Is all USA government text on their website public domain?

Is all USA government text on their website public domain?

While all text or images produced by a government employee is not eligible for copyright and, therefore, in the public domain. There are several exceptions to this general rule.

Created by contractor
While it should go to reason that if the government hires a private contractor or firm to produce material for the government the contractor or firms work is copyrightable. After all, the government didn’t produce the work. When this happens if the government buys the copyright in addition to the work the government is still allowed to hold the copyright to the said work and it does not enter the public domain. When this occurs, you should see a copyright notice declaring the work under copyright.

Copyright abroad
While the work of the United States government and its employees is in the public domain; when abroad the work may be copy written. The government can then pursue copyright infringement upon individuals outside of the United States that use its works in a way they did not intend. The law gets a little fuzzy about this, so it’s safe to say if you’re not in the United States you need to check before you use any work from the US site.

Standard reference data
Standard reference data, or scientific data is not in the public domain and needs to be cited when used in any projects. The reasoning is that all scientific data has a need to be traced to its source to allow for research expansion. Therefore if it is biological, medical, scientific, or any other technical data you must source back to the original document.

Images or seals
Copyright law protects most images and seals as a necessity to prevent people from pretending to be an official government agency. Many other mascots used by the United States government are also copyright material as they were created by other agencies. Protection against use of government information and public domain material in order to imply a connection with the official agency is also against the law. So it’s best if you don’t send out those gag letters from NASA claiming your neighbor isn’t going to space.

Information from non-government agencies
While copyright law does not protect information from government agencies, there are several agencies we commonly believe to be government agencies, but are private firms. The best example of this is the Unites States Post Office, which is a private company and is protected under copyright law.

While paper coins can be reproduced if you state reasonable measures to insure that the money is easily distinguished from real money. Paper bills have a much harsher restrictions placed on them. Only one side of the bill can be printed on, or the bill must be at least 75% of the size of standard monies or 150% larger. Any files, dies, or copies that you use to make these images must be destroyed when you are finished copying the bills.

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