the Project Gutenberg website with little success. Thank you for the terrific resources, the comments are helpful too! I’m a learnin’ :)

    • Debra Conrad says:

      Hey Lisa, wow us SSWT members get around. We know where to find the smart people like Wanda and Paula. :)

      And yes… Project Gutenberg can be daunting if you don’t know what you are doing. Keep learning… it get’s much easier.

  • Todd Taylor says:

    Someone mentioned Yanik Silver – he started selling products on this subject 5-6 years ago. So did another guy by the name of Dave Vallieres. Both are excellent products as well and you might want to check them out. I’m sure there is a lot of redundancy between the old and the new but it’s the little gems that make all of the difference.

    • Debra Conrad says:

      Hey Todd…

      Hey Todd

      Yep – we have access to all of Dave Villieres info and it’s included in our package… as well as in depth how-to stuff from other top marketers that have been using Public Domain content to make money for years.

      I’m a big fan of Yanik Silver (and Russell Brunson and James Jones) when it comes to using Public Domain content. But – they don’t have anything current for sale.

      You absolutely must keep current on the laws for using Public Domain content – or it will come back to bite you.

  • Bonnie Christian says:

    Hi ladies and gents!

    Lisa, I found Debra (Hi Debra!) through SSWT as well. One link leading to another . . . small world isn’t it? I’m becoming increasingly fascinated with public domain now, and will be ordering Debra’s ebook tonight for sure. I’m so happy to have found your site Paula and Wanda. Will check back with everyone later!

    • Debra Conrad says:

      Hi Bonnie… I saw the order come through. Can’t wait to see what we come up with for you.

      Remember – I’m and idea machine.

      Make sure you read everything on this blog – affilaiteblogonline – about affiliate marketing and selling Amazon goods.

      I’m learning a lot about product reviews and choosing products from the Amazonian Profit Plan. It’s a real eye opener.

  • Liz says:

    Gee – I don’t know how you all have time to do all this! It will be going on my To Do list though.

    • Paula says:

      I don’t know how we have time to do this either but we both love working on different projects. After a while you can get a bit stale working on the same things so it’s just a way of keeping us motivated.

  • Liz says:

    Quick question – I saw a book listed that was released in 2008. How can it already be in PD?

  • By the way, someone asked if it was cheating to use public domain materials. The whole idea of public domain is that eventually, after a period of time (various years depending on countries and loads of other laws and treaties) what was once held by an individual became the property of the public.

    I was getting my masters degree in marriage and family therapy (never did finish the program) and paid loads of money for a textbook that was a compilation of the works of Fraud and other leading brains from another century. The compiler gave credit to the original authors and had a few questions following each chapter. I think I paid $50 for a masters level textbook!

    Then there is material that the US government produces. I own it and say you can use it. I do so because one of my workers (called public servants) produced it while working for me, a US taxpayer. They also worked for my father and his father.

    When was the last time you accessed a gov site? As owners of the material, we sure are paying a lot of money to produce it and then discover for the most part it is hidden.

    So, we, the owners, just make sure that our information, produced by Phd’s even, who work for us, makes it to the public so that it can be useful to the millions who never access .gov sites.

    Not old stuff, but materials produced yesterday. Start with http://www.usa.gov and see what your workers have produced for you.

    • Paula says:

      I was amazed when I found out that a good majority of US government documents and images were automatically in the public domain. And there is so much of it too.

  • Diana says:

    I got the PD course but haven’t found anything yet to promote. I’m still going through the material. Glad your finding success in using PD and hope I will too.

    Thank you for the information and encouragement.

    • Paula says:

      That course is absolutely jam-packed with information. It can be a little overwhelming but I think the best way to tackle it is to just to pick something and go with it. At the very least it will give you practice at using public domain content.

  • Romona says:

    Our daughter has been using Project Gutenberg for quite a while,as a University English major.
    I have used many of their books for articles.

    Great info!

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