Public domain maps

Detail of Civil War map of Gettysburg PA 1863

Imagine that you want to digitally scan some existing maps, make a few changes to them, publish them yourself, and sell them as a collection. Can you do this? Sure, no problem … if the originals are public domain maps.

Maybe you want to compile a collection of Civil War maps. Like the one you see here, for example, which is a detail of a map from the American Memory collection at the Library of Congress. It’s from Map Collections: Civil War Maps, 1861–1865.

How do you know if a map is in the public domain?

Here are the main reasons a map could be in the US public domain:

To learn more about how to tell if a work is in the public domain for one of these reasons, and more, check out the tutorial on copyright and the public domain.

Did you know that parts of a map can be in the public domain?

Not every part of a map can be protected by copyright. If some parts of a map are in the public domain, you may use them freely.

What parts can you use without permission? These:

For more information on stuff that’s not copyrightable in the US (no matter what some greedy souls might tell you), see this page of the tutorial.

Okay, enough talk about how maps can be in the public domain ... check out this list of places where you can find public domain maps.