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Information/resources about copyright, policies on copyright within LANL and the DOE, and how copyright and fair use impact your research

Copyright and LANL

Note: The Research Library at Los Alamos National Laboratory cannot give legal advice. For legal advice regarding copyright, please see your institution's legal counsel office or equivalent office.

The Research Library does not offer reuse, attribution, or release permissions for any materials created by Los Alamos National Laboratory employees, including figures, photographs, and data sets.

Many Los Alamos photographs from the Manhattan Project era currently exist in the public domain, and it is acceptable to reuse them with the proper attribution. For more information on primary sources from the Manhattan Project, see the Department of Energy's Manhattan Project page on sources.

If you are reusing a LANL created figure in a publication, like from a LANL authored report or published article, attribution of the source material is required. If the figure is from a piece that has been previously published in the open literature, you will also need permission from the original publisher, usually obtained via directly contacting the author of the work.

If you want to reuse a LANL authored article in a publication, you should contact the original author of the report directly. Contact information can often be found in the published article itself. For technical reports that are not published in open literature (e.g. academic journals),

Ideally, you should keep copyrights and transfer limited rights to the publisher. If the publisher's copyright transfer agreement does not state the author's rights to publish or reproduce the accepted manuscript (final peer-reviewed and accepted) version of the work, the author may choose to request that the following statement be added to the agreement (see statement at the internal lab page here).

Note: Work funded by Los Alamos National Laboratory is considered government owned work.

If you are a Los Alamos National Lab employee and have any specific questions about copyright law, you can contact LANL's Office of General Counsel (internal lab page), which also covers intellectual property questions.

What is copyright?

According to the United States Copyright Office, the definition of copyright is a "form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression" and covers both published and unpublished works. It can include computer software and unique expressions of facts and ideas; "facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation" are by themselves not protected by copyright. You do not need to register with the Copyright Office to protect your work; from the moment of creation, you own the copyright to your work, unless created under government contract or other similar contracts.

How does copyright impact my research?

Copyright law can impact your research in several ways:

  • Reproduction of other people's work in your research.
  • Reprinting your work in other venues.
  • Hosting a PDF copy of an article or book online.
  • Creating an open source software or dataset.
  • Collaborating with multiple authors on one work.
  • Sharing research with people from other institutions.

Questions about copyright?

If you are a Los Alamos National Lab employee and have any specific questions about copyright law, you can email us. You can also contact LANL's Office of General Counsel (internal lab page), which also covers intellectual property questions.

Online resources include University of Texas' Copyright Crash Course, the US Copyright Office's circular on copyright basics, and a Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices. For copyright law outside of the United States, see the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Information on Open Access (OA) and the lab's OA policies can be found at our OA resource guide.

What is fair use?

Fair use is a provision of U.S. copyright law that allows the reproduction and distribution of copyrighted materials with specific limitations and purposes, without requiring permission from the copyright holder. Claiming fair use requires you to look at the purpose of usage, the nature of usage, how much you are using from the original material, and any effect this usage may have on the original material. A fair use checklist (PDF) is one method of seeing if your usage of copyrighted material follows these guidelines.

"A Fair(y) Use Tale" is a video by Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University that illustrates the principles of copyright and fair use while also exhibiting a fair use case with video clips from various Disney films.

What does fair use look like in practice?

Fair use can be and has been used in many practical applications:

  • The preservation of software for data management and archival practices. The Association of Research Libraries has a Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Software Preservation that goes into detail on how you can preserve software legally using the fair use doctrine.
  • Many cases of re-use of Internet-born material is considered a fair use case. In Stanford's summaries of fair use cases, the section on the Internet includes cases of excerpting material from online or using online material in a transformative way that also falls under fair use.
  • Your DVR is an example of fair use in action. In Sony Corp. of America v. University City Studios, Inc., the court ruled in the favor of television viewers recording programs to watch at a later time as protected under fair use. The original case specifically protected the use of Betamax tapes to manually record programs; the decision has been expanded to exclude illegal peer-to-peer sharing programs that attempted to use the Sony decision as a defense.

Sharing articles that you as an author have written can be tricky if you don't know how copyright law impacts where and how you can share it. The chart below explains the different versions of an article and how they can be shared properly.


A guide to sharing articles for authors.

Copyright Chat

From the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign: Copyright Chat is a podcast dedicated to discussing important copyright matters.
Sara Benson converses with experts from across the globe to engage the public with rights issues relevant to their daily lives.

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