How can you profit from the public domain? Usually, if you get an idea from a product, or if you like a book and wish to write something similar, you know that you can't just copy the product or book directly. That would get you a serious lawsuit for copyright violation. On the other hand, public domain works are FREE for your use. You can republish them as is, although you might want to make a few changes such as putting in your own information, editing layout and packaging, etc. Or if you want, you can use the public domain work to create your own derivative work. Note: A derivative work is, according to copyright law, an artistic creation that includes aspects of work previously created and protected. Derivative works of copyright-protected works is prohibited by law, unless a specific permission is acquired by the author/copyright holder. Since commercial use of a work in the public domain is not protected by copyright law, creating a derivative work out of the public domain is commercially legal. Since you are free to use information/works from the public domain and use them either personally or commercially without restrictions, the possibility of profiting from public domain works is immediate and very real. Example of Public Domain Works All copyrighted works that were published before 1923. That may seem unimportant, until you realize that while today there is a staggering amount of books and other works published and copyrighted each year, when we talk about the public domain we are literally talking about centuries of published work! And most of this is extremely relevant to today's world. For example, there are strong niche followings for these areas: -- Self-improvement -- Making more money -- Art -- Classical movies -- Fiction -- All sorts of hobbies -- History And much more! Quick Facts About Public Domain Works Here are some quick facts that you should know about the copyright laws applying to the public domain. Note: These laws apply to works published in the US. For unpublished works and for works published outside the US, see the resources listed later on. * Any works published (with or without copyright) before 1923 are in the public domain. * Any works copyrighted in 1923 or later (with their copyrights renewed in time) will stay OUT of the public domain till 2018 or longer. This is due to a 20-year copyright extension enacted in the US in 1998. Usually you can check on the book itself the copyright date, and if a copyright is renewed, that date is also placed on the book. * Certain works copyrighted in 1923 or later may have already entered the public domain because of certain legal constraints. The following types of works o Works published in the US before 1989 without proper copyright notice and o Works published in the US before 1964 whose copyrights were not renewed * Works from 1923 or later that were originally published in countries outside the US may still be copyrighted regardless of whether they were printed with proper notice or renewed. * Works that were never registered for copyright prior to 1978, and were never published prior to 2003, are now in the Public Domain in the US if: o The author(s) died more than 70 years ago before the most recent New Year's Day. For 2005, this means authors who died before 1935. For more than one author, this applies to the last surviving author. This is just a quick overview of the copyright law to help you understand what you will be dealing with when venturing into the public domain. There are other people who have written comprehensively on this matter -- one such resource is from the Cornell Copyright Center: http://www.copyright.cornell.edu/training/Hirtle_Public_Domain.htm That contains a detailed and comprehensive table that tells you how the copyright law and the public domain applies to unpublished works, works published in the US and even works published outside the US. It is a truly remarkable and useful resource to have for a public domain businesses. Another brilliant (an understatement at best) resource is by the law firm Bromberg & Sunstein: http://www.bromsun.com/practice/copyrights/copyright_durations.html Using Public Domain Works For Profit For many different niches you can find at least a dozen, profitable business ideas by searching through public domain materials. And with the public domain, it becomes a snap to take the information you require, re-package it, edit it if necessary and voila -- you have built the backbone of your online business (content) in no time at all. A business is either a service or a product. And as such, there is a certain level of quality that you must adhere to in order to be successful. It is also important to build a degree of trust, and in the long run that only comes with your customers believing that you can, in essence, "over-deliver". You can easily use works in the public domain to increase your profitability with your own info product. You can also use works in the public domain to save you time in creating your info product. And, you can use works in the public domain to market your own info product (for example, use a public domain work to put together an ecourse that recommends your info product in each issue). You can consistently jump-start your business ideas by giving them shape through the power of the public domain. Hiring a ghostwriter can be quite expensive. So, if you are not already a millionaire guru, what do you do? You certainly can't afford to spend $500 or more straight-up for someone to write your first product. You want something that is affordable, and allows you the chance to MAKE the money before you start spending it. Right? That's where the true power of the public domain lies. You can take a ready-made product and use it for your business. Even if you want to sell it just as it is (although you might want to edit it a bit to update the writing style and put in your own information), there are many, many works lying in the public domain that are 'instant information products'. One such product is an eBook on card tricks that I read recently. It is a scanned version of a card tricks book published in 1903. A quick search on http://www.wordtracker.com will tell you that this is indeed a niche product that is demand. While not a stellar niche, the idea here is to get started on a solid footing, and public domain works will help you do just that. The Public Domain Business The public domain is a very powerful resource. Since everyone can essentially use the same information, you can have a situation in which the same knowledge, packaged in more or less the same formats, is saturating the market. It is possible that the public -- the people buying your products -- now has 10, or even 20, similar products to choose from. That's not an enviable position to be in. Heck, it's almost like you were a real-world business. Think again. Is it that bad a deal, really? It is the same situation many brick and mortar businesses (or, for that matter, many online businesses as well) are in right now, and while many are failing, many are also quite successful in what they do. Look at the internet marketing niche for example. If that's not an over saturated niche, I don't know what is. Yet, many marketers are making hefty seven figure annual incomes selling info products to that target market. So, what's going on? Isn't market saturation bad? Yes. Economics tells us that if supply (you and your competition) is higher than the demand (the people's need to buy that particular information or product), then you're in for a bummer. With more sellers and less