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1100.6 - Use of Copyrighted Material in USGS Information Products


Date: 06/26/2018

OPR: Office of Communication and Publishing


1.  Purpose and Scope This chapter establishes the policy for obtaining the rights to, and releases for, copyrighted material owned by others that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) intends to reproduce and use in its information products.   

2.  Authorities.

A.  Departmental Manual, 454 DM 1 – Use of Copyrighted Material

B.  Departmental Manual, 454 DM 2 – Rights in Government Funded Copyrightable Materials

C.  Title 17 of the United States Code (U.S.C.) 

3.  Nature of Copyright.  A copyright is a right granted by the Congress of the United States, under authority of the Constitution, to authors for the protection of their original compositions for a limited time. 

4.  Policy. 

Copyrighted material not owned by the USGS should be used only when necessary to help illustrate concepts or convey meaning.  The copyrighted material of others should not knowingly be incorporated into any information product prepared by or for the USGS, except with the written consent of the copyright owner or holder.  

Copyright ownership may be held by any person or institution.  Should the owner not gift or assign their rights to the U.S. Geological Survey or refuse a request to permit free use, then if the copyrighted material is considered essential, the copyright may be licensed for a fee or purchased.  Where a license is granted that permits USGS rights to use the copyrighted material in its information product, then it is important to note that such permission granted by a non-federal copyright owner does not in any way adversely affect the owner’s copyrights.

If the owner refuses a request to permit use for free, and if the copyrighted material is considered necessary to help illustrate concepts or convey meaning, a determination by the Department of the Interior (DOI) Office of the Solicitor may be requested by the USGS on the ability to rely on the “fair use” doctrine (refer to 17 U.S.C. § 107).  Should the doctrine be determined inapplicable, or if the USGS opts to pay a fee, the copyrighted material may be licensed or purchased for a fee.  The decision to either purchase or a pay for a license may be done prior to requesting a “fair use” determination from the Office of the Solicitor.  Any purchase agreements should refer to both the material that is copyrighted and the permissions or rights granted.

5.  Definitions.  For definitions of terms and exclusive rights associated with copyrighted works, refer to 17 U.S.C. §§ 101, 106.  

6.  References

A.  USGS Survey Manual Series 1100, Publishing   

B.  Science Publishing Network Copyright Information     

C.  USGS General Records Disposition Schedule 

D   United States Copyright Office, Library of Congress 

E.  CENDI Task Group – Frequently Asked Questions about Copyright 

7.  Responsibilities of USGS Authors.  USGS authors are responsible for securing permission from the owner of any copyrighted material that they intend to use, to quote at length, or to reproduce in USGS information products.  When permission is sought, USGS authors or their representatives should negotiate for the use of copyrighted material and for copyright permission with an eye to acquiring all reasonably foreseeable uses (e.g., the right to reference the material in print, digital, and audiovisual products).  USGS authors are expected to act in a professional, ethical, and legal manner with respect to copyrighted materials by fully complying with copyright laws and notices.

8.  Procedures.

A.  Many publishers require specific forms of acknowledgment or attribution when copyrighted material is to be repurposed.  If the publisher furnishes a format, the USGS author should use the publisher’s required wording.  Sometimes an instruction for specific wording is contained within the license itself, as in the case of Creative Commons works.  If no specific wording is required, the following statement should be used: “Copyrighted by (insert name of copyright owner), (insert year copyrighted); used with permission.”  All instances of use of copyrighted materials in USGS information products (e.g., print, digital, or audiovisual) must provide the acknowledgement or attribution within the information product.

B.  Each USGS request for a use and permission must be made in writing and directed to the copyright holder.  A signed, written authority or permission from the holder granting use of the copyrighted information must be retained by the USGS author in accordance with USGS publishing records management requirements. 

C.  Where USGS use of the copyrighted material is for free or fee, the USGS representative may use a USGS template or request the copyright owner prepare a written agreement.  Where the owner submits an agreement, it must be reviewed and approved by the DOI Office of the Solicitor or its delegate prior to being signed by the USGS.  Agreements should minimally include the following:

(1)  The scope of the license (e.g., print, digital, or audiovisual),

(2)  The rights granted and an assurance that the seller or licensor is legally empowered to convey or lease the copyright to all the material conveyed, and

(3)  A statement that the copyright holder agrees to indemnify the Federal Government for out-of-pocket damages incurred if the assurance is proven not to be the case.  Indemnification clauses are also recommended for transactions that involve the purchase of copyrights and copyrighted material, or the use of copyrighted material under license.

D.  When copyrighted materials are used in an information product, including on a Website or Web page, the following notice should appear:

“Although this information product, for the most part, is in the public domain, it also contains copyrighted materials as noted in the text.  Permission to reproduce copyrighted items must be secured from the copyright owner.”

E.  Fees that are required for the use or acquisition of copyrighted material to be placed in a USGS product, payment shall be made from the Center or Program area whose employee wishes to use the material.  Where a USGS Author wishes to incorporate at least a portion of the copyrighted work into their original work, they should be aware that requesting broad usage of copyrighted material, regardless of media, can increase the cost of obtaining the permission. 

F.  Copyright questions may be addressed to the Office of Policy and Analysis or directly to the DOI Office of the Solicitor.  

9.  Expiration Date.  This chapter must be reviewed biennially, or as needed.


/s/  Roseann Gonzales-Schreiner                                       06/26/2018


Associate Director for Administration