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.
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 do some of these things, for example through licensing. Limited use of material may also be permitted under an exception to copyright.
Copyright protection is time-limited. Depending on the nature of the work, it normally expires 70 years after the last living author dies. In the United Kingdom, unpublished works (such as archival manuscripts) are normally protected until the end of the year 2039, or 70 years after the death of the last living author, whichever is later.
Statements and licences
Copyright statements describe the copyright status of a work. We provide copyright statements when we publish digitisations of our collections, datasets, interpretive content, and our own publications.
We don't usually provide copyright statements with original items in our collections. This means you won't find copyright statements in our catalogue records or when you access materials in our reading and access spaces.
We are updating our copyright statements to be clearer and more honest. However, content we published in the past remains available with older rights information. See 'Out of date statements' for details.
Rights statements describe our best understanding of the copyright status of a work or part of a work. These statements describe whether a work is in copyright, out of copyright, or of an unclear status. We use statements from RightsStatements.org and from Creative Commons.
- In Copyright – This statement means the work is protected by copyright. You can only make limited re-use of the work. See also 'Re-use and permission'.
- In Copyright – Rightsholder(s) Unlocatable or Unidentifiable: This statement means the work is protected by copyright, but we cannot identify or locate the copyright owner(s). You can only make limited re-use of works that are in copyright. See also 'Re-use and permission'.
- Public Domain Mark – This statement means the work is not protected by copyright. You may re-use the work as you please, without further permission, including for commercial purposes.
- No Copyright – Contractual Restrictions – This statement means the work is not protected by copyright, but there are contractual restrictions that limit how you may re-use it. See also 'Re-use and permission'.
- No Copyright – Non-commercial Use Only –This statement means the work is not protected by copyright, but there are restrictions that mean you may only re-use the work for non-commercial purposes. See also 'Re-use and permission'.
- Copyright Not Evaluated – This statement means the copyright status of the work is unclear and we haven’t taken detailed steps to determine the copyright status. You should take care when re-using material that has this statement. You may wish to take steps to determine for yourself if the work is protected by copyright.
- Copyright Undetermined – This statement means the copyright status of the work is unclear, despite our efforts to confirm its copyright status. You should take care when re-using material that has this statement. You may wish to take steps to determine for yourself if the work is protected by copyright.
- No Known Copyright – This statement means we have good cause to believe the work is not in copyright, but we cannot be certain. You should take care when re-using material that has this statement.
Copyright licences grant permission to re-use works that are in copyright. We can only apply copyright licences when we own the copyright or have been given permission to issue licences by the copyright owner(s).
- Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) – This licence allows you to re-use the work for any purpose, including commercial purposes. You need to attribute the original work and its creator(s) and cite the licence. You do not need to seek further permission to re-use the work.
- Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA) – This licence allows you to re-use the work for non-commercial purposes only. You need to attribute the original work and its creator(s) and cite the licence. You do not need to seek permission to re-use the work, unless you want to re-use it commercially.
- National Library of Scotland Content Licence – This licence allows commercial re-use of an in copyright work. Before considering this licence, please contact us. You only need to complete a content licence if you’ve been asked by us to do so. This licence is only necessary if you want to commercially re-use an in copyright work that is not already licensed for re-use.
- There may be a fee to pay (see 'Permission fees').
- We cannot always grant a licence, for example if we do not have the rights to issue commercial re-use permission.
- We cannot process or issue Content licence forms, or other licensing paperwork, for works that are already licensed for your intended use or for works that are not in copyright.
- You can download our Content licence form (PDF) (59 KB; 6 pages) and a simple guide to filling in the form (PDF) (27 KB; 3 pages).
- You can fill the form in by hand or electronically. Return your form to email@example.com (or by post) and we will consider your request and complete our areas of the form.
- Open Government Licence – This licence is used for content created by the UK public sector. It allows you to re-use the work for any purpose, including commercial purposes. You need to attribute the original work and its creator(s) and cite the licence. You do not need to seek further permission to re-use the work.
- Public Domain Dedication (CC0) – This statement dedicates the work to the public domain, by waiving all copyright and related rights in the work. The work may be re-used as a work that is not protected by copyright.
Out of date statements
We are applying copyright statements to our digitised collections. Older materials we published may have out of date or inaccurate copyright statements or licences. In particular:
- Many of our microsites state that all material is copyright National Library of Scotland. This may no longer be accurate.
- Some digitised material may have a Creative Commons licence, in particular a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA) licence or, less often, a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence, which may no longer be accurate. However, sometimes these licences are accurate.
