National Library releases out-of-copyright works

Every year, on 1 January, creative works come out of copyright and into the public domain. Most of these works are now available for anybody to use freely without permission or restriction. 

‘When works enter the public domain it means they are no longer in copyright and are literally public property,’ said Bronwyn Coupe, Director of Rights Management. ‘That means anyone can use them freely, without needing copyright permission from the original maker. They may be copied, published, adapted or incorporated into new works. It’s really exciting to think about the future of many of the older works collected by the Library which are now available for reuse.’  


New National Library collection items in the public domain this year include unpublished works by authors who died in 1951, orphan works (i.e. works with no known author) created in 1951, and government publications created in 1971.  

Prominent Australians who died in 1951 include: 

  • Ben Chifley (1885–1951), 16th Prime Minister of Australia. The Library holds many of his unpublished manuscript collections, including a letter that Chifley wrote on the day of his death on 13 June 1951. 

  • John Flynn (1880–1951), founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the world’s first air ambulance. Library collection holdings include his papersmaps and an extensive photograph collection

  • Jennie Scott Griffiths (1875–1951), journalist and political activist. The Library holds her papers, including memoirs of her childhood and early married life in the United States and Fiji. 

This year, more than 1,000 maps in the Library’s collection have come into the public domain – predominantly government maps that were published in 1971.

Detail of map: Town of Wentworth Falls
New South Wales. Department of Lands. Town of Wentworth Falls and adjoining lands parish - Jamison, County - Cook, Land District - Penrith, City - Blue Mountains Sydney: N.S.W. Dept. of Lands, 1971, 

Historic maps are an important record of how places were named, where buildings were located and even, in some cases, who owned the land. 

Posters from 1951 also illustrate how places in Australia looked at the time, such as this poster promoting the City of Geelong.

Poster showing the City of Geelong
Geelong Regional Commission, Geelong – City by the Bay, 1951,

Other works entering public domain in 2022 

The Library will be highlighting its public domain collections during the month of January, through its social media channels – FacebookTwitter and Instagram

Listed below is a selection of Library collection items that have come into the public domain this year:

Maps and Tourism



  • Chifley, J. B., Letter : to Jim Robson 1951,

  • Anti-Inflation Conference. & Menzies, Robert, Records, 1951 July 31,

  • Australian Labor Party, Constitution referendum, September 1951, the case for "No" : speakers' notes, 1951, 

Industry and Trade


  • Round Table Conference. & International Institute of Administrative Sciences, Proceedings : 1951 Round Table, Nice - Monaco, May 24 - 30, 

  • Federal Congress on Regional and Town Planning. & Town and Country Planning Institute of Australia. & Planning Institute of Australia. & Town Planning Institute of South Australia,  The 1951 Federal Congress on Regional and Town Planning : record of proceedings, 1951, 

More information about copyright in library collections is available this includes advice on what to do if additional permissions are required before using items from the National Library collections.