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How To Find Public Domain/Royalty Free/Creative Commons Video


As bandwidth has increased, so has internet users consumption of video. So over the past month, I’ve been cranking out videos about legal issues as a bit of an experiment. It took awhile for me to work it out and they’re still a bit rough – but they are steadily getting better (I hope).

The big problem was working out what type of videos I wanted to do. I initially looked around at videos produced by other lawyers – only to discover they are almost universally horrible. Lots of single shot videos of a lawyer in a generic looking office droning on about a legal issue in the most monotone way possible. Either that or over-the-top bombastic claims about fighting for your rights, etc. So that was right out.

Instead, I decided to explore putting together more “newsreel” style clips with a voiceover. The only problem – where to find high quality video clips that were in either the public domain or royalty free. I thought I would be able to find video like this fairly easily, but there doesn’t seem to be a central resource for such video online, so it actually took a good bit longer than I had initially planned.

Just in case anyone else out there wanted to produced videos of their own, here’s a listing of the site I’ve been using for Public Domain, Royalty Free, and Creative Commons video:


  • Internet Archive: Moving Images –  Archive’s Moving Images library of free movies, films, and videos. This library contains thousands of digital movies uploaded by Archive users which range from classic full-length films, to daily alternative news broadcasts, to cartoons and concerts. Many of these videos are available for free download. Check the license for status of video rights.
  • Open Video Project – The purpose of the Open Video Project is to collect and make available a repository of digitized video content for the digital video, multimedia retrieval, digital library, and other research communities. No copyright clearance has been obtained for audio or video elements in these productions. We encourage researchers to use the data under fair use for research purposes.
  • US National Park Service B-Roll Video – Downloadable, QuickTime H.264 movie clips are available as zipped files that can be decompressed for use in video editing applications, web sites and other projects. All video clips are public domain.
  • Custom Flickr Search for HD/CC Licensed Video
  • Vimeo Channel for Public Domain Video
  • Stock Footage For Free – Around 100 clips of royalty free stock footage.
  • Video Blocks – Charges monthly access fee to download royalty free clips. 7 day free trial, 20 downloads a day. So you can pull 140 clips for free, which is what I did.
  • Bottled Video -Best for last. Not all HD, but over 10,000 free clips to use. Best source for free stock footage I have been able to find.


As for actually producing the videos – I have a Mac, so naturally I’m using Final Cut Pro for editing. For text video production, I’m using Motion. I taught myself to use both of them over the course of a couple weekends – it’s not really that difficult if you sit down and commit to it.

I was initially using a crappy microphone, but the audio sounded so bad I decided to research microphones. I ended up settling on the Blue Snowball Microphone. It picks up great audio and is easy and straight forward to use. I’m using it for straight audio recording, but it also has an omni-directional mode so it would work well in a round-table/interview setting as well. Although, I have to say it was larger and more intimidating than I had expected! For audio recording I’m just using the podcast setting in Garageband. I’m sure there are better programs, but it’s free and easy to use. I’ve been going with KISS throughout learning video production.

All in all, it’s been a fun experiment. One thing I did not expect was the time commitment involved in producing videos in this style. I’d say there’s probably a 30ish minute to 1 minute ratio of production time to final video. So expect a 5 minute video to take you around 3 hours to produce once you’ve gotten the hang of it.

I initially committed to producing one video a week for a month to force myself to learn how to do it. Now that I’ve done it – I’m only going to produce a video when I have a really solid concept for one – it just takes too much time. Far easier to crank out a few hundred words for a blog post!



About Keith Lee

I run this joint. I like to write, talk, and think about law, professional development, technology, and whatever else floats my boat. I practice law in Birmingham, AL.


  1. Hey – we’re doing an article on this – can I interview you?

  2. This piece of information is pure gold