5 public domain ideas you can profit from right now

I’ve always been a great lover of the public domain and that’s why I’ve written many times about countless different creative works any of us can pick up, copy and sell at our own chosen prices without ever paying royalties or licensing fees of any kind.

Public domain, for our purposes, describes works like music, drawings, articles and books, paintings, photographs and so much more for which intellectual property rights have expired or may never have existed.

Items with copyright typically fall into the public domain after a specific lapse of time since they were first created or because their original copyright owner died on or before a specified date.

It’s all so easy to make money from the public domain – and soon I will reveal many unusual and some unique products for you to create and make money from in days.

But there’s a major worry that prevents a lot of people profiting from the public domain. It has to do with international differences in legal rules and responsibilities concerning what the item is, when and where it was first made available to the public and what effect that has on how a revised product can be copied and sold.

So many places… so many different types of product… so many dates and rules to abide by. It can be a nightmare.

… Or a dream come true if you stick to products created more than one hundred years ago in either the UK or America, sell only in those two countries where most such products are likely to be in the public domain.

By avoiding copyright complications outside of America and the UK you should be free to pick and choose new products with leisure and remain free of problems.

As I said, it is all so very easy – as long as you realise anyone can take a public domain product, copy and resell it. Competition for resellers can be intense, even for items recently recreated from the public domain.

The prime problem is taking and copying an item from the public domain without making significant changes to the body of the work can mean the creative work stays in the public domain and is open for anyone to copy and profit from.

So you have to ensure no one can legally copy and sell items you have recreated from the public domain. This is done by making sufficient changes to the original so your revised product has copyright itself and belongs exclusively to you. Then you add a copyright notice that few people will ignore.

It goes without saying, the easier and faster it is to create your own exclusive new product, the sooner you will begin making money.

That’s why, over the next few weeks, I will research and write about numerous bestselling items resurrected from the public domain, including sheet music, paintings and photographs, all of which I personally sell on eBay.

Today, however, we’ll talk about choosing books to resurrect from the public domain, especially those relating to wars and military skirmishes, unsolved and gruesome crimes, magic and spiritualism, local family and topographical history, secret lives of notable celebrities, and many other subjects. Very soon I will suggest specific subjects I think will prove popular today.

What you must do:

• Choose books likely to appeal to today’s readers – based on subjects like those just mentioned – and which are easy and enjoyable to read.

One way to do this is to ensure words used in some very early documents can be understood by readers today and that marks or stains on the original document are not picked up as different words when the older item is scanned ready for printing.

To illustrate, the appearance of letters in printing and writing has changed across time with some letterforms looking like entirely different characters to contemporary eyes, such as ‘majefties’ once used for ‘majesties’ and ‘mifs’ for ‘miss’.

Another example: scan some stained or aged documents and tiny splodges on a page might make one letter look like another, as where a tiny dot to the right of the initial letter makes ‘lots’ appear a ‘tots’.

My advice:

– Only use texts from around 1850 or thereabouts, many of which use modern day English. This is my personal preference.

– Key or scan text into a Word document and change offending letters and outdated words to their modern day equivalent. This simple process could be sufficient to make your new product unique and possibly gain exclusive copyright.

• Prevent others profiting from your hard work by adding your own copyright-protected material to the revised version, such as a couple of paragraphs in your own wording or photographs you have taken yourself or adapted from the public domain. Make a few changes to your chosen public domain entries to increase your chance of owning copyright.

Very popular subjects I might reintroduce from the public domain…

– Famous escaped and liberated African-American slaves. But rather than write about their captivity, I would focus on their lives after slavery.

So people who watched 12 Years a Slave might buy your product telling what happened to the subject Solomon Northup. Search Wikipedia.org for ‘Solomon Northup’ and at the bottom of the page you’ll find links to Northup’s autobiography (now in the public domain, so lots of details to pick up and use verbatim), along with links to additional sources – some copyright protected – which you can use as research and rewrite in your own unique style.

–  Queen Victoria and her association with John Brown. We all know about Albert but what did Victoria get up to with her servant John Brown? I googled the subject and found numerous sites offering different suggestions about their relationship. Combine those theories, using texts about the couple from the public domain, then add your own comments and suggestions and you could have a bestseller on your hands.

–  Following on, what was Queen Victoria like as a person? Her personal letters, now in the public domain, should provide some insight. Add your own comments after each letter to make your end product unique. Or you might add a brief biography of people addressed or talked about in the Queen’s letters.  Have some caricatures created of Victoria by artists at Fiverr.com and sold with full copyright.

Start your project with ‘The Letters of Queen Victoria: A Selection from Her Majesty’s Correspondence’ published by John Murray in 1908 and available as a free download at http://www.gutenberg.org.

–  People suspected of being Victorian England’s Jack the Ripper. Many eminent men and some women, including royalty and aristocrats, were suspects.  Who were they and why were they suspected? Start your research at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_the_Ripper.

Insert images of suspects from the public domain and in your own words tell how adverse publicity affected them in later life. Some information will be in the public domain and some will not, so I suggest you research and corroborate facts across several sites which you then rewrite and insert into your public domain text.

– Staying with Jack the Ripper, a short while ago someone sold copies of a book about Ripper victim Catherine Eddowes. I recall the book was priced more than thirty pounds and had several sales on eBay and more on other marketplaces.

How about producing similar items for the Ripper’s other victims? Start your research at the Wikipedia page just mentioned and from links on the page to other research and historical websites. Rewrite and adapt some text and images from the public domain and the new book will be yours alone.

Those are just a few ideas to get you started and soon I will give you a free report about creating books in print format from the public domain and numerous places to sell them.

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