Copyright and Permissions
Materials created and produced by United States federal agencies, or by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person's official duties, are considered works of the United States Government. These works are not eligible for copyright protection, in the United States, and are treated as though they are in the public domain. However, not all records in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) are in the public domain – especially NARA’s Special Media holdings. Some records may contain, in whole or in part, material which is restricted by federal copyright law, state common law or state statutes that protect intellectual property, contract law, deed restrictions, or publicity rights in the United States or in other countries.
The Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. This law provides that under certain conditions, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish reproductions of materials, allowing that the reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research." Commercial or other uses without permission, beyond what may be considered in excess of "fair use” exemptions under Title 17 of the Copyright Law, may make the user liable for copyright infringement.
Where obvious copyright or donor imposed restrictions apply, written permission from the rights holders may be required before NARA approves a reproduction request. Where the status of an item that is part of NARA’s holdings is unknown or cannot be determined, NARA will generally make it available for reproduction with a warning to the user that the responsibility for the subsequent use of the materials lies solely with the end user per NARA regulations at 36 C.F.R. 1254.62. This responsibility includes determining, for each of the items provided, whether all or part of the work has been copyrighted, and whether that protection has lapsed. This responsibility also includes determining whether any performance-based or other rights are claimed in the items provided.
NARA does not confirm copyright status for any items, indemnify the user from legal or other action, or provide a definitive statement of public domain status, copyright, or other intellectual property or proprietary rights. Further, NARA does not license its content, or grant exclusive or non-exclusive publication privileges or usage rights to records. NARA can provide users with any information that was acquired with the material, such as accession files, agency catalogs, scripts and production files, and deed of gift agreements.
NARA reserves the right to refuse to fill any reproduction request if, in NARA’s judgment, fulfillment of the order might violate copyright law, or is not accompanied by permission from the copyright holder or collection donor. NARA maintains a Source and Permissions Contact List for some motion pictures, sound and video sources.
NARA recommends that researchers contact the United States Copyright Office at The Library of Congress to search currently copyrighted materials, or seek guidance of legal or rights and clearances specialists. For more information about copyright law in the United States, please visit the United States Copyright Office.
For more information and exceptions to Copyright in US Government works
Publication of Photographs Furnished by the National Archives Still Picture Branch
Generally, copies of photographic records held by the National Archives may be published without special permission or additional fees. The National Archives does not grant exclusive or non-exclusive publication privileges. Copies of Federal records, as part of the public domain, are equally available to all. A small percentage of photographs in our holdings are or may be subject to copyright restrictions. The National Archives does not confirm the copyright status of photographs but will provide any information known about said status. It is the user’s responsibility to obtain all necessary clearances. Any use of these items is made at the researcher’s or purchaser’s own risk.
Proper credit lines are encouraged in the interest of good documentation. They also help inform the public about government photographic resources that are available. Because so many of our requests for information cite credits and captions that appear in published works, the inclusion of a photo number in hard copy and electronic publications is of great assistance to both us and the public.
Examples of preferred credit lines are as follows:
National Archives photo no. 80-G-32500
Credit National Archives (photo no. 306-NT-186000)
Courtesy National Archives, photo no. 26-G-3422
National Archives (111-SC-202199)