Permissions and Copyright

Special Collections is committed to providing broad access to its collections for teaching, learning, and research. Our website, catalog records, finding aids, and digital images enhance scholarship and promote use of both the digital and the original object. By downloading, printing, or otherwise using text and images from Special Collections, you agree to comply with our Terms and Conditions.

Your Responsibilities

You are solely responsible for determining the copyright status of any materials you may wish to use, to investigate the owner of the copyright, and to obtain permission for your intended use. If the content in question is under copyright, permission to publish should be sought from the owners of rights, typically the creator or the heir to the creator's estate. Permission to examine born-digital materials or printed copies is not an authorization to publish. 

Public Domain and Fair Use

Special Collections welcomes you to use materials in the public domain and to make fair use of copyrighted materials as defined by copyright law.

  • Public Domain
    You do not need to obtain permission to use materials in the public domain. Cornell University's Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States guidelines  may help you to identify what is and is not in the public domain in the United States.
  • Fair Use
    The United States copyright law contains an exception for fair use of copyrighted materials, which includes the use of protected materials for certain purposes of teaching, scholarship, research, criticism, commentary, and news reporting. For guidelines on the fair use exception, please refer to the Website of the United States Copyright Office.

You are solely responsible for determining whether your use is fair and for responding to any claims that may arise from your use. By using materials from our websites, you agree and warrant that your use will not violate the rights of the Special Collections or any other person or entity.

Commercial Use

If you wish to use any copyrighted materials or content on our websites for commercial use or any purpose other than fair use as defined by law, you must request and receive prior written permission for your intended use from the copyright holder. (See Researching copyright below for assistance with investigating copyright status and ownership.)

Researching Copyright

The copyright holder is usually the author of the material or the author's heirs or assigns. The following are resources that may assist your investigation of the copyright status and ownership of the copyrighted material you wish to use:

  • WATCH File
    The WATCH File (Writers, Artists, and Their Copyright Holders) is a database containing primarily the names and addresses of copyright holders or contact persons for authors and artists whose archives are housed, in whole or in part, in libraries and archives in North America and the United Kingdom.
  • U.S. Copyright Office
    Search records of registered books, music, art, and periodicals, and other works, including copyright ownership documents for all works registered after January 1, 1978.
  • Internet Archive Copyright Records
    Search records of copyright ownership from the United States Copyright Office registered between July 1891 and December 1977.

To identify and locate the copyright holder of a creator who has died, you may consider contacting the deceased creator’s heirs as a starting point starting point to locate the copyright holder. Genealogy sites, like those available from the Chattanooga Public Library's Local History department may be useful for locating heirs or other living relatives to inquire about copyright status.  Keep in mind that unless copyright was specifically bequeathed in a will, a creator’s heirs may not know that they hold the creator’s copyrights.

Privacy, Publicity, and Third Party Rights

The rights of privacy and publicity are separate and distinct issues from copyright. While copyright laws protect the copyright owner's property rights in the work, privacy and publicity rights protect the interests of the individuals who are the subject of the work. The right of publicity is a person's right to control, and profit from, the use of his or her name, image and likeness. This means that any use of a person's name, image or likeness for commercial gain is not permitted without his or her consent. The right of privacy is a person's right to live outside of the public eye and free from the publicizing of intimate details of his or her life, which means that directing unwanted public attention to a person may give rise to a cause of action. Keep in mind that while a person's right to privacy generally ends with his or her death, publicity rights associated with the commercial value of that person's name, image, or likeness may continue after their death. For example, many estates and representatives of famous deceased authors, photographers, celebrities, and other well-known figures continue to control and license use of their names and likenesses.

Unlike copyright, which is subject to the federal Copyright Act of 1976, privacy and publicity rights are subject to state laws; hence, what may be permitted in one state may not be permitted in another. Although fair use is a defense to copyright infringement, it is not a defense to claims alleging violation of privacy or publicity rights. Issues pertaining to privacy and publicity may arise when you contemplate the use of the materials housed in Special Collections. For instance, if you want to download a copyrighted photograph containing the name or likeness of one or more individuals for use in a paper, in addition to determining whether your intended use requires consent from the copyright holder, and, if so, securing the copyright holder's written permission, you may also need to secure the consent of the people who appear in the photograph in order to comply with state privacy and publicity laws.

You are solely responsible for addressing issues of privacy and publicity rights relating to your use of the materials.