Wikipedia:Public domain status of official government works


The public domain status of official government works is sometimes difficult to determine, but keeps coming up on Wikipedia again and again. There are some easy cases: works of the United States federal government, for example, are not protected by copyright and are thus in the public domain. The same does not hold in general for the works of other governments. Determining whether all works, or particular works, of a particular government are in the public domain requires research and possibly even legal advice.


Open issues

Puerto Rico Template:PD-PRGov

I've been asked to create a template. I'm moving/copying the discussion here, so it's in a more findable place. All my comments in this thread are in italics so it's less challenging to identify who said what. Here is the thread. --Elvey (talk) 04:04, 19 February 2010 (UTC) :

Hello I need someone to create a PD tag for the Imags of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, an institution of the Government of Puerto Rico responsible for the establishment of the cultural policies required in order to preserve, promote, enrich, and convey the cultural values of Puerto Rico. Said images are PD and I have the confirmation of the Pueto Rican government to such respect which I can provide. If you can do it or if you can direct me to the person that has the knowledge to create such a tag, I will appreciate it and provide futher information. Tony the Marine (talk) 04:19, 11 February 2010 (UTC)

Hi. I can help. I've created (and deleted) PD tags before; I guess that's how you found me. To start, I need to establish the PD status. Please provide or point me to more info that I can use to justify the tags, per Wikipedia's complex and specific rules. --Elvey (talk) 02:54, 13 February 2010 (UTC)
    • Thank you for responding. First, a little about myself. Even though I am not what they call a "polished" historian, I have been recognized as such by the Puerto Rican Government and have been named the Official Historian of ANSO the Association of Naval Service Officers of the United States Navy. As such I have access to military and political figures both in the United States and the territory Puerto Rico, among which are the Governor and the Secretary of State/Lt. Gov. of the island. The Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, an institution of the Government of Puerto Rico which is funded by the United States Federal Government and whose image copyright laws fall under the Federal Government of the U.S..

My main concern was the images of the images and the not the written content used or published by The Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. I knew that images as such are Public Domain, however, to be on the safe side I decided to contact and ask about the image PD status the Secretary of State/Lt. Governor of Puerto Rico, the Honorable Kenneth McClintock, who holds a doctorate in international law and as an authority knows about the matter and is also spokesperson for the People of Puerto Rico. Here I will publish the correspondence between us (He is fluent in English as well as Spainsh and his e-mail was in Englsh as published here).

"Estimado Honorable Lt. Gov. K. McClintock, I know that you are a very busy person and I wouldn't bother you if for not a question that came up. Since you have a doctorate in law, I figured that no one is more qualified to answer my simple question. Are the images of famous Puerto Ricans used by the Puerto Rican Institute of Culture Public Domain? I am almost certain that the institute would not pay for the usage of images of famous Puerto Ricans that they honor in their publications and so on. Could you please inform me? Gracias. Tony Santiago

He responded:

"Tony, The images the IPC uses in its publications, as well as the portraits of Governors and First Ladies (which hang in La Fortaleza---although the Governors', that will hang at the State Department for 2 weeks beginning next Monday), Senate Presidents and House Speakers (which hang at the Capitol), the Secretaries of State photos, which hang at my Department, and so forth, are clearly in the public domain because: (1) nobody is paid for their continuous use, and, (2) the government does not claim payment from anyone from their reproduction and use. I hope this is of help to you. Kenneth D. McClintock; Secretary of State; San Juan, Puerto Rico.

He also responded the following:

" These images were commissioned and paid for by the Government, for public use, with public funds, so they may be reproduced freely. No one has any rights over such images, having sold the images and rights appurtenant to their work to the people of Puerto Rico. KDM"

I will not publish his e-mail address for security reasons, however I have forwarded his e-mail address to "OTRS" in regard to this image File:01 KDM.jpg and if you have access to OTRS, you will be able to verify the interaction between us.

