NYPL Digital Gallery
The NYPL Digital Gallery is a digital archive created by the New York Public Library that provides free access to a large collection of over 500,000 digitized images, the majority of which are in the public domain. It launched to the public on March 4, 2005.
About this Project
NYPL Digital Gallery, according to the project description, "helps to fulfill the traditional mission of The New York Public Library to select, collect, preserve and make accessible 'the accumulated wisdom of the world, without distinction as to income, religion, nationality, or other human condition.' It offers broad public access to a wide range of historical and cultural documents that 'enable individuals to pursue learning at their own personal levels of interest, preparation, ability and desire, and help ensure the free trade in ideas and the right of dissent.'"
The site was "developed to provide free and open online access to thousands of images from the original and rare holdings of The Library. Spanning a wide range of visual media, NYPL Digital Gallery offers digital images of drawings, illuminated manuscripts, maps, photographs, posters, prints, rare illustrated books, and more. Encompassing the subject strengths of the vast collections of the Research Libraries, these materials represent the applied sciences, fine and decorative arts, history, performing arts, and social sciences."
Downloading and Licensing Images
Images may be freely downloaded for personal, research, and study purposes only.
As defined by NYPL, "commercial use is any use that brings value to the person or organization displaying the photograph to the public. It applies to commercial companies, nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, and individuals who use a reproduction of an image from NYPL in a book, magazine, newspaper, scholarly journal, CD-ROM, DVD, brochure, calendar, poster, flyer, postcard, documentary, TV show, feature film, video, exhibition, web site, promotional material, product, or advertisement."
Some concern has been raised over the library's assertion of usage and distribution control rights over the images it hosts, despite the lack of copyright status on the images due to expiration: " As the physical rights holder of this material, most of which is in the public domain for copyright purposes, the Library charges a usage fee to license an image for commercial use ... The usage fee is not a copyright fee. You are free to obtain a copy of these images from a source other than NYPL. Usage fees help ensure that the Library is able to continue to acquire, preserve and provide access to its collections."  It is unclear whether the library may legally enforce these conditions of distribution for public domain works under US copyright law.