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Q: Are the declassified documents of the US government copyrighted? ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: Are the declassified documents of the US government copyrighted?
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: dr_chung-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 15 Sep 2003 04:05 PDT
Expires: 15 Oct 2003 04:05 PDT
Question ID: 255983
Are the declassified documents of the US government copyrighted? If
not,how come the website Declassified Documents Reference System
(,which stores lots of declassified documents of
the US government,can claim "information received through this product
may be displayed, reformatted and printed for your personal,
non-commercial use only. You agree not to sell the information
received through this product to anyone, including but not limited to
others in the same organization, without the express prior written
consent of Gale."(see
Subject: Re: Are the declassified documents of the US government copyrighted?
Answered By: missy-ga on 15 Sep 2003 06:25 PDT
Hello dr_chung!

According to the United States Copyright office, US government
documents are NOT copyrighted, but works *containing* US government
documents may be, under certain circumstances:

"Works by the U. S. Government are not eligible for U. S. copyright
protection. For works published on and after March 1, 1989, the
previous notice requirement for works consisting primarily of one or
more U. S. Government works has been eliminated. However, use of a
notice on such a work will defeat a claim of innocent infringement as
previously described provided the notice also includes a statement
that identifies either those portions of the work in which copyright
is claimed or those portions that constitute U. S. Government

    Example:  2002 Jane Brown. Copyright claimed in Chapters 7-10,
exclusive of U. S. Government maps

Copies of works published before March 1, 1989, that consist primarily
of one or more works of the U. S. Government should have a notice and
the identifying statement."

Publications Incorporating U. S. Government Works

The University of Rochester explains as well:

"US government publications may be used without constraint, except to
the extent that they contain copyrighted work from other sources. This
classification consists of documents prepared by an officer or
employee of the US government as part of that person’s official
duties. It does not extend to documents published by others with the
support of US government grants or contracts."

US Government Publications

The short of it is that the Gale Group cannot rightfully claim
copyright of the government documents.  Their copyright notice appears
to be a generic blanket notice intended to cover the entirety of their
collection - some of what they offer they may well hold copyright for,
but they don't for the government documents.

Another way to look at this is to compare it to the copyright notices
often found in phone books.  Virtually every phone book claims
"Copyright (year), all rights reserved.  No part of this publication
may be reproduced by any means without written consent of the

...or words similar. 1991, in the FEIST PUBLICATIONS, INC. v. RURAL TEL.
SERVICE CO. Supreme Court case, it was ruled that facts cannot be
copyrighted.  The ruling stated, in part:

"Article I, 8, cl. 8, of the Constitution mandates originality as a
prerequisite for copyright protection. The constitutional requirement
necessitates independent creation plus a modicum of creativity."


The following might also help explain:

Divining what is entitled to copyright protection

I hope this helps!


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