If you can create a PD tag for the images (not the written content) of The Insititute of Puerto Rican Culture, not only will I appreciate it, but also the People of Puerto Rico. Thank you. Tony the Marine (talk) 22:57, 13 February 2010 (UTC)

Please check out the example of the PD template which I created for the portraits of the Puerto Ricans Governors, First Ladies, Senate Presidents, House Speakers and Military heroes, which has the permit granted by OTRS to the Puerto Rican Government, Workshop. Tony the Marine (talk) 16:48, 17 February 2010 (UTC)

First of all, I think it makes more sense to upload all these to Commons instead. Rationale. Do you agree? Let's create the appropriate template(s) there (after a bit more discussion here, I think). It's just as easy to use media uploaded there as it is to use media uploaded here.... and can be used, for example, at OK? --Elvey (talk) 02:20, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
PD-USGov may not be used for the work of any individual U.S. state, territory, commonwealth, county, municipality, or any other subdivision. If the Federal government runs the IPC, that does NOT mean all the works in the IPC are PD. Many works in Federal museums, owned by the Federal Government are not in the public domain.
I see you've gone ahead and created Template:PD-PRGovt-Art yourself. In my opinion, it doesn't pass muster yet, so I suggest you hold off on using it further. Let's work together to improve it. In creating it, your edit summary says: 'for the PD portraits of Governors, First Ladies, Senate Presidents, House Speakers and Military heroes in the Capital Building of Puerto Rico.' but the template itself doesn't say anything like that. It's important that a template be self-documenting. It must explain what it is and is not to be used for, and should be named accordingly.
If template tags are to justify images the IPC uses in its publications, and portraits of government officials of Puerto Rico that hang in public buildings, (i.e. Governors and First Ladies, Senate Presidents and House Speakers, Secretaries of State, and so forth) based on the justification that the Secretary of State/Lt. Governor of Puerto Rico, as verified in OTRS, says they're in the public domain, then THAT'S exactly what the template(s) should say. And a template must only be used for what it says, and be named appropriately - e.g. PD-PRGov-OfficialPortraits, or PD-PRGov-IPC. There is no PD-PRGov because no one has provided evidence that all works of the PR government are in the public domain. So creating PD-PRGov-OfficialPortraits, and PD-PRGov-IPC-Pubs and deleting PD-PRGovt-Art seems to make sense to me. (We could write out Puerto-Rico.)
FYI, if you buy a painting, that doesn't necessarily give you the right to take photos of it and sell 'em.
(The IPC is The Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, right?)
Gotta run! --Elvey (talk) 04:04, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
  • Thank you for your comments, I truely appreciate them. I was a little desperate and goofed up. Could you please create the proper template or fix the problem for me? I'll even delete the template that I created when you tell me to do so, since I goofed up. (Yes, IPC is The Institute of Puerto Rican Culture). Tony the Marine (talk) 15:20, 23 February 2010 (UTC)

Closed issues

NJGov and NCGov



Seems to confuse PD with public record. Seems to be an orphan. Redirect to DI template?--Elvey (talk) 00:55, 16 October 2009 (UTC)