buyers, prices will fall and profits will vanish. So what's an honest guy going to do? Follow solid business advice. Don't move into a market that's already too saturated unless: * You have considerable experience in running a business * You have a special advantage in that market AND * You already have multiple streams of income to fall back on in case this deal goes bad. Instead, * Find a niche that has little competition, or still room for entry * Select your business model * Use public domain works as your product/content source, and * Market your business like crazy. Yes, that's right. Building a business from public domain works is not too different from building any other business, whether it's online or high street. The Public Domain Checklist All that you have to do is to follow simple steps and you can easily be on your way to your first online business using a public domain product: 1 Find a profitable niche 2 Find a quality public domain work 3 Create your e-book 4 Purchase hosting and domain name 5 Create your website 6 Market your product! That's it. The only part this is somewhat difficult is finding the idea -- after that, everything is just a set of tasks that need to be done in every business, and as such, there are countless free tools and strategies that you can use to gain an edge. The only other tricky part can be finding a quality public domain work. But there's even a new software product that even makes this part a breeze. It's called "Public Domain Explorer". You can get it at: http://www.publicdomainexplorer.com Here's how it works. You simply login to the software, enter your keywords (after you've researched your market of course!) and wait a few minutes. You'll be presented with a list of hard copy books available for sale at used book sellers all over the internet. Your job is simply to find the best quality book in the results for the best price and purchase it. Once you have that book in hand, you can either scan it yourself or hire someone to scan it for you. Again, you can go to the outsourcing sites and locate someone who can do this. In the long run, it will still be cheaper for you than hiring a ghostwriter and it will save critical time as well. When you're done, simply put together a quick website and begin marketing your new product! It's literally that easy to profit from the public domain. Why is Public Domain so Profitable? Public Domain works are profitable because: * Many public domain works include (nearly) timeless and entirely relevant information on wildly popular 'interests' such as making money, selfimprovement, writing, playing sports, interpreting dreams, astrology, public speaking, entrepreneurship, recipes and lots more. * The information is immediately usable -- for many public domain works all you need to do is to simply do some minor editing, re-package the knowledge into a medium of your liking (we'll discuss this in more detail a little later) and then sell it. Of course, you can also produce derivative works, but the power of immediate re-usability is one of the primary reasons many people are attracted to the public domain. * There is an abundance of such information. We're talking about publications that span over a century, and maybe even more than that when you take into account classic works that were published before copyright law even existed. * Use of a particular public domain work by someone else does not mean that you cannot use that same public domain work for your own commercial purpose. In other words, you can use the SAME public domain resources that someone else has used, and restructure them to suit your commercial venture. This is the real strength of the public domain -- the information is not a resource that is 'used up' over time -- in fact as more and more people begin to embrace the 'free information' movement (and the open source movement in software development), you will find that the public domain will only increase in size over time. * Public Domain works are in diverse mediums. You have software, books, instruction manuals, photographs, music and even government publications. Any and all of these mediums can be used to generate specific and different types of selling opportunities. * Public Domain works are not restricted in the format they are stored. Thus you can convert a book on interpreting dreams into an audio course, or create a website around a book on public speaking. This is more of a 'how to profit from public domain works' feature, but it's important enough to note here. There are many different reasons that public domain works are profitable. But essentially, the main reason is that they allow you to quickly and inexpensively start an ever ending info product business online with very little effort. What forms the public domain? There are two main aspects of the public domain: * What forms the public domain? * How can we profit from the public domain? At this point you must have a dozen questions: How does the copyright law work? How do you find out if a work is copyrighted or not? Where do patents figure into all this? How do we distinguish between 'ideas' and the work itself? What about derivative works? Before we tackle the meaty issues such as copyright law and the other questions, let's see how something can fall into the public domain. * All generic information such as facts, figures, scientific knowledge (but not inventions), mathematical formulas, ideas, etc. The work cannot be copyrighted. This includes things such as ideas, facts, theories, mathematical or scientific formulas, and also simple things like a list of ingredients or components. Therefore you cannot copyright the Theory of Relativity, or the knowledge of how to make a Molotov Cocktail (a type of a home-made bomb). * All publications by the government and its agents. Specifically, the US copyright law prevents such publications from being 'copyrighted' (this has a lot to do with the definition of copyright and copyrightable work) and thus they are directly part of the public domain. * Previously copyrighted works that have passed into the public domain due to expired copyright or other reasons. It is quite possible to find works published in the late 1800s and the early 1900s (late 19th century and early 20th century) whose copyright has expired and has not been renewed under current copyright laws. * Work that is placed into the public domain by its owners. The copyright owner dedicated the work into the public domain. This is more common than you think. An often-quoted example is that of freeware software or freely distributed source code. Sometimes artists tend to dedicate their work to the public domain as well. * Work created and published before there were copyright laws. This distinction is very important and is the sole reason why the works of Shakespeare are considered public domain while Darwin's ground-breaking book, Origin of Species, is protected by copyright. * The work was never copyrighted -- This is a tricky issue. Logically, if a person publishing his work does not acquire copyright, then by reason it is automatically part of the public domain. However, all is not as simple as it first seems. How can you use public domain works? There are countless ways that you can make money with public domain works. Let me just suggest a few to give you an idea of the possibilities: * Re-publish public domain content -- A lot of the information is relevant today. Books on recipes, public speaking, hobbies and learning languages all contain knowledge that is applicable to our time (50 or 60 years don't