For filmmakers, designers, photographers, and just about any kind of creatives, the public domain is an important resource, full of copyright-free materials that can be used and remixed to create new art. The legal intricacies of copyright and public domain, however, can be daunting, and finding specific pieces of footage, for example, from organizations like the US National Archive can be a tedious and user-unfriendly experience. Royalty-free video marketplace Pond5 launched the Public Domain Project in order to solve this problem, opening up to the public a massive, thoroughly-organized treasure trove of about 80,000 copyright-free video clips, photos, sound recordings, and 3D models.
The project includes digital models of NASA tools and satellites, Georges Méliès' 1902 film, A Trip To The Moon, speeches by political figures like Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King, Jr., recordings of performances from composers like Beethoven, and a laid-back picture of President Obama playing pool (below). Since they existed solely in physical form within the National Archives, about 5,000 of the film clips had been nearly impossible to access for most filmmakers. The Public Domain Project directly digitized the footage themselves and combined it with 5,000 more copyright-free clips, making an easy-to-use marketplace that unifies a huge portion of the country's historical resources. Artists can pick and choose from the helpfully labeled and tagged files to find just the right picture or clip to give their work some historical context, or to create a whole new artwork with its own unique meaning.
Alongside the freshly accessible materials, Pond5 produced a handy explanation of the public domain to help artists ensure their ideas fall within the legal realm of each different kind of public domain. While using the free picture of President Obama is fine for an editorial about presidential recreation, for example, it would not be legal to turn it into an advertisment for billiards tables.
One of the coolest things about this project is that, as with nearly any free resource, people will almost certainly find ways to use the Public Domain Project in ways we can't predict. We'd love to see projects like a supercut of vintage space footage, a film remix in the style of Woody Allen's What's Up, Tiger Lily?, or even a modern take on the nuclear bomb montage from the end of Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove. All the clips are embeddable and many are byte-sized, so we may even see them sprout up as new memes and reaction GIFs, and hopefully many more projects we haven't thought of yet.
Below, check out some royalty-free images, courtesy of the Public Domain Project:
Visit the Public Domain Project to scope out the selection for yourself.