Copyright compliance

William Hastie, W.E.B. Du Bois, and unidentified man, ca.1947
Front to back: William Hastie, W.E.B. Du Bois,
and unidentified, ca.1947

The Department of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) makes reasonable attempts to clarify the copyright status of materials under its care, but cannot claim copyright for every individual item: even if a donor has transferred intellectual property to the letters she has written, for example, she cannot transfer copyright to letters written by others. When it comes to letters received by the donor — half or more of most collections — copyright remains with the writer.

Researchers are legally obligated to ensure their full compliance with the laws pertaining to copyright and intellectual property and must obtain written permission from all interested parties. By itself, permission to examine or duplicate materials held by SCUA does not constitute authorization to publish those materials. A separate written request for permission to publish must be made in advance to SCUA, and permission will be granted only after SCUA has received a properly completed permission form signed by the requester, along with payment for any applicable fees.

An approval of permission to publish from SCUA does not imply that all copyright demands have been met. The University of Massachusetts Amherst assumes no responsibility for infringement of copyright held by others: full responsibility for infringement is assumed by the individual requesting permission to publish.

How do I request permission?

  1. Go to the online form for requesting permission to publish.
  2. Complete the form: you will be asked to provide your contact information, a complete listing of the material to be published, and information about the intended use, including the tentative title, place, and expected date of publication/distribution. You may also indicate whether you need digital files and what specifications you need. You may request permission to use multiple items with one form, if they are to be used for the same project.
  3. Once you submit the form, you will see a notice that your request has been received; a copy of your request will also be sent to the email address you provided. We aim to respond in a timely fashion depending on staff availability, rights situation, and complexity of request.
  4. When SCUA staff have reviewed your request, you will receive an email confirming approval for use or, if needed, requesting further information. Permission to publish is granted for one-time, non-exclusive, world-wide rights in all languages, solely for the project specified in the agreement and in the medium indicated. Permission includes in-context promotion and is granted for the life of the project. If there is a separate, known rights holder whose approval is required, you will receive further instructions.
  5. Please complete and submit SCUA’s form even if you have separately obtained the permission or blessing of the creator, donor, or their representative. Thank you!

Citation of material

Citations should take the form:

[Item details ]. [ Collection name ] ( [Call number] ), Robert S. Cox Special Collections and University Archives Research Center, UMass Amherst Libraries.

Fees for publication

Although SCUA does not charge for publication from collections under our care, individual copyright holders may retain the right to do so. Please contact our staff for assistance regarding questions on rights and permissions.

Learn more: