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Federal copyright law says that "Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government." 17 U.S.C. ยง 105. This is a broad and clear statement that works of the federal government are in the public domain and are free for use by all, but by specifying works of the United States Government, the statute fails to address the copyright status of any works of state governments, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. It turns out that figuring out whether state documents are copyrighted is a tricky question, and we've created this website to help identify the relevant laws in each state.

Click on a state to see a review of the copyright status of government documents within that state, or use the states menu above. Red indicates that documents are presumptively copyrightable, green indicates that documents are presumptively public domain, and colors in between indicate a tendency to one or the other where the governing law is not clear.


We hope that this state copyright guide contributes to your research about state copyright and the public domain. The guide provides a general, and necessarily limited, discussion of various state laws, regulations, and cases; it does not purport to give specific legal advice. The Office for Scholarly Communication provides education and outreach to the Harvard community, including information about open access, copyright law, and other related legal information. The material contained herein is for informational purposes only as a service to the public, and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel.