Copyright FAQ for government works.

There is a nice website, just updated in August, that addresses a great many copyright questions as they relate to works created by the U.S. federal government, under contract with the government, or using government funding.  The site is created by CENDI (the Commerce, Energy, NASA, Defense Information Managers Group), and also provides brief answers to more general copyright questions under the categories of “Glossary of Terms,” “Copyright Basics,” and Use of Copyrighted Works.”

For scholarly authors, however, the biggest value of the site is the section answering questions about copyright in works created under a federal grant.  As the website explains, copyright in works created using government grant money does not automatically belong to the government, but contract terms may place some restrictions on the use of those rights by the author.  This is exactly the case with the NIH Public Access policy, where copyright is owned by the author of each article that is based on funded research, but it is subject to a contractual requirement that a non-exclusive license be given to the NIH for inclusion of the work in PubMed Central.

Also, the site offers some guidance about using government works, an issue that often arises for scholars around everything from government survey maps to census data to photographs taken by active military personnel.  This is not really the place to gain all of one’s knowledge about copyright, but it is an excellent source for understanding the complexities of using government works and creating works under various agreements with the government.