change the way you bake a cake, for example). All you need to do is to find the relevant public domain work, repackage it according to your needs and then create a business model around it. * Use Public Domain as a source of content for your website. Whether you want to start a membership website or just an informational website that earns money through advertising and affiliate revenue, the important thing is that you won't have to wait for months to create the content -- it's ready for you to use immediately. * Create a derivative work -- Use the public domain work to spawn targeted, nicherelevant products by creating your own product around it. * Change the format of the public domain work -- create an audio course for a how-tomanual to increase the 'perceived value' of the product so you can make more money off the same information. * Release the product in multiple, complimentary mediums. This is a combination of the above two ideas -- You can teach a course using audio CDs, instructional watchand-learn DVDs and package a learning manual together to make a killer course that is a physical product instead of allowing people to simply download your book. This immediately raises the value of what you're selling. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There dozens and dozens of concrete examples of using public domain works within your business, either to supplement your business model or to create a new income stream. Some people say that because the information in the public domain is limited, there's no point in going after the 'public domain riches'. In fact, there has never been a better time to start. What you should concentrate on is to find new ways to market old ideas. How can you do that? * Differentiate your product -- Instead of selling old and rare books, work on building a niche for yourself on old philosophical works only. This is a very viable business idea and I'll tell you how in a little while. * Find new ways to sell an existing product -- The usual example given here is to convert an eBook or how-to course into a series of audio tapes or videos. However, you can also take an existing public domain work and split it up into several parts, and sell them separately -- a public domain work on poker strategies could be divided into 3 parts -- poker games, poker history and poker strategies. * Create a new product out of an old idea Who can make money from the public domain? As it can be expected, knowing that something is profitable is not enough. You might think that finding and creating a saleable product from the public domain is too much work, or you may think it costs too much. You could also be worried that you don't have the right 'business experience' to pull off such a venture. Worse yet, you may think you're totally not an 'Internet' person. These are valid fears, although completely unnecessary. In fact, as you will learn, public domain works are the best way to immediately create quick-selling products, especially if you're just starting out in setting up your business. It doesn't matter if you're particularly knowledgeable about business matters or the Internet. To help allay your fears, just read the following list. Can you: * Spare around 1-2 hours a day towards a project that could build you a significant stream of secondary income? * Follow step-by-step instructions that will help you locate the most profitable areas and evaluate an idea's profitability? That's it. Anyone can profit from public domain works. All you need is: * A willingness to earn more money. * 1 to 2 hours a day working on your new income stream. Of course, you can choose to work a lot more -- maybe 4 hours, or even 6 hours, daily. But that won't change your level of success, it will only help you reach your destination, and build your income stream, faster. Here's a quick example. Let's say you find a book titled 'The Art of Playing Poker' from 1960 that you've checked and now know is free of copyright and is firmly in the public domain. What to do with it? Your first step would be of course to have it scanned (via an OCR service) and converted into an editable format such as MS Word or even simple text files. Next, you would decide what you actually want to do with the product. Let's say this is your first business venture and you're interested in getting started FAST and want to see some results before you dedicate more time and money to this idea. So what do you do? You can: * Break up the book into separate articles, build a website around the content and earn AdSense revenue off them. * Package the book into an eBook and sell it via a mini-site. * Create a membership website using the content. An extension of the first idea, this will require some work to keep the website updated regularly. Anyone who can take these very simple steps can profit with the public domain. Where to find Public Domain Works The third most popular question about the public domain (what is the public domain and how can I make money from the public domain are the top two) is: Where do I find public domain works? As you know by now, the public domain is essentially a huge network of copyright-free resources that are literally at your disposal to use as you wish (within the bounds of law, of course). The real kicker comes in when some newbie first hears about the public domain, fires up Google (insert your choice of search engine here) and types in 'Public Domain' (or the more refined searcher may type in: 'where to find public domain works'). The answer? I'll save you the trouble. A jumble of listings that tell you bits and pieces of the story. Most of them don't have any public domain materials in them at all. When searching for public domain materials to use in your business, try using the following top 10 internet resources for this task: 1. The Library of Congress -- http://www.loc.gov/ The Library of Congress is perhaps the greatest reference resource on the Internet, and as such is a goldmine for public domain works. 2. Free Online Books from UPenn http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/ -- A large collection of free online books that you can use immediately. 3. Virtual Theater http://www.vl-theatre.com/list4.shtml -- An online repository of free plays that you can use. 4. Literature.org http://www.literature.org/ -- THE literature website on the Internet. You can find all sorts of classics here. Who knows, maybe you could open a publishing house for old philosophy texts. 5. The Internet Archive http://www.archive.org/ -- A digital library of Internet sites -includes audio and video resources as well. 6. Ibiblio.org http://www.ibiblio.org/ -- A self-proclaimed public's library and digital archive. Links to other public domain resources as well as an excellent collection of resources as varied as Arts, Geography, History, Language, Science and a lot more. A must-visit public domain resource. 7. The Internet Public Library http://www.ipl.org/div/books/ -- A virtual library on the Internet. Very extensive public domain resources. 8. Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/ -- A de facto leader of the public domain movement, this is a huge collection of online public domain works. The books can be easily downloaded, and despite what Internet marketers might tell you, this is a top-notch resource. 9. Wikipedia -- Public Domain Resources http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Public_domain_resources -- Wikipedia is free, reader-maintained encyclopedia. As such, it has a fantastic list of public domain resources (And I'm indebted to this list to help provide many links in this book). 