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Learn about copyrighted government works

Most government creative works, including text and images, are copyright-free. But there are exceptions. Learn what works you can use and where you can find them.

Learn what U.S. government works are copyrighted

Before you use a U.S. government work, check to make sure it does not fall under one of these exceptions:

  • Other people may have rights to the work itself or how it is used, such as publicity or privacy rights. Privacy and publicity rights protect the interests of the person or people who may be the subject of the work. Learn more about copyright, privacy, and publicity rights from the Library of Congress.
  • You cannot use government trademarks or government agency logos without permission. For example, you cannot use an agency logo or trademark on your social media page.
  • You cannot use a government work in a way that implies endorsement by a government agency, official, or employee. For example, you cannot use a photo of a government official wearing your product in an ad.
  • Works prepared for the government by independent contractors may be protected by copyright. The copyrights may be owned by the independent contractor or by the U.S. government.
  • Not everything that appears on a government website is a government work. Content may be protected intellectual property used with the right holder's permission. This content can include:
    • Text
    • Trademarks
    • Logos
    • Images
  • To ensure that you do not use protected intellectual property, check with the agency or program that manages the website.
  • The U.S. government work designation does not apply to works of state and local governments, which may be protected by copyright. Contact your state or local government for more information about their copyrighted works.
  • Copyright laws differ internationally. U.S. copyright laws may not protect U.S. government works outside the country. But the work may be protected under the copyright laws of other jurisdictions when used in these jurisdictions. The U.S. government may assert copyright outside of the United States for U.S. government works.

Learn more about U.S. government works and copyright law

If you have questions about U.S. government works, contact the U.S. Copyright Office.

Find copyright-free U.S. government works you can use

The Library of Congress (LOC) has a collection of government works that are not subject to copyright laws. 

LAST UPDATED: August 23, 2023


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