Learn about copyright and federal government materials
Text, images, and logos you see on federal websites may be subject to copyright or other restrictions. Learn the rules before using materials from government websites.
Restrictions on using U.S. government materials
Not everything that appears on a federal government website is a government work (something created by a U.S. government officer or employee as part of their official duties). Content on federal websites may include protected intellectual property used with the right holder's permission. Before using U.S. government materials such as text, trademarks, logos, or images, check with the federal agency or program that manages the website to make sure the materials are not restricted.
Publicity and privacy rights
On federal websites, other people may have rights to the work itself or how it is used, such as publicity or privacy rights under state law. These 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.
Endorsement, trademarks, and agency logos
You cannot use government materials in a way that implies endorsement by a government agency, official, or employee. For example, using a photo in your advertisement of a government official wearing or using your product is not permitted.
You also cannot use federal government trademarks or federal government agency logos without permission. For example, in general, you cannot use an agency logo or trademark on your social media page to suggest endorsement or sponsorship by the agency.
In some cases, agencies will have specific language that they request you include with the materials they allow you to use. In other cases, agencies may release copyright-protected materials under a Creative Commons “CC-BY” or similar license, which requires attribution for use.
State and local government materials
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
- Copyright Law of the United States of America, Sections 101 and 105 – Read the section of the law that describes U.S. government works.
- U.S. Copyright Office Compendium, Section 313.6(C)(1) – Learn about “works of the U.S. government” and exceptions.
- Frequently asked questions about copyright – Find answers to common questions about U.S. government works.
- Difference between patents, trademarks, service marks, and copyrights – Many people confuse copyrights with patents and trademarks. Learn about the different types of intellectual property and get examples of each.
- Visit the U.S. Copyright Office website to search copyright records and to register your work.
Find U.S. government materials you can use
The Library of Congress (LOC) has a special collection of federal government materials that are not subject to copyright protection.
- Find copyright-free images from the federal government.
- Search LOC’s digital collections to find copyright-free books, newspapers, maps, music, films, and more.
LAST UPDATED: November 16, 2023