Government Works – Copyright vs. Public Domain

Standard Disclaimer:

I am not an attorney and any comments I post are not intended, nor should they be construed, as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please consult a legal expert who is familiar with the area of legal expertise you need.

For government works, including publications, photos, etc., are they covered by copyright or are they in the public domain? To quote a blogger I read, “It depends.”

For the U. S. government, works done by federal employees as part of their duties typically fall in the public domain. However, using federal symbols in some cases can cause problems depending on how you are using them. Outside the U. S., governments at various levels may have their own laws on whether or not a government publication, photo, etc. is public domain or covered under copyright.

In the U. S., state, county, and local governments decide if publications, photos, etc. are public domain or covered by copyright. I had someone tell me that a particular state government’s works were public domain as he assumed they were because he hadn’t researched copyright law there. When I checked state law, the state made it clear works by their employees were covered by copyright and not in the public domain. If in doubt, check with whatever agency you are wanting to use to see if it is public domain or covered by copyright.


About Wichita Genealogist

Originally from Gulfport, Mississippi. Live in Wichita, Kansas now. I suffer Bipolar I, ultra-ultra rapid cycling, mixed episodes. Blog on a variety of topics - genealogy, DNA, mental health, among others. Let's
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