SLPL Digital Collections

Copyright Resources

Can St. Louis Public Library Grant Permission to Reproduce a Work From its Collections?

No. Whenever possible, St. Louis Public Library provides factual information about copyright owners and related matters in the catalog records, finding aids and other texts that accompany collections. As a publicly supported institution, we generally do not own the rights to materials in our collections. We do not charge permission fees for using materials, and generally do not grant or deny permission to publish or otherwise distribute them.

However, permissions and fees may be required from the individual copyright holder. You should determine for yourself whether or not an item is protected by copyright or in the public domain, and then satisfy any copyright or use restrictions when publishing or distributing materials from our collections. Transmission or reproduction of protected items beyond what is allowed by fair use or other exemptions requires written permission from the copyright holder.

How Do I Get Permission for Copyrighted Works?

It is up to the patron to obtain such permission. St. Louis Public Library will not investigate or determine the rights status of works; does not perform copyright research; and does not have additional information beyond what appears in the bibliographic record for a particular item. When unsure of how to research rights and restrictions, consider hiring a private copyright researcher or lawyer. Information about copyright is also available from the U.S. Copyright Office at

What Is Copyright?

Copyright protection is available in many countries to protect the rights of authors of creative works such as books and music. Each country's laws may be different. Each country's laws apply within the physical boundaries of the country.

In the United States, copyright is a form of protection provided by law (Title 17 of the U.S. Code) to the authors of "original works of authorship," including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Broadly speaking, the owner of copyright has the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

  • To reproduce the work
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the work
  • To distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending
  • To perform and display the work publicly

What is the Public Domain?

The public domain consists of works that are not protected by copyright law. Works may be in the public domain because their copyrights have expired, or they have been dedicated to the public domain by the rights holder, or they were ineligible for copyright protection in the first place. No permission is needed to copy public domain works; however, use of public domain works may nevertheless be restricted by licensing terms or by principles of privacy or publicity law or other applicable law. Works published in the United States prior to 1923 are in the public domain. U.S. Government works (prepared by federal employees in the scope of their employment) are not subject to copyright in the United States.

How Should I Credit/Cite Material From St. Louis Public Library Collections?

The Library is generally not the copyright holder of materials in the collections and should not be indicated as such. A citation acknowledging the institution and assisting further scholarship is appreciated: “Courtesy of the St. Louis Public Library”

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