Websites Collecting Materials in the Public Domain or With a Creative Commons License

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Summary of This Article

In the article What is Public Domain / Creative Commons? (also on this site) we explain how to use content without infringing on copyrights when creating course materials as a teacher, or when creating presentation slides or promotional materials for club activities as a student. As an additional resource, this page introduces websites providing content that falls under the public domain and that is licensed under a Creative Commons license (hereafter referred to as “CC license”). Please use this page as a reference when searching for content. The tags “Text,” “Data,” “Image,” “Video,” and “Audio” under each website name indicate the type of content provided by the website (as of 2022). Since the spread of the new coronavirus, attention to openly available content has increased worldwide. Please note that the websites introduced on this page are a mixture of Japanese, English, and other foreign languages.

List of Websites

Sites where you can search for public domain and CC-licensed material.

Before going into the various field-specific websites, we will introduce you to websites where you can learn what public domain and CC licenses are and search for materials generally.

Finding Public Domain & Creative Commons Media

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This is an article about how to find public domain materials and CC-licensed materials on the Harvard Law School Library website (in English). It also includes a list of links to sources for materials.

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This is a search engine provided by Creative Commons (in English). You can search for CC-licensed material using keywords. You can also narrow down your search by selecting criteria such as "Use commercially" or "Modify or adapt”.

Sites Distributing General Materials

The following are websites that do not limit themselves to specific genres but deal comprehensively with information in all fields.

Wikimedia Foundation

The Wikimedia Foundation operates a variety of projects that provide content in the public domain or under CC licenses. Note that some types of CC licenses require separate permissions or credits.

Wikimedia Commons

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Wikimedia Commons offers a variety of media files, including images, audio, and video, that anyone can freely use. There are a large number of images available on Wikimedia Commons, which makes it especially useful when attaching images to slides as decorations or reference materials. For example, if you are looking for a picture of a giraffe, instead of searching for "giraffe" on the Internet and randomly selecting your favorite image from the search results, you can find safer materials more quickly by searching for “giraffe Wikipedia” or “giraffe Wikimedia Commons”, or by entering “giraffe” in the Wikimedia Commons site search.


Wikisource is an electronic library of freely available texts. It holds documents such as laws, literary works, historical documents, lyrics, and speeches.


Wikibooks creates and provides a free library of educational textbooks that anyone can edit.

Open Educational Resources

Open education is the practice of making knowledge and information widely available and sharing it with others so that everyone in the world can have access to high-quality educational resources. Learning materials and teaching aids that are made freely available to everyone as part of this process are called Open Educational Resources (OER). This includes not only lecture videos and slide materials, but also syllabi, research results data, and so on.

Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources

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This is a website (in English) that explains various things about open educational resources, including how to search for them.

Academic Video Online


Academic Video Online (AVON) is a site (in English) that distributes about 70,000 videos covering a wide range of fields such as anthropology, business, film, health, history, and music. Academic institutions such as libraries can subscribe to the site and make it available to their members. (As of March 2022, the University of Tokyo does not have a subscription.)


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Togo TV is a portal site that provides tutorial video archives explaining how to use databases and tools in the life science field, as well as lecture videos, illustrations, and other materials. Users can search by keywords and tags. The original site of Togo TV is mostly in Japanese, but there is an English interface for overseas users. All videos are provided under a CC license.

World History Commons

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World History Commons is a website (in English) with a rich collection of peer-reviewed digital content concerning the world, especially world history, for teachers, researchers, and students. It includes links to free content regarding a variety of genres and regions, not just history.

OER by Discipline Directory

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This website (in English) aggregates CC-licensed digital content for educational purposes by field. However, the amount of content is limited and seems to be somewhat uneven by field. Terms of Use are listed at the bottom of the home page.

Literature and Books


If you want to include the cover image of a reference or recommended book on a slide, first check if the book is listed on This website lists the cover images and bibliographical information of published books and books to be published in the future. You may use any of the books on this Web site for introductions and other purposes without obtaining permission. However, please refer to the Terms of Use, as trimming and other modifications are prohibited. You can also search for books published outside Japan.

Aozora Bunko


Aozora Bunko uses volunteers to digitize works whose copyrights have expired, or whose authors have granted permission for free use, in text and XHTML format. The collection is mainly composed of modern Japanese literature such as Soseki Natsume, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, etc.

Photographs and Illustrations

If you want to add a little decoration or background to make your slides slightly more colorful, or if you want to add photos or illustrations to make your explanations easier to understand, you may find the following Web sites offering copyright-free images useful. Also, it is safer to use copyright-free materials for virtual background images during web conferencing and icons for online tools.

Old Book Illustrations


Old Book Illustrations is a collection of illustrations of old books mainly from the 19th and 20th centuries, including those by Beatrix Potter, famous for her picture book "Peter Rabbit. You can search by author or publisher. Most are either in the public domain or available under a CC license.



