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SM 1100.6 - Use of Copyrighted Material in USGS Information Products


OPR: Geospatial Information Office

Instructions: This replaces Survey Manual (SM) Chapter 450.3 - Use of Copyrighted Material in Publications, dated September 16, 1996.

1. Purpose and Scope. This chapter deals with the use of copyrighted materials in USGS information products. For other aspects of copyright law and its implications, refer to Title 17 of the United States Code (USC) and U.S. Department of the Interior, Departmental Manual (DM) chapters 454 DM 1 and 454 DM 2. Copyrighted material may be donated to and accepted by the Government, or the rights to copyrighted material may be sold to the Government.

This chapter establishes the policy for obtaining the necessary rights to, and releases for, copyrighted material owned by others that the USGS intends to reproduce and use in its information products. Copyrighted material should be used only when necessary to help illustrate concepts or convey meaning. For such material, permission must be obtained from the owner prior to using it in USGS information products. These permissions should be broad enough to include all reasonably foreseeable potential uses for the copyrighted material, regardless of media (print, digital, or audiovisual).

2. Policy. Copyrighted material will not knowingly be incorporated into any information product prepared by or for the USGS, except with the written consent of the copyright owner. Use or permission granted by a copyright owner does not in any way adversely affect the owner’s rights. If the owner refuses a request for free use, and if the copyrighted material is considered necessary to help illustrate concepts or convey meaning, and the “fair use” doctrine (Title 17 USC § 107) is inapplicable, the copyrighted material may be licensed for a fee or purchased. Purchase agreements should refer to both the material that is copyrighted and the copyright permission because they are distinct and both need to be acquired.

3. References.

A. SM Part 1100 - Publishing
(1) SM 1100.2 - Approval of Information Products (currently SM 500.8 and SM 500.9)
(2) SM 1100.3 - U.S. Geological Survey Publication Series
(3) SM 1100.4 -Use of Outside Publications, Including Abstracts
(4) SM 1100.5 - Authorship, Acknowledgments, and Credits in USGS Information Products
B. 454 DM 1 - Use of Copyrighted Material
C. 454 DM 2 - Rights in Government Funded Copyrightable Materials
D. 432-1.S1 - USGS General Records Disposition Schedule (Chapter 1300-Publishing Records)
E. U.S. Copyright Office, Library of Congress
F. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Copyright from the CENDI Copyright Task Group

4. Responsibilities. USGS Authors. Copyright ownership may be held by any person or institution. 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, including, for example, 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.

5. Definitions. For definitions of terms associated with copyright, refer to Title17 USC § 101 and the CENDI’s FAQs About Copyright.

6. Procedures.

A. Many publishers require specific forms of acknowledgment when copyrighted material is to be reprinted. If the publisher furnishes a format, the USGS author should use the publisher's required wording. If no required wording is specified, the following statement should be used: "Copyrighted by (insert name of copyright owner), (insert year copyrighted); used with permission."

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 (Chapter 1300-Publishing Records).

C. In the event that the USGS is not given a free use of the copyrighted material, the USGS representative needs to prepare a written agreement, to be signed by the copyright holder that minimally includes:

(1) the scope of the license (print, digital, audiovisual),

(2) 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 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 for the use or acquisition of copyrighted material should be paid by the author's office. Authors 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 USGS, Office of Administrative Policy and Services or the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Solicitor.  

Carol F. Aten 4/15/05
Chief, Office of Administrative Policy and Services
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U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA, USA
Contact: APS, Office of Policy and Analysis
Issuing Office: Geospatial Information Office
Content Information Contact: Neil Mark, 703-648-4344,
Last modification: 30-Aug-2017@10:07 (kk)
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