10. SearchGov.com http://www.searchgov.com/ -- Helps you search all .gov (government) websites for the topics of your choice. Using the Public Domain for Various Types of Websites Public Domain products allow internet marketers great flexibility. They can be used to profit from mini-sites by selling info products, create content for membership sites, or even for use in niche sites. Let's look at how you can profit with each type of site: Instant Information Products The public domain has the power to provide you with instant products. Pick a market, evaluate its profitability, and use a public domain work to immediately launch your infoproduct business. A stunning example of this is how you can use courses and books directly from the early 20th century to re-package and sell instantly online. The value of information in such books such as 'The Secret of Wealth' by Franklyn Hobbs is timeless and easily worth your time and investment and there are many such books available on the public domain. Membership websites If you are looking to start a membership website that provides quality information on a niche topic but do not want to invest too much in time and work (by writing the content yourself or paying someone to write it), you can use public domain information to get you started. Since start up membership sites traditionally need 2 to 3 months of information before offering monthly-fee subscriptions, the work required is quite a lot and if you can find public domain works to supplement your content, you may have hit a potential goldmine. Create multiple delivery streams This is a business maxim that Internet business gurus swear by. We have all heard about the power of having multiple income streams, but that's only half of the story. If you are delivering products through just one medium (i.e. through info-products or just selling services), you aren't realizing the maximum potential of the income-generating abilities of your business. As flowery as that sounds, consider the impact of using an audio-course, memberships, info-products and AdSense income on a single business venture instead of using just AdSense on an 'informational' website. While such a business venture requires a lot more work than just 'set and forget', you can still manage a great degree of automation. The key is to maximize your business potential by using every possible method to profit from your products. In all, the public domain can add another income stream from any type of site or can be used as a product alone on a single mini-site. Using Public Domain Materials To Solve Problems Public Domain materials can be used to solve problems for your subscribers and customers. Which public domain products could you use? One way to determine this is to simply list your daily-life problems -- tax trouble, computer maintenance in your office, a fear of public speaking, depression or any other personal, professional and family troubles you may be experiencing. Once you have such a list, turn them around into potential business ideas by finding out what people suffering from the same problems are searching for online, and then provide them with solutions. You can do this by doing some very simple keyword research. You can use a tool such as the free trial from WordTracker to do the research. Nothing complicated or expensive is required at this point. The public domain is an ideal resource for finding self-improvement advice, how-to instruction manuals and learning courses. Whether you want to learn a new language or improve your self-image, there are chances other people have the same fears and desires, and are willing to pay for them as well. Once you have a solid, profitable business plan for a common problem, turn it around by using public domain resources to directly create a solution or use the information to make a derivative work (expand the delivery mechanism or add some material yourself). Almost all possibilities with public domain works require that you use the information as a 'resource'. This is a critical concept to understand. Don't look at the public domain as a business opportunity. It's a crucial resource for content and information, and if you can find the right business idea, you can use public domain works to make money. But the public domain by itself will rarely make you any money -- you have to have a solid idea to start the process. Use Public Domain Products to Expand Your Current Business While you should attempt to maximize the potential of each business, you should start by spreading your income base quickly by setting up 4-5 small online businesses and focus on maximizing them later. With public domain, this approach is quite easy and is very successful. You can pick several public domain works, create different products for each of them and after you have set up their individual websites, return to improve and diversify each website. This will allow you to both generate multiple income streams and then maximize the income potential of each stream within a short period of time. So many people think of the public domain for starting a new business that they forget the strongest benefit of using the public domain -- instant content. If you already have a business that can use supplementary content -- search the public domain for possible content. Not only can such new content be used to increase your AdSense income but it can also 'sell' your other products and services by building your business reputation as an expert. Of course, it's not always possible to find relevant content (information on the latest microprocessor technology is unlikely to be in the public domain), but there are many niches (dream interpretation is just one example) that have more or less timeless appeal. If you operate a business that works in 'timeless' niches (a quick list is given later in this chapter), the public domain can become a far better resource than any ghostwriter you can ever hire! In any Internet Marketing basics course, the point is made time and time again that you should choose your first business from within your own interests. Logic says that people share hobbies and interests, and if there are enough people like you searching for information on these interests, you stand to make some serious money. This advice is both good and bad. While it is helpful to start a first business in a niche that is your interest, it's often the case that these niches are not very profitable -- there might be too much competition or not enough demand (or just not a 'buying' market). On the other hand, hobbies such as bowling, playing poker, crochet patterns or even architecture are excellent avenues for starting small public-domain- supported business sites. By using public domain works that outline everything from playing tips to history and immediately usable information (recipes for chocolate chip cookies, anyone?), you can carve your own little niche and not only build yet another income stream, but enjoy yourself while doing it as well. The point is that you should assess your current resources -- your business and your hobbies -- to see how the public domain can bring in new income for you.
The Competition in Public Domain Thanks to the abundance of online scams such as the 'get-rich-quick' schemes prevalent on the Internet, people seem to have forgotten that while there may be a thousand and one ways to make money, there are always a few core principles that invariably apply whenever you're talking about building a business or an alternate income stream. Do yourself a favor -- forget about getting rich overnight. Let's look at the 'competition' factor in the public domain. From what you've learned so far, you should know that 'competition' itself is not a byproduct of the public domain. Far from it. Even if many people end up using the same public domain resource, the results eventually depend on the niche you are trying to establish yourself in. If you pick a hyper-competitive market like Internet Marketing, you're bound to be lost in the crowd. Instead, if you choose a less-known but profitable market (a hobby like poker is wellknown but it's fairly well saturated while hobbies like yachting and sailing still have room for competition), even if there are others marketing the same material, you'll still have some of the market share easily available to yourself. There's a lot more to this. You need to learn how to package your product, how to leverage your visitors' interests and most importantly, how to drive traffic to your website. All that and more is covered elsewhere in this course. And of course, the public domain is not limited to books and reports. You have art, music, software, and most importantly, ideas. That's the beauty of the Public Domain. It tells you what you should already know: Ideas are not the property of any one person. Therefore, any idea, any great theory, any great scientific achievement can be used without fear of legal reprisals. Starting a Business using Public Domain Products Based on The Arts, Music, and Religion There are many potential business opportunities that you can launch with public domain works. Religion/Philosophy, The Arts, and Music are some of the popular categories where the public domain is very strong, where you can find your own niche within and build a thriving money-making business out of it. The core process here is to brainstorm -- once you understand what the public domain is about and get a clear idea of the sort of information available in the public domain, you can then sit down and brainstorm the different sort of niches suitable for public-domain driven businesses. Here, instead of finding a business idea first and then finding the right public domain resources, we will look at finding public domain works and creating businesses out of them. But, you'll need to make sure that the right market exists for any of these topics before you start running with the idea! Religion & Philosophy Religion is a sensitive topic for most people, and is bound to be controversial. That being said, there are a lot of public domain works concerned with religion, and commentaries on various faiths and critical issues in history and specific religions are very popular. As with any business venture, take care to evaluate the profitability of a particular idea before setting up a business, but in this case you can easily create both information sites and info-products. Philosophy has an equally important position in the public domain, and like religious issues has a constant following of search engine traffic. The trick is, of course, to find the right niche and plant your flag on it. The Arts Interest in the Arts is potential goldmine, if only because of the almost ridiculous amounts of money spent on paintings. From Sotheby to Louvre to backroom agreements, there is definitely a lot of money involved in this niche. The only problem is, how can you use the public domain to make the money train stop at your doorstep? Simple. Build information packages on artists and their work and sell them through your website. This is a hugely untapped niche -- while there may be a lot of competition in this area, many of these websites are old and not optimized for search engines, meaning that with proper SEO and marketing you can easily gain good search engine rankings. Music Classical music has a dedicated following -- but what's even better for you as an entrepreneur is the wealth of information ABOUT the musicians and their music in the public domain. Use this information, target the classical buffs and voila- you have contact. Starting a Business using Public Domain Products Based on Self Improvement There are many potential business opportunities that you can launch with public domain works. Self improvement is one of the popular categories where the public domain is very strong, where you can find your own niche within and build a thriving money-making business out of it. The core process here is to brainstorm -- once you understand what the public domain is about and get a clear idea of the sort of information available in the public domain, you can then sit down and brainstorm the different sort of niches suitable for public-domain driven businesses. Here, instead of finding a business idea first and then finding the right public domain resources, we will look at finding public domain works and creating businesses out of them. But, you'll need to make sure that the right market exists for any of these topics before you start running with the idea! The self improvement market is a virtual no-brainer. Every person has a problem or the other with bad habits, confidence, time management, people management and what not. Many of these problems are some what time-less and there is a vast wealth of public domain works on these subjects. Here, you have the freedom to create membership websites and special, membership-only forums as people are willing to pay a lot to find solutions to their problems. The only problem is that this is a hotly contested niche, and that you will have to do one of two things to make money here: Either find an unfilled niche, or use unorthodox marketing methods to drive traffic to your website. Most likely you'll have to provide more than just public domain information to profit from a long-term business commitment, but if you're looking for just another income stream, a quick-fire info-product on self-improvement can do wonders for your bottom line. Starting a Business using Public Domain Products Based on History There are many potential business opportunities that you can launch with public domain works. History is one of the popular categories where the public domain is very strong, where you can find your own niche within and build a thriving money-making business out of it. The core process here is to brainstorm -- once you understand what the public domain is about and get a clear idea of the sort of information available in the public domain, you can then sit down and brainstorm the different sort of niches suitable for public-domain driven businesses. Here, instead of finding a business idea first and then finding the right public domain resources, we will look at finding public domain works and creating businesses out of them. But, you'll need to make sure that the right market exists for any of these topics before you start running with the idea! History is one such category where public domain materials are readily available. History has always held a deep-seated interest for many people. Whether the interest is topical (a la Da Vinci Code), or long-lasting, there is a lot of money to be made through the public domain. The key here is to find the right target -- you can either have informational websites (the most common and easiest business model to set up) and earn money through AdSense (this will cost you very little to set up, and earn you recurring income for a long time to come) or create an informational product based on any particular issue. If you're creating info-products for history-based niches, ensure that there is a lasting demand for your product. Current events