Irasutoya provides illustrations of various people and scenes, all free of charge, and also offers multiple variations on a single topic or theme. Copyrights are not waived. Please be aware of the Terms of Use.



Photo AC offers more than 2 million photos uploaded by members. Membership registration is required, but the service is free of charge.

illustration AC


Illustration AC offers more than 1.3 million illustrations uploaded by members. Membership registration is required, but the service is free of charge.

Public Organizations

Many of the materials and data provided by government agencies and national laboratories in certain countries are in the public domain, open to the public, and can be used without permission for educational purposes. However, this is not the case in all countries, so please make sure to confirm this carefully.

Governmental Institutions of Japan

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Materials provided by national organizations such as governments, ministries, and courts are generally in the public domain. Each organization has a Terms of Use page with instructions on the rules for citing sources when referencing materials. Some of the materials may include materials from research institutes commissioned by ministries and agencies, and in such cases, it may be necessary to use the materials in accordance with a separate Terms of Use, so please confirm this carefully. e.g. Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology

Geospatial Information Authority of Japan

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Maps and various data provided by the GSI are available free of charge.

Governmental Institutions of America

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Materials published by the U.S. government, ministries, agencies, courts, etc., are basically in the public domain. If there is a special mention of the photographer or the provider of the image, the source must be indicated. e.g. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA

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If there is any special mention of the photographer or video provider, please be sure to reference each material separately, as the source must be clearly indicated.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA

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All materials are copyrighted by JAXA and the source must be indicated. No prior permission is required for educational use.

Libraries and Museums

Many libraries, museums, and art museums are releasing scanned images and 3D data from their collections, especially works whose copyrights have expired, and this trend is increasing after 2020. You will be able to browse historical materials and well-known works from all over the world without having to travel to see the work.

National Diet Library Digital Collections

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The Digital Collections provided by the National Diet Library in Japan is a digital database of domestic historical documents, old maps, educational videos, music, and other materials that have cleared copyright issues.

Library of Congress

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The Library of Congress, an agency of the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government, was established in 1800 in Washington, D.C., and is the largest library in the world in terms of both the number of books and staff. The library collects documents related to various topics, including American history and culture.

Biodiversity Heritage Library

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The Biodiversity Heritage Library, jointly established by libraries and research institutions in the United States and the United Kingdom, is a digital library of biodiversity-related literature and public domain images.

New York Public Library Digital Collections

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The New York Public Library is one of the largest private libraries in the world. Its digital collections include printed materials, photographs, maps, manuscripts, and video streaming.

British Library


The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom. It is one of the world's largest libraries and a globally significant research institute. The library offers maps and illustrations whose copyrights have expired on Flickr Commons.

Smithsonian Open Access

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The Smithsonian Institution, which operates 19 museums and research institutes in the U.S. in the fields of science, industry, technology, art, and natural history, has released digital images of millions of items in its collection. Photographs of sculptures, skeletal specimens, and other three-dimensional objects can be viewed from all angles by reproducing 3D-scanned data. The images can be freely downloaded and used for non-commercial purposes as long as credit is noted.

Tokyo National Museum

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The Tokyo National Museum has a digital archive of photographic materials, old documents, and old maps of cultural properties in its collection. The materials are available free of charge for non-commercial use.

National Palace Museum


The National Palace Museum, the largest museum in Taiwan, has a database of more than 70,000 images in its collection, including the famous "Jadeite Cabbage," available for free. The images can be used free of charge and you do not need to apply for permission.


The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., offers online access to many works by modern and contemporary artists, including Van Gogh, Monet, and Rousseau. Images of works from the museum's collection can be freely downloaded and shared.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the largest art museums in the world, located in Manhattan, New York. The collection includes works by Vermeer, Kuniyoshi Utagawa, and other world-famous artists. The collection search on the official website allows you to narrow down your search by period, region, and material. Open-access materials are in the public domain and can be used freely.

Art Institute of Chicago

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The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the largest art museums in the United States. The museum's online collection of Creative Commons licensed works of art, photographs of jewelry, and documents, including works by Seurat and Van Gogh, are available for public viewing.

​​Musée du Louvre


The Louvre Museum offers a free online collection database of more than 482,000 works from its collection, including the Mona Lisa. Images of the works are also available for download.

Paris Musées


Digital data of world-class masterpieces, mainly from France, provided by Paris Musee, a public organization that oversees 14 municipal museums in Paris, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Petit Palais de Paris, and the Catacombes de Paris. The data can be freely downloaded and used for commercial purposes without noting credit.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam


The National Museum of Fine Arts Amsterdam is the national art museum of the Netherlands and has a large collection of major works by famous painters, including Rembrandt's "The Night Watch," Vermeer's "Woman Pouring Milk," and others. Photographs of these works and pieces of jewelry are available to the public free of charge.

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

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The National Museum of New Zealand has a collection of historical and contemporary artifacts from the Pacific Islands, including fossils and specimens of flora and fauna, which can be viewed on the website.

Please also refer to the following pages.

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