I've redirected it: it quotes all sorts of law about what is a "public record", but says nothing about the copyright status of those records. --Carnildo (talk) 01:09, 16 October 2009 (UTC)
Nice to cooperate with you. :) --Elvey (talk) 18:28, 16 October 2009 (UTC)
I went digging through some Montana code and found this: 2-6-102. Citizens entitled to inspect and copy public writings. That says that citizens have the right to "inspect and take a copy of any public writings of this state" except: 1) library records, 2) burial records, 3) individual privacy interests, 4) details of jails/prisons that may endanger individual privacy or individual or public safety. This appears to be very similar to this text in the Florida constitution, which gets a PD tag: "Every person has the right to inspect or copy any public record made or received in connection with the official business of any public body, officer, or employee of the state, or persons acting on their behalf, except with respect to records exempted pursuant to this section or specifically made confidential by this Constitution." Is there anything that makes Montana's situation significantly different? If not, it seems like this template should be cleaned up (citing the code above) and restored. - Afiler (talk) 20:39, 25 December 2009 (UTC)
I'm not so sure. As the name of the title is "Citizens entitled to inspect and copy public writings," it is clear that citizens can copy. This is likely to be interpreted as meaningfully narrower than PD. If citizens can copy, can non-citizens create derivative works too? Not necessarily. So it's rather like , which (which is not an official policy or guideline) says is NOT OK for Wikipedia. So, I don't think the situation is like Florida, or even California. MTGov works don't seem to qualify as free content. See Wikipedia:Image copyright tags/Free licenses. Arguably, something like Template:CC-BY-ND-MNGov WOULD make sense. The justification, expressed in official policy for licenses is to "keep Wikipedia's own legal status secure as well as to allow for as much re-use of Wikipedia content as possible." We're here to create an encyclopedia, and one could argue that CC-BY-ND is acceptable. But consensus appears to be that it is not acceptable. So I'm not going to create Template:CC-BY-ND-MNGov myself, or fight for it like i did for PD-FLGov, if someone else makes it. Essentially, it would be a fight over the acceptability of CC-BY-ND. It's also possible that judicial opinion will do for MN what it did in CA, or even that it's done so but we don't know about it. --Elvey (talk) 08:58, 27 December 2009 (UTC)
The law only covers one of the major points of what makes a free-content license (permission to copy), and only extends it to Montana citizens. It doesn't cover the other major points: modification, and distribution of modifications. --Carnildo (talk) 22:18, 27 December 2009 (UTC)
The Florida law doesn't appear to cover modification and distribution of modifications either. I'm not saying that means the Montana template would be valid, but whatever rationale that was used there might apply here. As far as the "citizens" term, Montana law extends the same rights to non-Montana United States citizens. It would be nice to find the state's position on this, like in the case of Minnesota, since I could see the official position being that works are PD (even if technically they could still exercise rights in some cases). -- Afiler (talk) 05:25, 1 January 2010 (UTC)
Florida law, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, places the works in the public domain, so modification and distribution of modified works are both permitted. --Elvey (talk) 09:11, 19 January 2010 (UTC)

Yes, they are public domain. The Microdecisions decision put it best: "The copyright act gives the holder the exclusive rights to reproduce and distribute a work and to authorize others to do so." "As such, a copyright owner may refuse to provide copies of the work or may charge whatever fee he wants for copies of the work or a license to use the work." The "public records law, on the other hand, requires State and local agencies to make their records available to the public for the cost of reproduction." "This mandate overrides a government agency’s ability to claim a copyright in its work unless the legislature has expressly authorized a public records exemption." Doesn't get any clearer, really. These quotes of the Microdecision were actually taken from County of Santa Clara v. CFAC (pg. 35), which also came to the exact same conclusion. The Montana laws are not substantially different, so either all these public records laws override copyright, or they all don't. The latter is obviously false. If the work doesn't fall under an exception, the state waives copyright, and is therefore under the public domain. Int21h (talk) 05:25, 13 April 2010 (UTC)

Interesting point; I've un-hidden this section, and am reconsidering my opinion. Up to the word 'so', I agree with you, but after that, I'm unsure, because California law isn't binding on Montana courts. But state courts do often defer to each others rulings. So I think a)there's a good argument made, but b)it's hardly decided law. I think the quote below is relevant. --Elvey (talk) 17:30, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
In a case of first impression, courts often rely on persuasive precedent from courts in other jurisdictions that have previously dealt with similar issues. Source: Legal_precedent#Persuasive_precedent
It might be a state court decision, but it is deciding facts about federal law. Facts are facts no matter where you are, and federal law applies to all states equally. But yes, it would appear it's far from decided law. :( Int21h (talk) 20:30, 21 May 2010 (UTC)

Copyright puffery (OT)

U.S. State governments

In most cases, products of state and local governments are not PD, so the following templates mostly point to a 'deletable image' template. Exceptions are noted.

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