If you want to re-use material covered by the above points or you are unsure of the accuracy of any copyright information we have provided, please contact us for clarification.
Re-use and permission
This section explains how you can re-use material.
'Re-use' means doing things beyond simple viewing, reading, or watching. Re-use can include publishing digital images, extracting quotes, using data, or reproducing parts of works. Your ability to re-use will depend on the nature of the material, its copyright status, and your purpose.
In copyright original works
This section is about items in our collections, such as books, films, maps, and archival materials.
Copyright restricts how you may re-use works. Not all works in our collections are in copyright.
If a work is in copyright, we can normally provide on-site access and display the work in an exhibition. Copying or re-using the work is normally only allowed if you can rely on a valid 'exception to copyright' or you get permission from the copyright owner(s). These are explained below.
We sometimes digitise works from our collections. Some works that we digitise are in copyright. We publish digitisations with a copyright statement and, in some cases, a licence (see 'Statements and licences' for more information). These statements and licences explain how the digitisation of an in copyright work may be re-used.
'Exceptions to copyright' allow limited re-use of works that are in copyright. The copyright owner's permission is not required, but you need to be certain that your use and purpose are covered by a valid exception. There is a defined list of exceptions, which is set out in copyright legislation.
Even if an exception applies, sometimes other factors may limit re-use (for example, the work's physical condition).
- a work is in-copyright,
- there is no 'exception to copyright' that allows your intended re-use, and
- we haven’t made a copy of the work available under a suitable licence (see 'Statements and licences' for more information),
you need to seek permission from the copyright owner(s) before you can copy or re-use the work.
Copyright owners can choose whether or not to give permission. Copyright owners may ask for a fee in exchange for granting permission and may place restrictions on the permission they grant. Copyright owners may also choose to withhold permission.
We own copyright in some materials in our collections, but we are not normally the copyright owner. We have permission to act on behalf of some copyright owners. However, in most cases we do not know who owns the copyright in our collections.
We can't seek copyright permission for you. If you require copyright permission, you normally need to seek it yourself. We may choose not to provide you with copies until you demonstrate that you have permission.
More information on obtaining copyright permission is available from the Government's copyright website (see 'Contact and further guidance').
Out of copyright original works
This section is about items in our collections, such as books, films, maps, and archival materials.
If a work is not in copyright, you can normally re-use it without restriction and without permission.
Sometimes, we limit the re-usability of out-of-copyright works, for example if an item is fragile or contains personal or sensitive information.
This section is about reproductions of our collections, such as digitisations on our Digital Gallery.
Most works that we digitise are out-of-copyright. We publish copyright statements with our digitisations (see 'Statements and licences' for more information). The statements explain how the digitisation may be re-used. In most cases, material may be re-used without permission.
We do not assert fresh copyright protection in digitisations. To the extent that copyright or related rights subsist in the digitisation layer, we hereby waive these rights with the Public Domain Dedication (CC0). This does not affect any underlying rights in the work or any rights in metadata or enrichments.
This means that faithful copies have the same copyright status as the original that they reproduce.
Metadata and enrichments
Metadata is data about our collections. Catalogue records and collection descriptions are examples of metadata. Metadata is normally protected by copyright or related rights. We own the copyright in the metadata we create. We also use metadata created by third parties, such as other libraries.
Enrichments are additions to existing works. Transcriptions and interpretations can be examples of enrichments. Enrichments may be protected by copyright or related rights. We own the copyright in enrichments we create.
We normally make our metadata and enrichments available under the Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0) or Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence. We publish datasets of our metadata on our Data Foundry, where you can find copyright information for each dataset.
We create non-collection material, such as reports, policies and guides. We own the copyright in this material.
We normally make our non-collection material available under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence.
Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations
The Library is subject to the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015 (PSI Regulations). The PSI Regulations help to determine how and under what conditions you can expect to re-use the public information that we hold. In general, we enable re-use for any purpose. More information is available on the 'Public Sector Information (PSI)' page.
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 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 staff when taking photographs.
We often display works that are in copyright. 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 the images you take and for ensuring your use does not infringe copyright. See 'Re-use and permission' for guidance.
Commercial photography and filming is not permitted without authorisation. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Contact and further guidance
If you have questions, you can contact email@example.com.
Further guidance from the Library and from third parties is available:
- Guidance on exceptions to copyright (PDF) (59 KB; 4 pages)
- National Archives copyright duration chart for literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works
- National Archives copyright duration chart (Crown copyright) 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.