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Copyright & Permissions for Newspaper Digitization

Resources and tools related to copyright and permissions.


Digitizing Newspapers: Copyright and Permissions

Before beginning your project, the first step would be to determine your rights to digitize the original and/or microfilm format of your newspaper.

Many newspapers did not register with the U.S. Copyright Office. Newspapers published before 1978 without the © copyright symbol are in the public domain. Newspapers published before 1929 are in the public domain, even if they have the © copyright symbol

So look at your newspaper. How many issues do you need to check? We are not lawyers and can’t give legal advice. Look at a lot of issues. Document what you’ve done. Keep that documentation.

Copyright Tools

Look at the following tools to understand copyright and get some help in determining if it is okay for you to scan it.


  1. Is It Protected by Copyright [Digital Copyright Slider] (Michael Brewer & ALA Office of Information Technology Policy, 2012) 
  2. Copyright Term and the Public Domain (Cornell University)
  3. Copyright and Historic Newspapers - Oregon Digital Newspaper Program
  4. Section 108 of the U.S. Copyright Code [Section 108 Spinner] (Michael Brewer & the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy, 2010)   
  5. How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work (United States Copyright Office. Circular 22. Reviewed 02/2013)     
  6. The Online Books Page: Copyright Registration and Renewal Records (Univ. of Pennsylvania Libraries et al.) Includes links to: Catalog of Copyright Entries (U.S. Copyright Office, annual, 1891-). Also available in paper and microfiche in the Federal Documents collection at the Connecticut State Library (federal documents call no.: LC 3.6/6:)
  7. Public Catalog (U.S. Copyright Office) For works registered from 1978 to the present. Use “Other Search Options” for tips and try “Search by” Serials
  8. Is it covered by copyright? [Copyright Genie] (Michael Brewer & ALA Office of Information Technology Policy, 2012)

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