Libraries: Permissions to use Library Materials
Although we can help you understand how the law copyright law works in general, the final responsibility for your uses is all up to you. Just as you do not own the copyright in every book that you buy, the University Libraries do not own the copyright in most of the materials in our collections. Where we do not hold the copyrights, we cannot give "permission" to use the materials.
Use of items from our collections may be legal in many circumstances: if it's fair use, if the work is in the public domain, if your use is covered by some other limitation or exemption. Sometimes, none of those circumstances will apply, and you'll have to seek permission for your use.
We do always appreciate receiving credit as the holding institution, when materials from our collections are reused elsewhere!
There are many works that are potentially covered by copyright (i.e., they don't appear to be in the public domain), but for which no copyright holder can be identified or located. These are often referred to as "orphan works", and they present challenges to researchers or creators who wish to make use of them - most notably that with no identifiable copyright holder, getting permission is nearly impossible! There have been numerous attempts to address the orphan works problem through legislation, but none of them have yet been made into law.
Unfortunately, even for orphan works, we do not own the copyright, and cannot give permission for their use. If a publisher or third-party is requiring you to get "permission" to use items from our collections, we can provide you with a statement explaining that we do not own the copyright.
Wait, why do I have to pay you then?
Libraries are allowed by law to make copies in certain circumstances. We do charge fees for reproductions (photocopies, scans, or otherwise) to cover our costs in making the copies. In some cases, we may charge additional fees, such as for special handling of particularly rare or fragile materials, or for access to materials in unusual circumstances. In all cases, the fee money goes to support the upkeep and continued operations of our collections.
When the Libraries Do Own The Copyright
In some cases, the University Libraries do own the copyright in materials in our collections. This is most frequently true for some of the special and rare materials generously donated to the Libraries or to our Archives and Special Collections by authors, illustrators, artists, or other creators. In these special cases, we are happy to discuss permissions for reproductions and uses that fall outside of fair use and other limitations and exceptions.
The Regents of the University of Minnesota own the copyrights in materials produced by the Libraries, such as most of the content on the University Libraries' website. We can, and do, grant permissions for uses of these materials. Please contact us directly to begin that conversation.
Unless otherwise noted, all content on the Copyright Information section of this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
This web site presents information about copyright law. The University Libraries make every effort to assure the accuracy of this information but do not offer it as counsel or legal advice. Consult an attorney for advice concerning your specific situation.