I love the public domain and I can think of no better way to spend a working day than looking for just one public domain item - there are millions to choose from - and turning that one item into a regular source of income for life.
In case you don’t know, the public domain describes creative works that are no longer protected by copyright, or which may never have been subject to copyright. Without copyright those items can be copied by anyone and sold for profit.
Just think about it, from millions of creative works available in the public domain, don't you think you could find just one each day, or one every week if you have a regular job, and then upload that product to ClickBank or eBay, Amazon or hundreds of other online marketplaces, and leave the money to roll in right from day one?
Get it right and even if your new product sells just one unit each week, at £20 perhaps, then that's £1,000 you'll be making every year from the sale of that one product. More likely however you'll be selling more than just one unit each week, so I'll leave you to work out the profits yourself.
With one product selling on eBay, it’s time to look for other items to steal from the public domain and you quickly turn each one into a regular source of income for life.
Here are some ideas to help you use the public domain to make regular high profits on eBay:
#1 - Superimpose a customer’s choice of face onto a vintage magazine cover. Basically, this idea involves taking niche subject vintage magazines from the public domain, such as golfing and dog publications, ballroom dancing and cooking.
You choose covers with close up portraits of winning golfers or champion dogs, award winning dancers and chefs, and so on. Then you very carefully blot out the original subject’s face and add someone else’s face where the old one used to be.
Then you print your cover onto quality paper, add a frame or mount, then you list it on eBay or elsewhere on and off the Internet with an invitation for people to order a similar product by submitting their own jpeg images or original photographs, and indicating their choice of magazine covers.
#2 - Recreate big cartoons. Instead of vintage magazines, as in the last idea, this time you take full page or double page cartoons from very early satirical magazines like ‘Punch’ and you superimpose another image in place of the earlier one. So you might take a cartoon for a military figure, such as Earl Haig, to which you add another person’s image, and again upload and offer your customised versions on eBay.
#3 - Pack songs and games, films and books onto one CD and use it as a bonus gift to accompany sales of other goods. So if you sell children’s toys you might offer a CD of nursery songs and games to fend off competition from people selling similar toys on eBay. If you’re selling dog kennels and other doggy stuff you offer a CD containing Victorian dog books. If you’re promoting televisions or television stands your CD might contain out of copyright Hollywood films, and so on. The trick on this occasion is not to sell your CD but to offer it as a cost-free bonus designed to steal business from rival eBay sellers.
#4 - Compile a big bundle of children’s colouring books and illustrations from Victorian times, scan them into one large pdf file, then sell copies as standalone products while also emphasising the fact that nothing similar is available on the high street!
#5 - Unusual and very old recipes are hugely popular in eBook format as well as on CD, and you can pick up hundreds of recipes from public domain libraries such as Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org). Then you compile your recipes into eBook format and sell them on ClickBank in downloadable format or on CD on eBay or other online market place.
#6 - Reprint early newspapers, especially historic and special headline publications. Headline newspapers commemorate specific anniversaries, such as 100 years since a fire at the warehouse in some specific location or since the Titanic tragedy and countless other memorable events. Anniversaries of births and deaths of famous people are also popular. You’ll find original newspapers available for low prices at auctions and flea markets, purely because most traders buy to sell them intact soon afterwards and don’t realise the enormous potential of creating saleable products from public domain texts.
#7 - Reprint ephemera and other paper collectibles. Ephemera describes items with a short shelf life, usually made from paper, and including the likes of newspapers and theatre programmes, tickets and invitations, and various other items which were usually used and discarded immediately afterwards. Original items sell well to collectors on eBay but there is another type of collector who doesn’t mind if the items are old or new, recent or vintage. That person simply wants information about specific subjects or places and might pay handsomely for reproduction copies of early paper items relating to his special interest.
#8 - Reprint vintage craftwork patterns. Many crochet, sewing and knitting enthusiasts today are keen to buy very old patterns of the type no longer available in craftwork supply shops. But images used on those very early patterns were usually hand drawn and are unlikely to look good alongside your listings for patterns on eBay. An attractive picture is vital to your chances of selling reprints of early knitting, sewing and crochet patterns on eBay, and that picture from the original pattern is not going to fit the bill. So you need to have the product properly created, in physical format, and then photograph your product to use as the illustration for whatever knitting, sewing and crochet patterns you are selling on eBay.
Now you know there’s money to be made from the public domain you need to know is how to determine if an original item is in the public domain or if it’s protected by copyright and could find you drowning in deep legal hot water for making and selling copies.
Sadly, copyright law can be complex and you really do need to be sure you can copy an item, and sell it, without breaking any rules.
So I recommend you do as I always do, and use the longest copyright term as your guide to determining whether you can copy and sell another person’s work on eBay UK, and elsewhere.
In the UK, most items fall into the public domain after seventy full years (January to December) after the year in which the creator or last surviving creator of a creative piece died. That means, for example, if a sole creator died on 2nd January, then you’d have to wait until the following January 1st to begin calculating your seventy year period. If someone dies on New Years’ Eve, then the seventy year period begins the following day.
Rules vary according to where an original item was created and in which country copies are being sold, so you can either study copyright law in depth, or use the seventy year rule to apply to items originally created in the UK and which are available from you solely on eBay UK.
That should keep you problem free and continuously uploading new public domain based products to eBay.