When conducting research for nonfiction books or magazine articles, if you start digging back far enough, you might run into resources that are in the public domain.
A research source that is in the public domain can be an invaluable tool. For one thing, you are free to quote from it, as long as you conclude it is a reliable source. If you need images to include in your project, you are also free to use images from that resource, as long as you are working with the original document.
In a publishing world that’s very paranoid about copyright issues, however, how can you determine if the resource you’re using is in the public domain? It can be tricky, but here’s a website that can help.
Type in the title of the book in question first. Then do an author’s name search.
If you get no results for either search, chances are highly probably that the title is in the public domain. You can feel free to use it, especially if you add a disclaimer to your published manuscript saying to the effect, “All efforts have been made to determine the copyright of materials used. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the author and continued efforts will be made to establish proper copyright credentials.”
-Contributed by Nancy I. Sanders