Works in the public domain are those whose exclusive intellectual property rights have expired, have been forfeited, or are inapplicable. For example, the works of Shakespeare and Beethoven, and most of the early silent films, are all now in the public domain by leaving the copyright term.
The term public domain refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it. An important wrinkle to understand about public domain material is that, while each work belongs to the public, collections of public domain works may be protected by copyright. If, for example, someone has collected public domain images in a book or on a website, the collection as a whole may be protected even though individual images are not. You are free to copy and use individual images but copying and distributing the complete collection may infringe what is known as the collective works copyright. Collections of public domain material will be protected if the person who created it has used creativity in the choices and organization of the public domain material. This usually involves some unique selection process, for example, a poetry scholar compiling a book The Greatest Poems of e.e. cummings.
There are four common ways that works arrive in the public domain:
the copyright has expired
the copyright owner failed to follow copyright renewal rules
the copyright owner deliberately places it in the public domain, known as dedication, or
copyright law does not protect this type of work.
Copyright has expired for all works published in the United States before 1923. In other words, if the work was published in the U.S. before January 1, 1923, you are free to use it in the U.S. without permission. As an example, the graphic illustration of the man with mustache (above) was published sometime in the 19th century and is in the public domain, so no permission was required to include it within this book. These rules and dates apply regardless of whether the work was created by an individual author, a group of authors, or an employee (a work made for hire).
Because of legislation passed in 1998, no new works will fall into the public domain until 2019, when works published in 1923 will expire. In 2020, works published in 1924 will expire, and so on. For works published after 1977, if the work was written by a single author, the copyright will not expire until 70 years after the authors death. If a work was written by several authors and published after 1977, it will not expire until 70 years after the last surviving author dies.
Copyright protection always expires at the end of the calendar year of the year it is set to expire. In other words, the last day of copyright protection for any work is December 31. For example, if an author of a work died on June 1, 2000, protection of the works would continue through December 31, 2070.
There's a ton of money to be made with free public domain items, and there all over the internet. You just have to find them. I can type in the search bar, public domain and it brings up a ton of websites on the topic of free public domain.
I've published 20 books of my own, that I wrote, but I'm thinking of publishing some public domain books from the past. All you have to do is find them, slap a new cover on them and publish them on Amazon, and Create Space.
Books are not the only thing you can sell from public domain. There are thousands of things out there, like photos, videos, songs, public articles, news paper writings, and many many more, you just have to find them. Now just because a website tells you it's public domain, you have to be very careful not to take their word for it. You should make sure that something your interested in is not still copyrighted. Go to the patent website and research everything you want to resell. You don't want to end up in a law suit.
I hope some of the resources on my website helps you and lots of luck to you...