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02H government work not copyrightable

Where to Look in the Law

1909 Act: §7
1947 Act: §8
1976 Act: §§105, 403 (notice on works incorporating U.S. Government work)

“Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government, but the United States Government is not precluded from receiving and holding copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise.”   (§105 from 1978 to present)

“Whenever a work is published in copies or phonorecords consisting preponderantly of one or more works of the United States Government, the notice of copyright… shall also include a statement identifying, either affirmatively or negatively, those portions of the copies or phonorecords embodying any work or works protected under this title.”  (§403 from 1978 to February 28, 1989)

IMPORTANT: Although copying of United States Government works is not a violation of the Copyright Act, it does not follow that all copying of U.S Government work is lawful.  Take heed: The unauthorized reproduction and dissemination of classified material can be prosecuted as treason or espionage.

Copyright Office Publications for Laymen

Circular 3
“Works by the U.S. Government are not eligible for copyright protection. For works published on and after March 1, 1989, the previous notice requirement for works consisting primarily of one or more U.S. Government works has been eliminated. However, use of a notice on such a work will defeat a claim of innocent infringement as previously described provided the notice also includes a statement that identifies either those portions of the work in which copyright is claimed or those portions that constitute U.S. Government material. An example is: ‘© 1998 Ann Doe. Copyright claimed in Chapters 7-10, exclusive of U.S. Government maps.’”  (Information Circular 3)

“Copies of works published before March 1, 1989, that consist primarily of one or more works of the U.S. Government should have a notice and the identifying statement.”  (Information Circular 3)




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