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State Copyright Resource Center Launched by Office for Scholarly Communication

The State Copyright Resource Center, a site recently launched by the Office for Scholarly Communication, aims to clarify the ambiguity around the copyright status of state-produced works. This project was spun out of a query to Harvard Library’s copyright advisor, Kyle K. Courtney, from the Frances Loeb Library at the Graduate School of Design, which was working to digitize a collection of rare state urban planning reports and other state documents. The site provides information on relevant polices, cases, and legislation, and assesses the copyright status of government publications in each state. It is designed not only to help the Harvard community, but to serve as an invaluable resource nationwide for those working to disseminate and preserve state government information.

Even though the US Copyright Act acknowledges that works produced by the US federal government cannot be eligible for copyright protection, the law is different for documents created by state governments. Among states, the procedure varies. Some pursue copyright interest in the documents they produce (such as posters, surveys, pamphlets, flyers, photographs, and other materials), while others lack clear legal guidance in this matter. This new resource brings together the sources of law in each state to answer those questions in a living document, updated with the most current information available.

To keep the State Copyright Resource Center updated, Courtney has joined up with an organization called Free State Government Information.This organization will be a partner, aiding the outreach process to develop, update, and improve the site by cultivating a liaison network of library and archive experts in each state, under Courtney's direction. Research for the site was conducted by Katie Zimmerman, the summer 2014 copyright fellow for the Office for Scholarly Communications, and successive fellows are contributing to the effort. 

Article published on December 9, 2015.