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Artist Posters

Rights and Restrictions Information

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., 20540-4730

The Artist Poster collection contains about 85,000 posters created in the United States and other countries. Dating from the nineteenth century to the present day, they were created and distributed primarily to promote events, advertise products, encourage travel, and support national or political agendas. Use of images in this collection may be restricted.

Access: Permitted; subject to P&P policy on serving originals, which requires the use of digital surrogates in lieu of originals, when available.

Reproduction (photocopying, hand-held camera copying, photoduplication and other forms of copying allowed by "fair use"): Permitted, subject to P&P policy on copying, which prohibits photocopying of the original posters.

Publication and other forms of distribution:: May be restricted. Online catalog records for posters in this collection include all legible information found on the item related to copyright, such as the name of the copyright claimant. When such information is available, patrons are advised to conduct a copyright search to determine if a copyright was registered and is still in effect. The addresses of such parties, and an indication of the status of their works (to the extent known by the Library) are provided in the Rights and Restrictions Information page found online on the Prints and Photographs Reading Room homepage at under the artist's name.

However, many posters lack sufficient information to determine copyright status. Sometimes patrons can derive clues from the image itself about the artist or the printer, and this information can then be used in a copyright search. Patrons who wish to show that a reasonable effort was made to determine copyright status may wish to request a copyright search and retain any supplied report for their records.

When explicit rights information is lacking, patrons must conduct a "risk analysis" to determine appropriate use of an image. This involves coupling a knowledge of rights principles (such as duration of copyright, and the definition of "published" works) with the risk associated with the intended use (i.e. educational or commercial) and making and documenting for the user's records a decision about whether or not use is appropriate.

The Division's reference aid, "General Information about Copyright and Other Restrictions Which Apply to Publication and Other Forms of Distribution of Images: Sources for Information," found online at may be of assistance in determining the appropriate use of a poster, especially the section entitled "Information from the U.S. Copyright Office," which includes the following information:

  1. Works published before 1923 are now in the public domain. (Circular 1, "Copyright Basics," page 6, supplemented by SL 15, "New Terms for Copyright Protection.")

  2. Published works copyrighted 1923 through 1977 that are still in their original term of copyright or whose copyright was renewed are protected for 95 years from the copyright date. (Circular 1, "Copyright Basics," page 6, supplemented by SL 15, "New Terms for Copyright Protection." (Copyrights registered up until Dec. 31, 1963 expired after 28 years, unless the copyright was renewed. The only way to determine whether items published from 1924 through 1963 are still in a renewal term of copyright is to do a copyright search and establish that the item was copyrighted and that the copyright was renewed.)

  3. Works created after Jan. 1, 1978 are protected for the author/creator/copyright holder's life plus 70 years. (Circular 1, "Copyright Basics," page 6, supplemented by SL15, "New Terms for Copyright Protection.")

  4. In many cases, works published before March 1, 1989 without a copyright notice risk loss of copyright protection. (Circular 2, "Copyright Notice," page 1.)

Credit Line: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-123456]

Reproduction (photocopying, hand-held camera copying, photoduplication and other forms of copying allowed by "fair use"): repro


For more information, please read: Copyright and Other Restrictions: ... Sources for Information

Prepared by: Prints and Photographs Division staff. Last revised: February 9, 2004

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  July 17, 2017
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