Copyright and reuse

Copyright Statements and Reuse

Copyright Complaints and Take Down Notices

Obtaining Higher Resolution Images for Reuse or Commercial Purposes

Copyright Determination Guidelines


Unless otherwise noted, material in the Digital Library has generally been determined to be free from copyright or other restrictions based on a diligent search process outlined below. However, in the event that a determination is incorrect, there is a process for notifying us, also described below. As with all Smithsonian content, items in the Digital Library may be used in accordance with the Smithsonian's terms of use.

Copyright Statements and Reuse

Below the book viewer for each book in our Digital Library is additional bibliographic information, including a copyright statement.

"Not in Copyright"
Most books in our digital library are in the Public Domain, and the statement will be "Not in Copyright". “Not in Copyright” items may be used, reused, and repurposed as you wish. However, we ask that an attribution statement such as "Image Courtesy Smithsonian Libraries" is used, along with a link back to the original source on our site.  Please be sure to correctly cite the book in your preferred citation style.

"No known Copyright restrictions"
Some books will have the statement "No known copyright restrictions" rather than "Not in Copyright". This means that the Libraries has made reasonable effort to research the copyright of that title and found that the work was not protected or copyright was not renewed. See “Copyright Determination Guidelines” for more information. The Libraries is not aware of any copyright restrictions on this material.

"In copyright. Digitized with the permission of the rights holder."
Books labeled "In copyright. Digitized with the permission of the rights holder" have been scanned and are made available with permission from the publisher or author. These items may have other restrictions, including the prohibition of reuse for commercial purposes. If you wish to reuse portions of an in copyright book for anything other than fair use purposes, please contact us.

Copyright Complaints and Take Down Notices

Based on copyright research, the Smithsonian Libraries will indicate which works included in the Digital Library have no known copyright restrictions, as outlined above. In the case where restrictions are known, permission will be sought from the copyright holder.  However, the Libraries respects the intellectual property rights of all authors and takes copyright complaints seriously. 

If you are the copyright holder or the authorized representative of the copyright holder for a work in this collection, and you believe your copyright may have been infringed and would like the Libraries to remove the work, please email Libraries staff at SILimages@si.edu.  In your message, please include:

  • Bibliographic details, including title, author, date and publisher.
  • A link to the work on our website.
  • A statement about why you believe the work is still protected by copyright and why its use is not authorized by the copyright owner or agent; and
  • Written documentation, such as evidence of copyright and renewal registrations, establishing your claim to copyright.

Upon receipt of the notice, the Libraries will evaluate the claim and if it appears to be valid, remove the work or content, as appropriate.

Obtaining High Resolution Images for Reuse or Commercial Purposes

If you would like to purchase a very high resolution image for a commercial project, exhibition, or publication, please see our Rights and Reproductions page and complete an Image Request Form.

Copyright Determination Guidelines

In 2014, the Smithsonian Libraries, with guidance from the Smithsonian’s Office of General Counsel, created a workflow to research the copyright status of monographs (“Class A” materials) published in the United States between 1923 and 1977. The general process involves:

  • Evaluation of the physical copy and the catalog record.
  • A search of the Catalog of Copyright Entries (CCE) published by the Library of Congress and available online via the Internet Archive
  • A search of the Stanford Copyright Renewal Database for record of copyright renewal
  • At times, search of the original records held by the United States Copyright Office, Library of Congress
  • Documentation of all search outcomes

This process is similar to the Copyright Review Management System implemented by Hathi Trust. We believe that if no evidence of copyright for a work is found through this workflow, than that work is no longer protected by copyright law in the U.S. and  thus eligible for full cover-to-cover digitization by the Smithsonian Libraries and its partners, including the Biodiversity Heritage Library and Internet Archive.  Such works will be designated as having “No known copyright restrictions.”