The National Library of Scotland respects intellectual property rights. We make all reasonable efforts to ensure that any reproduction, both digital and analogue, which is carried out by or within the Library, is in accordance with copyright legislation.
On this page
Copyright is an intellectual property right that protects original works, including written, dramatic, musical, and artistic works.
Many items in our collections are protected by copyright. Protection reserves the right to undertake or authorise certain acts to the copyright owner(s), who is normally the creator or author of the work in the first instance. The acts restricted by copyright are:
- Copying the work, including any activity that recreates a work, such photocopying, photographing, or transcribing text
- Issuing copies of the work to the public
- Renting or lending the work to the public
- Performing, showing or playing the work in public
- Communicating the work to the public
- Making an adaptation of the work.
A copyright owner can allow others to undertake some or all of these acts, for example through licensing. Limited undertaking of these acts may also be permitted under an exception to copyright.
Copyright protection is time-limited, and, depending on the nature of the work, normally expires 70 years after the last living author dies. In the United Kingdom, unpublished works (such as archival manuscript material) are normally protected until the end of the year 2039, or 70 years after the death of the last living author, whichever period provides longer protection.
Exceptions to copyright allow limited undertaking of the acts restricted by copyright with material from works that are protected by copyright. The copyright owner's permission is not required, but you need to be certain that your use and purpose comply with a valid exception.
Even if an exception applies you may not always be able to copy or re-use material (for example, due to the work's physical condition).
Many of the works we hold are protected by copyright. We are often able to provide on-site access to copyright-protected material and some use of works may be possible under exceptions to copyright. However, permission will normally be required from copyright owner(s) if you wish to undertake further copying or re-use of works that are in-copyright. We may own copyright in certain works, but normally we are not the copyright owner.
Copyright legislation can be complicated and we cannot guarantee that use of material will not constitute an infringement, even if material is very old, has been used previously, or has been digitised. We recommend that you carry out an independent review of applicable law and guidance before copying, sharing, or otherwise re-using material that may be protected by copyright.
Digitised material that we have made available on our websites, including in the Digital Gallery, our Map images website, and our Moving Image Archive catalogue, may be protected by third party copyright (for example, when we have been given permission to digitise by the copyright owner).
We try to provide as much copyright detail as we can in the information that accompanies digitised items.
We assign Creative Commons licences to most collections material that we publish online. See our Public Sector Information (PSI) page for details about the licences we use.
Material in third-party copyright
If you wish to undertake any of the acts restricted by copyright with in-copyright material, it is your responsibility to get permission from the copyright owner(s). We may need to see proof that you have this permission before we release material for re-use.
We advise that you check with us first to confirm that we hold the work you wish to use and that we will be able to provide it to you if you get permission. Even with permission from the copyright owner(s) we may on occasion be unable to supply a work, for example due to its physical condition or terms of deposit.
Permission and re-use
See our Copying and permission pages for more information about how to obtain copies of material and our licensing terms for the re-use of works.
Some online resources — the eResources — do not belong to the Library. We license these from third parties, so we are not able to grant copyright permission in these materials.
Taking photographs and filming
Many works in our collections and exhibitions may be photographed for personal, non-commercial purposes and in compliance with copyright and other restrictions.
Photography is normally permitted in the reading rooms, as well as in the public display spaces in the George IV Bridge building in Edinburgh and at Kelvin Hall in Glasgow. Due to staffing levels, photography may not always be permitted in the reading rooms.
We do not permit photography of certain works, for example because of physical condition or terms of deposit.
Please do not use flash, extendable lenses, tripods, selfie sticks, or other items that can get in the way of visitors or that can pose risks to the collections. Staff may ask you to stop taking photographs or to stop using certain equipment. Please respect the collections, other visitors, and Library staff when taking photographs.
You are responsible for the images that you capture. We often display works in our exhibitions that are in-copyright. We advise that you consider copyright before taking or sharing photographs of material.
You need permission from copyright owner(s) to take or share images of in-copyright works, or you need to rely on a valid exception to copyright. You are responsible for ensuring your photographs do not infringe copyright.
Commercial photography and filming is not permitted without specific authorisation. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The images on our Flickr Commons photostream are marked 'no known copyright restrictions'.
This means that we are not aware of any current copyright restrictions on any of these images. This may be because we own the copyright, copyright protection has expired, or because no evidence has been found that copyright restrictions apply.
Images in our Commons photostream are available for re-use for non-commercial purposes.
To make any other use of this material, or for high-resolution digital or printed reproductions, see our webpages on copying and permissions services.
Our websites and other non-collection materials, such as our corporate documents, are normally protected by copyright.
Unless otherwise specified, non-collection material (excluding images, logos and branding) is copyright National Library of Scotland and available for re-use under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence.
We make all reasonable efforts to ensure that use of materials by or within the Library is done in accordance with copyright legislation. However, due to the complexity of copyright regulations and the scale of our collections, it is not possible for us to guarantee that all rights have been assessed or that assessments are correct.
If you have questions about copyright, please email email@example.com.
Further guidance from the Library and from third parties is available:
- Guidance on exceptions to copyright (PDF) (74 KB; 4 pages)
- National Archives copyright duration charts for literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works
- Intellectual Property Office information on copyright, including guidance on licensing, exceptions, and details of current UK copyright legislation
- National Archives copyright guidance, including information on Crown copyright and the Open Government Licence.
We are not responsible for the content of external websites. This information is not legal advice.