Special Collections - Copyright Information

This information pertains to material in the Booth Family Center for Special Collections, the Woodstock Theological Library, and the Bioethics Research Library (subsequently referred to collectively as Special Collections). If you are considering reusing, including publishing, material obtained from Special Collections, please note that the Georgetown University Library does not hold the copyright to most of the materials in its collections. In most cases, the Library cannot grant permission for reuse of materials from our archival, manuscript, rare book, art, or other collections. You are solely responsible for determining the copyright status of the materials you wish to use, establishing who the copyright owner is, locating the copyright owner, and obtaining permission for your intended use if needed.

  • For unpublished works, you will need to locate the creator of the work or his or her heirs to request permission to publish.
  • For published works, the publisher usually holds the copyright.
  • Guidance on locating copyright owners and requesting permission is available on our Requesting Permission page.

Certain materials in Special Collections are exceptions to this general rule.

Georgetown University Owns Rights. For selected materials in Special Collections, Georgetown University owns the copyright in the work or has a license from the copyright owner to grant permission to researchers for publication. In these cases, we may be able to assist you with obtaining permission. Permission requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and there may be donor or other restrictions, even if Georgetown University holds rights to the requested materials.

Public Domain. Materials in the public domain are not protected by copyright, so you do not need to obtain additional permission to use such materials. The term “public domain” has a specific meaning within copyright law, and does not include most materials available online, even if they are freely available to the public. For further information on how to determine if the material you are using is in the public domain, visit our Public Domain page.

Fair Use. The Copyright Act contains an exception for fair use, which allows the limited use of copyrighted materials for certain purposes, including teaching, scholarship, research, criticism, commentary, and news reporting. For more information on fair use and its limits, visit our Fair Use page. Please note that library staff cannot assist you with determining what is or is not fair use; you are solely responsible for making that determination.

Our goal is to promote the use of our Special Collections for research, scholarship, learning, and other activities within the confines of copyright law. We are very interested in what materials have been of particular interest to visitors to our Reading Room, library exhibitions, and DigitalGeorgetown. If you have used Special Collections materials in an article, book, website, documentary, or other publication, please let us know how our collections supported your work by sending a short email to librarycopyright@georgetown.edu.

Privacy and Publicity Rights

Copyright law protects a copyright owner's property rights in a work, while privacy and publicity rights protect the interests of the individuals who are the subject of the work. Questions about privacy and publicity rights may arise from the use of materials in Special Collections. Unlike copyright, a federal statute, privacy and publicity rights are subject to state laws, which may differ from state to state. You are solely responsible for determining whether there are any privacy or publicity issues relating to your use of Special Collections material.

Privacy. The right of privacy may be invaded in several different ways, including disclosing intimate details of an individual’s life. The right to privacy generally ends with the death of the individual.

Publicity. The right of publicity prevents the unauthorized commercial use of an individual's name, likeness, or other recognizable aspects of one's identity for commercial purposes without permission. Publicity rights may continue after an individual’s death.

For more information:

Privacy and Publicity Rights (Library of Congress, American Memory)

The rights of publicity and privacy (Public Domain Sherpa)