and trends are a great barometer of what history the public is interested in. While there are always mainstay items like famous authors and artists, topical history niches such as the Napoleonic Wars may not generate that much interest (although you can possibly move laterally to selling war memorablia, and use public domain information as content to attract visitors through search engine). Starting a Business using Public Domain Products Based on Government Publications There are many potential business opportunities that you can launch with public domain works. Government publications are one of the popular categories where the public domain is very strong, where you can find your own niche within and build a thriving money-making business out of it. The core process here is to brainstorm -- once you understand what the public domain is about and get a clear idea of the sort of information available in the public domain, you can then sit down and brainstorm the different sort of niches suitable for public-domain driven businesses. Here, instead of finding a business idea first and then finding the right public domain resources, we will look at finding public domain works and creating businesses out of them. But, you'll need to make sure that the right market exists for any of these topics before you start running with the idea! The US government routinely releases information on taxes, health care and other government policies into the public domain. If you are involved in providing consulting services in any of these areas, using the public domain as an important resource for your website will help build trust and more importantly, increase both your traffic AND your conversion rates. There are two important lessons when working with the public domain, though: The public domain is a resource -- not a business itself. Use it as one of the supports in your business, but using just the public domain won't get you anywhere. Even if you have to do something as simple as do some minor editing, repackage the product and write a sales letter, you'll still have to put in some effort and strategy into the business -- it's not instant coffee, although in a lot of cases this is instant content. There are two ways to make money from the public domain. You can have a business or business idea and then use public domain works as a source of content, or you can search the major categories of the public domain and brainstorm new business ideas. Use both techniques to make money from the public domain. Specific Money Generating Public Domain Ideas If you've been trying to build a business online for awhile, you probably have at least a dozen business ideas storming in your head. Let's discuss how to use those ideas and combine them with the public domain to create instant products and in the end, instant businesses. One way to do so is to use public domain material to profit from trends. Remember Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code'? The book was an instant success, and is a guaranteed best seller. Ever since it's release, interest in the book, and especially the ideas and controversies it raises, has risen exponentially. Even in April 2005, almost an entire year after the book's release, the term 'da vinci code' generated over 5000 searches on Overture per day, and when you convert that number to Google (a rough estimate puts Google searches to be at a ratio of 8:1 to that of Overture, but we'll take a conservative estimate of 5:1), you get almost 1 million searches per month. When the movie was about to be released, daily searches were up to 13,224, or 396,724 searches each month! This number has been constant for the last few years and most likely was a lot higher when the book was released. Currently the competition for the website is roughly twice as much, but that is only due to the book's popularity over the last 6 to 8 months. But how could you profit from it? Simple; use the public domain to provide images and articles on the topics discussed in the book (the Priory of Sion, the 'sacred feminine', Leonardo Da Vinci and his paintings, to name a few) and use AdSense to raise income from the website itself. With your content coming from the public domain, and your traffic coming from the search engines and PPC engines (even today the cost-per-click for keywords related to the book are between 10 to 25 cents), you also have the opportunity to sell the public domain information in the form of a product -- perhaps you find an old treatise discussing Da Vinci's treatment of Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, or maybe you find an authentic history of the master artist. The lesson here is to keep your eyes open for major search trends launched by movies and books that prompt a massive interest in history, religion, geography or even science -it is quite possible find such topics freely and heavily available in the public domain. Should you hire a lawyer to certify a Public Domain Work? Whenever you want to use a public domain work in your business, you should consider getting the work certified by the copyright office. The next question, then, is whether you should hire a lawyer to do so.. There is a lot of 'research' work and copyright checks that you can carry out yourself (or pay someone to carry them out for you) without having to go through legal hassles. In the end, you will only need a lawyer if you violate the copyright law. Even then, there are certain grey areas where the law is not so clear, and your own interpretation might be at odds with the court's interpretation, thus putting you in hot water. So take the situation case by case. If you are sued, you will definitely need a lawyer. Apart from that, the best bet is to stick to guaranteed public domain works. If you can verify with certainty that a work's copyright has not been renewed (provided the work was published before 1964), then you can safely consider it public domain. Similarly, if something was published without a copyright notice before 1978, it is in the public domain as well. The only glitch comes when you launch your own derivative work of another copyrighted work or a work whose status you cannot determine through research. There is also a problem if you work with unpublished works. In these situations, it is best to hold a counseling session with an intellectual property lawyer before taking any definitive business steps. Many people get discouraged by high attorney costs. On the other hand, you have to weigh all your costs (research, copyright checks, attorney fees, production, marketing, etc) against your expected profits and then decide whether it is worth the investment or not. If you find a killer niche which can easily bring you a high monthly income, maybe spending a few hundred dollars to protect yourself from litigation isn't that bad after all. Copyright issues only arise for works that are unpublished and works published after 1922. I'd suggest that you start off with pre-1923 published works even if they bring in smaller profits (the idea is to build multiple income streams). Then, once you have a constant stream of income, you can make bigger investments and move into the unpublished and post 1922 works. And of course, avoid copying trademarks for commercial purposes. Even if you significantly change it, chances are that you will be slapped with a lawsuit faster than you can say: "Do I need a lawyer?" Resolving copyright issues A general rule for determining whether a public domain book is in the public domain is to check if it is published. If the book is published