Digitization and Copyright


LC Glass Negative Scanning (800dpi)

image manipulation software

Sample historical items to manipulate


  • Copyright in unpublished works (this covers most material in archives) lasts for at least the life of the author plus 70 years; a term which is longer than it used to be.
    • There is a special exemption for libraries and archives to make digital copies of materials for the sole purpose of preservation.
    • Works published in the U.S. before 1923 are in the public domain.
    • A “fair use” is a use for which you do not have to ask permission. You cannot know in advance whether a use is fair; a judge must determine whether the use was fair after the fact. There are four factors for judging whether a use is fair. All four must be considered; if a use meets one criterion but not another, the use is likely to be judged unfair:
      • the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
      • the nature of the copyrighted work;
      • the amount and substantality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
      • the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

There are several tools to help you discover whether a work is copyrighted and whether a planned use is fair, including:

Who holds copyright?

Securing Permission

Locating Public Domain Materials

There are also some search tools that help you discover items that you are free to use and re-use:

Permissions Logs

For your use:

To record copyright for NJ Digital Archive:

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