Guidelines for Using Materials from Our Collections

In the service of its mission, Cornell University Library makes available through its reproduction services and via the internet copies of certain items from its collections.

Users of the collections are expected to abide by all copyright and other intellectual property laws. In many cases, Cornell University Library is the owner of the physical object only. It is the obligation of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright and other restrictions.

The nature of historical collections is such that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine. The records for individual items clearly state copyright information and restrictions on use when they are known. The absence of copyright or other information on restrictions is no guarantee, however, that a work is in the public domain either in the United States or abroad. The Library makes no express or implied warranty to others who wish to use or reproduce items found in its collection.

Users may find guidance in determining the copyright status of the works contained in Cornell University Library collections by consulting the U.S. Copyright Office Circular 22: How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work (PDF) and Cornell University Library Copyright Services’ Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States chart.

In addition to copyright, some materials reproduced from Cornell University Library collections are subject to rights of privacy, publicity, and trademark.

Materials that are no longer protected by copyright are in the public domain and may be used for free without permission. The Library does not charge usage fees, nor does it grant or deny permission to publish or otherwise use public domain materials.

Patrons who seek the reproduction or retrieval of high-resolution materials may contact the Library for cost-recovery reproduction services. Fees vary based on the service provided and the unit providing it. Reproductions are provided for research use only and may not be transferred or recopied without permission of the rights holder.

As a matter of good scholarly practice, we recommend that patrons using Library-provided reproductions cite the Library and/or the appropriate web page as the source of reproductions. Materials from collections currently protected by copyright cannot be published or exhibited without obtaining the legally required permission from the copyright owner. We also recommend, where applicable, that patrons retain a record of their fair use (PDF) determinations or attempts to secure permissions.

Cornell University Library makes an ongoing effort to secure any permissions needed in order to make materials available for personal or research use in Cornell University Library’s Digital Collections. The Library would like to learn more about its digital holdings and hear from any copyright owners who are not properly identified so that it may make the necessary corrections. If you have any additional information about the material or would like to suggest a correction, please contact or the relevant collection contact person.

Images Shared by Cornell University Library on Social Media

Cornell University Library shares content from its collections on social media accounts for non-commercial information and education purposes through an assertion of fair use. Wherever possible, posts include information about sources, citations, and collection information. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of an item and securing any necessary permissions ultimately rests with persons desiring to use the item. If you are a rightsholder and have questions about Cornell University Library’s use of content on social media, please contact