State Government Information & the Copyright Conundrum

This session was by far the most interesting and most relevant to my current work. It combines my current work with government documents (state and federal), along with the information policy issues of particular interest to me, namely, copyright and open government. I prepared a few other writes up on government-related issues over at the First Five Years Committee’s website.

Spotlight Session: State Government Information and the Copyright Conundrum

Names of speakers

  • Bernadette Bartlett, Library of Michigan
  • Kris Kasianovitz, Stanford University Library
  • Kristina Eden, University of Michigan

An introduction and update on the status of state government publications and copyright issues. The speakers also represent a 50-state campaign to make state government publications more readily available within the public domain.

Of particular interest/relevance to my current role
As a librarian at a state library, I have a direct professional interest in understanding how state government documents and publications are affected by copyright. In addition to collecting and maintaining a state government documents collection for public access, librarians need to know how these documents can be used and reproduced. While state government repository programs ensure the availability and access to state government documents, many states do not have clear guidelines or regulations on how these documents can be used and reproduced; that is, there are limited to no guidelines on copyright.

Unlike U.S. federal government documents, state government documents are, by default, copyrighted and cannot readily be made openly available within the public domain. This is of particular concern as it relates to digitization projects and born digital publications. And, while there remains an interest in making state government documents more readily available, librarians should also be aware of the subsequent challenges when such documents become available within the public domain. As highlighted by the federal Government Printing Office, consideration must be given to authentication and control over the dissemination of government documents.

Clarity on copyright can assist with improved authentication of state government documents, clear the way for greater and wider availability within the public domain, and improve how state documents can be used and reproduced.

Librarians can become involved in improving copyright by encouraging state agencies to use creative commons licenses, support clearer state legislation on copyright, along with engaging state executive offices to clarify copyright laws surrounding state publications.


National Conference of State Legislatures. Webinar: State Government Information And The Copyright Conundrum. 2014.

Presentation Slides

HathiTrust. Help–Copyright. StateGovDocs.

Free State Government Information

Survey on State Copyright Policies/Practices

U.S. Government Printing Office. Authentication

SLA Spotlight Session: State Government Information and the Copyright Conundrum