Copyright and Fair Use: the Basics

Resources for Basic Copyright Information-- this is not legal advice.

Limitations of This Page!

A government document is not automatically in the public domain.  There may be copyright limitations on any government document.

This page discusses copyright issues associated with FEDERAL or U.S. government documents.  Copyright law surrounding US published materials is well-established and guidelines are available.  However, there have been changes over time and there are many subtle issues when documents are co-published with state, university or private organizations.  STATE level copyright matters are NOT discussed on this page.  Each state has it own copyright laws that should be consulted before reuse of published materials that are from state, county, and municipalities.

Government Documents - What Are They?

U. S. federal level government documents are items published, in paper or electronic form, by an agency or entity of the United States federal government.  Currently, many, but not all, of these items are published and distributed by the GPO (Government Printing Office). Government documents can including reports, maps, technical materials, data, statistics, tax information, and congressional information.  Some agencies publish and distribute documents independently of the GPO. 

Items from federal government agencies that may be of interest to the University of Arkansas community are added to our library catalog.  This will include a link if the document has a good online version.

Public Domain

"Public domain refers to works that are not protected by copyright and are publicly available. They may be used by anyone, anywhere, anytime without permission, license or royalty payment." From CENDI/2008-1, Frequently Asked Question About Copyright.

Attribution using appropriate styles is still required in most situations, especially in the academic world.