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Permission to Use Materials

The Special Collections Research Center provides reproductions of items within its collections and licenses use of materials for which the University owns copyright for both commercial and non-profit use.  Please see Copies and Reproductions for a listing of services. All requests for reproductions are reviewed by SCRC staff.  The SCRC reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to revise or not complete an order due to preservation concerns, time constraints, or copyright violation.

Permissions and Copyright

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. This includes the reproduction and use of manuscripts and other published materials.  Patrons assume full responsibility for any legal questions that may arise as the result of their use of materials in the collections. 

Fair Use

Materials held by the Special Collections Department are routinely reproduced for private study, scholarship or research.  Under the fair use provision (17 U.S.C. § 107), such reproduction for private study, scholarship or research is not considered an infringement of federal copyright law. Any use other than private study, scholarship or research may be subject to copyright restrictions.

The George Washington University Libraries interpret the fair use provision of copyright law to mean that library staff can make copies from a work so long as the copies do not exceed one chapter, or ten percent of the work, whichever is less.

Public Domain

Generally, publications produced by the U.S. government are not subject to copyright laws (17 U.S.C. § 105).   Materials which have been first published before 1923 are also no longer protected by copyright law. Certain GW theses or dissertations may be copied, depending on the date of publication. Materials which are no longer under copyright protection will be reproduced without restriction because they are in the public domain. Users should provide appropriate reference to us so that their readers may locate the originals from GW’s Special Collections Research Center.

Cornell University has created a useful chart for determining whether a work is in the public domain: http://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/publicdomain.cfm

Copyrighted Materials

Materials that are still under copyright protection will not be reproduced in excess of the library’s fair use guidelines unless permission is granted by the copyright holder. The user is responsible for obtaining permission. Special Collections will make reasonable efforts to refer researchers to the copyright holder, but is not responsible for finding the holder or verifying the copyright status. Absent evidence to the contrary, all materials will be considered to be under the relevant copyright protection. 

The U.S. Copyright Office has a database that can be searched for information on all works registered with the U.S. Copyright Office since January 1, 1978. Users may also wish to consult the WATCH (Writers, Artists, and Their Copyright Holders) File, a database of copyright contacts for writers, artists, and prominent figures in other creative fields.

Materials for which the copyright is held by The George Washington University may be reproduced, and use permission granted subject to the following terms and conditions:

  • A written request must be submitted to Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) stating: the item(s) to be used; the intended use of the item(s); the type of publication or broadcast; and the projected date of publication or use.
  • A non-commercial or commercial reproduction fee (“Reproduction Fee”) (hyperlink to pricing) will be charged for each use of each reproduction.
  • In addition, any and all charges incurred by the SCRC in supplying the materials to the user shall be borne by the user according to the appropriate fee schedules and prices (collectively the “Special Fees”). Special Fees may include express shipping, dismounting, remounting, matting, and oversize original photocopy charges.
  • Proper and full credit must be given. Each reproduction (except when used in a film/video program) shall bear the credit line: Special Collections Research Center, The Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library, The George Washington University. When provided, photographer or collection names must also be included in the credit line. Each item must be credited individually, preferably near the image. (For film/video programs, a general credit line at the end is adequate.)
  • The reproduction will be used in its entirety, unless identified as a detail. Superimposing upon the image, cropping or bleeding off the page is prohibited without specific permission to do so.
  • If feasible, one complimentary copy of each publication in which the reproduction appears shall be provided to the SCRC at the time of publication. (Unless otherwise specified by Special Collections at the time of the request, images provided for film/video programs only require proper crediting of images used.)
  • Permission to use a reproduction is granted for one-time use only for the sole purpose specified in the request. Any subsequent or different use (e.g. reprints, second edition, special editions) must be applied for in writing and may be subject to additional use fees.
  • Distribution or resale of reproductions supplied by the SCRC is strictly prohibited.
  • In authorizing the publication or use of a reproduction, The George Washington University surrenders neither its own rights to publish, nor its right to grant permission to others to publish from its collections.
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