Copyright Questions

The Beinecke Library is committed to providing broad access to its collections for teaching, learning, and research in accordance with Yale University Policy. The Beinecke’s 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 this Website, you agree to comply with the Library’s Terms and Conditions.

Except in a few special circumstances, the Beinecke does not hold the copyright to its materials and, hence, cannot grant or deny permission to use them. Accordingly, 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. In all cases, you must cite the Beinecke as the source with the appropriate credit line provided below, and, if a particular material is copyrighted, you must cite all copyright information and comply with all other terms or restrictions that may be applicable to that material. 

Permission to examine born-digital materials or printed copies is not an authorization to publish. 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.

Public Domain and Fair Use

The Beinecke Library 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 publishes a chart that 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 the Website, you agree and warrant that your use will not violate the rights of the Beinecke or any other person or entity. If you use or reproduce our materials in any format, we ask that the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library always be cited as the source of the material with the appropriate credit line found at the bottom of this page.

Commercial Use

If you wish to use any copyrighted materials or content on the Website 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.) As mentioned above, the Beinecke has been assigned copyright in only few special circumstances, and you must obtain permission for commercial use or any other use of these specific materials that is not fair use as defined by law by writing the appropriate curator. Permission is granted on a case-by-case basis at the sole discretion of the Beinecke. 

Direct research questions to the Public Services Department or the appropriate curator. For phone numbers and e-mail addresses of individual staff members, please check the staff page.

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: You can search a public database at the U.S. Copyright Office for copyright information on all works registered with the U.S. Copyright Office after January 1, 1978.

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 in Beinecke’s 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. Because the Beinecke’s collections are vast, it is not in a position to advise you on whether materials you wish to use require third-party permissions.

Access beyond Yale network to images restricted on the digital library

Some material on the Beinecke Digital library must be restricted to access from the campus network due to copyright, contractual, or other reasons. The library is committed to providing access to materials and we are committed to the honoring the rights of creators and those who have entrusted materials for stewardship. Researchers beyond the Yale network who are interested in images that are restricted to the campus network may contact the library at with requests. Please include the link for the items in your request. Library staff will respond. Your understanding and patience is appreciated in these requests, both given the complications sometimes present due to copyright and other requirements, and given the volume of inquiries the library receives, especially during a time of remote work.

Contact the library

Whenever possible, the Beinecke provides factual information about copyright owners and related matters pertaining to its materials. Please contact the Beinecke at the following email address if you have more information about any such material, or, if you are the copyright owner and believe the Website has not properly attributed your work or has used it without your authorization:

Crediting the Beinecke Library

For any use of the materials or content on the Beinecke Website, you must cite the Beinecke as the source of the original material with the credit line below that corresponds to the appropriate collection:

  • Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
  • Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
  • James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection in the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
  • Yale Collection of German Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
  • Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
  • The James Marshall and Marie-Louise Osborn Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
  • Frederick R. Koch Collection. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

Email the appropriate curator if you have questions as to which credit line is proper.