and the copyright date is 1922 or before,then it is in the public domain. But the real problem comes for works that are: * Published after 1922 (1923 and onwards) * Not published at all For works published after 1922, there are several other criteria -- yes, the copyright law becomes a bit convoluted, but here's the gist of it: * If the work is published before 1964 without copyright renewal, it is in the public domain. * If the work is published before 1978 in the US without formal copyright notice, it is in the public domain. And if these two conditions are satisfied (work is copyrighted and was renewed), we now enter the area of copyright law that has many content publishers protesting. Essentially, the current copyright laws (based on the 1976 Copyright Act and the 1998 copyright extension) mean that any works published after 1922 (that have been copyrighted and renewed) cannot enter the public domain until 2019! The good news is, if this can be called good news, that 2019 onwards, the public domain will start gaining a year's worth of creative content every year. While this may seem like a long time to wait (and like I've shown in this book, there's no need to wait that long), that is when the real power of the public domain will materialize (unfortunately, there are chances that the copyright laws will become even more stringent). If the work has not been published, there is a simple method to find out if it falls into the public domain. Unpublished works in the public domain begin with works created 120 years before the current year of reckoning, and for authors who died no later than 70 years before the present year. It simple terms, this means that if the current year is 2006 and you want to use an unpublished work as public domain, it has to be created in 1886 or earlier, and the author has to have died by 1936 or earlier. If not, the work is not in the public domain. Resolving copyright issues Two cases -- copyright renewal and unpublished works -- present challenges for public domain users because this is the most difficult task in the public domain business -verifying that a creative work can be used as public domain or not. There are several ways you can check copyright renewal for yourself. These links are included below, and of course, the easiest one is to do this online. If you happen to live in Washington D.C. (home of the Copyright Office) or near a large library like the San Francisco Library, you might save on some money by heading down to the location and looking through the copyright records yourself. Alternatively, partial copyright renewal records are also placed online. These aren't search-friendly (just direct scans of the actual documents), so you might find this a hassle as well (but it is cheaper than the next option). If you really want to do this right (and save your own time as well) the Copyright Office can verify copyright renewals for you for a per-hour fee. There is a document entitled "Copyright Status" available from the Copyright Office themselves outlining the process through which a person can verify the copyright renewal on any potential public domain work. The best part is that they also offer to certify the copyright search (for an extra hourly fee of course), as something that can 'meet the evidentiary requirements of litigation'. In other words, the Copyright Office will provide you with a legal grounding for your endeavor if you choose to use a public domain work. What about unpublished works? Whether you are in possession of an unpublished work or come to know of one, the process of determining its position is the same. * Find out who the author is. * Find out the date of creation. With the name of the author, you can usually search the Internet to find any possible background information, and when they passed away. Using this information and the date of creation, you can then determine if the work is in the public domain. How to find Public Domain Works Believe it or not, there's actually some method to the search madness when looking for public domain materials to use in your business. The search engines have a hard time trying to organize the information precisely because the Internet is so decentralized and vast. In this scenario, the expert searcher does not rely on Google; he relies on specific search strategies. The debate however, rages on about where to find public domain works: On the Internet or in the real world, sifting through libraries and stores holding old books? The answer, of course, is two-pronged: You can use both avenues to supplement your research -- find a public domain title via the Internet and acquire through a real-world search. Alternatively, you can also download some public domain works from the Internet, and despite what people might tell you, finding public domain works in bookstores and libraries is quite easy. In searching for public domain material you can use: The Search Engines A search engine can only point you to the general direction of public domain repositories, and as such should only be used if you don't have any previous leads on a market. Niche Directories This is a little better, as directories allow you to find niche-specific information. The only problem here is that some directories may not have the same breadth of information as the search engine might have, and as such you may miss out on a lot of decent public domain works. Government websites If you are looking to use government publications as your target public domain resource, then the Internet is your haven. Most, if not all, government publications find their way online and very quickly, as well. This is excellent news for anyone wishing to use such information as content for their website, or as part of their services. Online Libraries This is where it starts to get interesting -- while most online libraries will consist of recent to moderately old books, you can find many fantastic public domain resources here. The best part is that many local libraries have started creating online portals, and you can search in your local library before actually heading over. If that is not the case, the best you can do is to find the relevant public domain work and once you have a title and author, search for it online -- more on this later. Finding Public Domain Materials On and Offline There are several public domain websites on the Internet that offer nothing else except public domain works. And, of course, there are many marketers (some famous and some not so famous) selling public domain material. The most recent addition to this group was Russell Brunson with his fascinating collection of 'The Lost Files'. While this is an amazing package, the problem is that of redundancy -- the books have been on the market through other public domain marketers for almost a year, and already have a lot of competition in their niches. Where to focus? Always keep an eye out for great content, but remember that anything sold in a package is something the marketer thought they could make more money off by selling to newbie marketers rather than work on it themselves. One resource you should definitely look at is: http://www.nichepd.com This is a very useful package. In fact, there is even a free public domain work provided on this website. Other than public domain packages, there are dozens of online public domain portals. But remember, if you don't already have a great idea in mind (and thus a matching niche to search in), you could spend a lot of time browsing through public domain works and checking up on their profitability. Many online marketers discount the actual hustle and bustle of searching for public domain works in libraries and bookstores to be an unbearable burden, not only on your daily time but also on your mental capacity. But hang on, is it really that difficult? Considering that if you really find a good niche through your Internet research and the possibility of profits is more like $1000 per month rather than $100 per month (as many public domain packages by themselves as sold by the marketers end up generating), wouldn't you take out a few hours to go and find the right public domain resource? In most cases you can find the right niche, find the book title AND conduct the copyright research, all online. Then, if the work is available online, you can easily download it, or if you have to look for it in libraries, then just call your local library or bookstore and ask -- it's as simple as that. Libraries and bookstores are a wonderful source of information, public domain or otherwise. You can also get many business ideas just by browsing through the magazine section of your bookstore, or going through the old books in the library. Once again, contrary to what marketers will tell you, finding the public domain work is not hard -- you just have to know where to look. Do It Yourself Or Paid Copyright Searches for Public Domain Certification When determining whether a document is in the public domain, should you pay for the copyright search or should you do it yourself? This is a good question, and the answer lies, as usual, in the method. You should find two to three solid business ideas from confirmed public domain works (works published before 1922, or government publications, or works 'donated' to the public domain). You can then use them to start off two or three income streams, and once you have a small but steady income from your fledgling online business empire, expand by picking up more lucrative topics that may require more research and money. Let's face it: No one is going to help you build a fortune by selling you the content for $27, $47, $97 or even $197 if they could possibly use it themselves in a massive way and generate at least $1000 per month from it. Thus, what you are getting from public domain packages on the Internet is small stuff -- works that you can use to get started, but definitely not your final destination. Use these packages if you feel the need (Russell Brunson's The Lost Files and NichePD.com are two excellent starting points) to get a quick start, but in the end, if you want to build a serious business, there is only one way to do it: Do it yourself! The fees charged by the Copyright Office are not too exorbitant ($70/hour for copyright search and an additional $80/hour for search report certification) and subject to change -you should contact the Copyright Office to confirm not only the rates, but also how much time they will need for the whole process (just give them the details of the work (title, author, etc) and they will give you an estimate. Assuming that you have to spend $400 (a fairly high estimate) on copyright research, is it worth it? If you've followed my advice, you would only go for a business idea (and thus a potential public domain work) if the returns were significant -- say at least $1000 per month. If yes, then the initial investment might be worth it (you would easily recoup your investment within a month). On the other hand, if this was to be a $200 per month venture and you had to spend $600+ to set everything up, you might want to think twice (although in the long run you might still end up with a profit. Competition for Public Domain Works Public Domain works cannot be 'used' up like a regular resource, such as oil or coal. So, if one entrepreneur (or infopreneur) taps up a public domain work on 'making more money' or 'public speaking', nothing is stopping you from using the same resource for your own business venture. How does that work? Let's take a real-world, non public domain example. Consider the number of pizza joints in your town? Quite a lot, aren't they? And yet, almost every month or so, you hear of a new pizza place opening up. Essentially, what are these people doing? They are taking an idea, and differentiating it to build a business. There's a powerful business idea enshrined in that sentence. What is it? There are seldom new ideas, but there are always new products. You don't need to 'invent' something, or 'create' something that is 'new'. In fact, all you need to do is follow the two basic marketing principles: * Find an idea or need that is in hot demand (we already discussed this when you learned how to research your market); * Find a new way to package and sell that idea/solution. There are details, but if you are looking to keep one eye on the 'big picture', these are the two steps any successful business MUST have taken. You can use the same information/public domain work that someone else has used, and create your own product from it! But wait: What about market competition? That's a very good point and an important one in this case. If too many people start marketing the same type of products (that is, there is too much competition in one market), it isn't as profitable as before to start a business in that niche. However, it's important to understand the 'nature' of the Public Domain. The Public Domain is not a business in itself. It is the information, the knowledge contained in public domain works that can be used within a business. In other words, the public domain is a very powerful resource. Nothing more. Since everyone can essentially use the same information, you can have a situation in which the same knowledge, packaged in more or less the same formats, is saturating the market. Can the Public Domain Ever Be "Used Up"? When discussing public domain, people often ask: The public domain is limited. Even if it will never be 'used up', it's going to be used more and more compared to what will be added to it in the next few years. What will happen then? Will the public domain become useless? First off, there is literally so much contained within the Public Domain already that so many of the regular people don't know about, that there is no chance of the public domain 'running out' of options in the foreseeable future. And then, of course, more work is being added to the public domain every day. This is another area where people are often ignorant, or just don't make the effort to think hard (no offense, it's a big problem with the world today). When most Internet Marketers talk about the public domain, they only talk about books and recipes and self-improvement courses. Now, this is either because they don't know better, or they're not telling you everything. In both cases, they are doing you a huge disservice. The future of Public Domain is in its diversity. With government publications on environmental issues, public health issues, and many more subjects of relevant interest being placed in the public domain every year, this is just ONE of the sources of public domain that you can use to generate a stable income stream. But there are literally THOUSANDS of sources of public domain. You'll find music, software, art, movies, and more. Most importantly, the public domain is full of ideas! Many of those ideas can help you in your business. How does this help you? There is more than one way of profiting from a market. For now, remember this: The Public Domain is far wider, and far deeper an ocean than you think (and the Internet Marketing gurus would have you believe).
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