Visiting Amsterdam would be fun. Waiting in front of the Rijksmuseum for the doors to be unlocked would be a moment of great anticipation for any student of art.


Unfortunately, most of us won’t get that opportunity, but the museum has done something that may turn out to be more exciting for art students and their teachers. The museum has made high quality digital images ( currently 110,000 ) of the museum’s artworks available in the public domain. You’ll be able to get a closer look at the work of the masters, and be able to look without waiting for the museum doors to open.

The release is part of the process being encouraged worldwide by the Open GLAM group. GLAM stands for Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums, and Open GLAM is working to get these kinds of storehouses of human history to open up digitally in addition to unlocking their doors in the morning to the eager people waiting outside.

Further reading:

and thanks for the heads-up from @glynmoody on Twitter.


The United States federal government has produced many kinds of information. It is paid for by the tax dollars of the citizens, and was traditionally available from sources like the Superintendent of Documents at the Government Printing Office. That operation still exists, but there are now many more ways to get information, including public domain releases of video.

Video production by students and school personnel is well within budget these days. Many schools even have video production classes that feature student recorded work. Some schools produce daily or weekly video news programs.

There are many non linear editing systems available that run on today’s computers. Adobe Premier is well known for the Windows world. Final Cut Pro is a hit on the Macintosh. But these are very expensive. You can do good work for less.

What about Free or Open Source video editing?
Start at Wikipedia’s list.

Look near the bottom of the list. There’s a whole bunch of open source programs for Windows, Macintosh and Linux.

Now, back to the federal resources. Much of the video from the federal government is stored in the form of video tape and film, so Public.Resource.Org has stepped up to make the conversion of this video into digital format which we can access through the Internet.

Watch FedFlix

*No late charges* in the public domain!

FedFlix is a joint venture with the National Technical Information Service (NTIS). Each month they send us government videotapes. We upload them to the Internet Archive and YouTube, then send the government back their videotapes and a digital copy for their files. No cost to them, more data for all of us. Enjoy!

With this resource, you and your students can produce video projects that pop and can do any remix you want…That’s the joy of public domain.

What similar resources do you use?

In the United States, we celebrated Thanksgiving Day yesterday. Many of us ate the traditional turkey and stuffing with some cranberry sauce while sharing our heritage and food with relatives and friends.

Another great day is coming in just about a month. Yes, there is Christmas; that will be nice, too, but this year I plan to celebrate Public Domain Day on January 1, 2010. The celebration has been going on for a few years, but this will be the first time for me.

January first is the day, each year, when the works of some authors enter the public domain. Their works become officially a part of our cultural heritage in a way that makes them open for use, and not hampered by restrictions. The terms of copyright expire and give us the opportunity to remix and build upon the works of those who have gone before us. Building on the heritage of our shared culture is the key element, I think. Public domain status certainly also means that individuals get the first legal opportunity to simply copy a work. That’s great, but not the equal of making something new that wasn’t legal before.

Hey, if you are in the mood, not too overcome by the other associated activities of New Year’s Eve, join in the fun. Get a group together. Put up some signs in the town square. Wave to the drivers as they go by. Have a party. Celebrate Public Domain Day this year.

All is not completely rosy, though, for the time being, in the U.S. there is a freeze on release of works under copyright that goes all the way back to 1922. This is the result of the U.S. Congress extending copyright to “life of author + 70 years” instead of the more common (and former U.S. term) of  “life of author + 50 years”.  So U.S. citizens can only celebrate in a generic way. Our country isn’t going to actually have any works enter the public domain this year, or indeed until January 1, 2019, apparently, because of the law’s change of term.

As a citizen of the world, though, I’ll still celebrate our common, shared cultural heritage.

Links that might give you ideas and support for planning y0ur celebration.

Wikipedia article on the public domain:

A Logo from the celebration planned in Poland:

List of works entering the public domain from the Open Knowledge Foundation:

The first copyright law (The Copyright Act gave protection for a period of 14 years, with the right of renewal for another 14 years.):

The story of copyright: