Public Domain Works for Print on Demand Platforms

We’ve been doing some research around public domain works and how these works are handled when it comes to intellectual property. As we’ve mentioned, we take trademark and copyright issues very seriously and have multiple checks in place.

Recently, we came across a great site at They have a page of FAQs when it comes to public domain works that’s well worth a read as it may help clarify a few things, as well as spark some ideas for new designs.

There are three main categories of public domain works:

  • Works that automatically enter the public domain upon creation, because they are not copyrightable:

    • Titles, names, short phrases and slogans, familiar symbols, numbers
    • Ideas and facts (e.g., the date of the Gettysburg Address)
    • Processes and systems
    • Government works and documents1
  • Works that have been assigned to the public domain by their creators

  • Works that have entered the public domain because the copyright on them has expired

The article includes a basic list of works that have expired into the public domain:

  • All works published in the U.S. before 1923

  • All works published with a copyright notice from 1923 through 1963 without copyright renewal

  • All works published without a copyright notice from 1923 through 1977

  • All works published without a copyright notice from 1978 through March 1, 1989, and without subsequent registration within 5 years


There are a number of places to search for public domain works, many of which are included in the article. The designs you find likely won’t be quite ready for uploading to a print-on-demand platform. Instead, you can use these as starting points for designs by either resizing or creating new works entirely. If you need any help making adjustments or creating new designs, check out our custom design packs. We are happy to work with existing public domain works.

Read the full post Public Domain Frequently Asked Questions at

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