Can You Profit From Public Domain Works?

This article will discuss three ways YOU can profit from public domain works.  Public domain works are those artistic works: books, art, music, etc. that are no longer protected by copyright.  Once the copyright is no longer valid, the works pass into the public domain and anyone can freely use them for fun or profit.  The criteria for determining when a work is in the public domain varies from country to country, but is specified in the copyright law for each country.  The specifics for U.S. copyright law is a subject for another article.

For our discussion, we are going to assume that you have already determined that a work or works in which you are interested in using is no longer under the original copyright restrictions. The ways in which you can use these works and profit from them readily fall into three common categories, and would apply to all media; books, videos, artwork, and photos. 

I emphasize in this article only printed works such as books.  I am sure that you can find other ways to use these works, but these three seem to be among the most prevalent.

1.    Republish them.  One of the most frequently used methods for utilizing these public domain works is simply to republish them in their original form.  A good example of a book that has been republished by several publishers is the original first edition of Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.  It was published by The Ralston Society in 1937 and is now out of copyright, freely useable by anyone (including me and you). I have several copies of Think and Grow Rich on my shelf at home, but in this case it should be noted that only the 1937 edition mentioned above is in the public domain.  So, make sure that whatever  work you choose to republish is not still under copyright.

2.    Update or modernize the work.  Since most works out of copyright were written several decades ago (and some over a century ago), they are ripe for updating.   The message may be as appropriate today as it was when written, but the writing may be a bit archaic or the illustrations inappropriate to our time.  As a Man Thinketh by James Allen and The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles are two such works.  Both have been utilized as a basis for building internet and seminar businesses based on their works and their concepts.

3.    Use as a free E-Book to build a mailing list.  For those of us who work or aspire to work in internet businesses, building a list of prospective clients or customers is of utmost importance.  Yet there must be a mutual benefit for someone to let us into their life and become a part of our list.  Offering a free E-Book for opting-in to a mailing list is a common practice.  Public domain books, when appropriate to your anticipated audience, are ideal for this use.

Use your imagination and I am sure that you can add numerous other ways to make a profit from the use of public domain works.   Good luck.