The vast majority of Special Collection’s manuscript materials are unique items that have not been published but are protected by copyright law. No unpublished manuscript item will be in public domain before January 1, 2003. However, in some collections, copyright has been formally transferred to California State University, Fresno. In those cases, permission to publish is obtained from a representative of the University (in this instance, the Head of Special Collections). Otherwise, permission to quote from an item or publish it must be sought from the copyright holder or his/her heirs. Special Collections staff will assist patrons in identifying copyright holders of manuscript materials whenever possible. It should be noted, however, that the physical ownership of an item does not signify that the Library owns the intellectual property rights as well. Unless copyright has been formally transferred to the University through a written document, copyright remains in the hands of the creator or his/her heirs.*
If the Special Collections Research Center only owns photocopies of original materials housed elsewhere, the patron should contact that library/repository for permission to publish or for further information on the copyright holder.
All materials created by California State University, Fresno as a public institution are considered automatically in the public domain.
* In the case of letters, copyright does not belong to the recipient of the letter but rather to the creator/writer. Thus, even if a donor transfers copyright to the university, the copyright to letters written to the donor (but not by the donor) remains with the creator of the letters.
For a great number of the loose photographs housed in the Special Collections Research Center, there is no information as to the copyright holder or creator/photographer. In these cases, while the Library may allow the patron to have a photographic reproduction of the image, such an action does not in any way impart permission to publish. If the Library does not own the intellectual property rights to an item, it cannot grant or deny permission to use the item in a publication. The decision to publish or not is entirely up to the patron, who thereby assumes all liability and risks associated with possible copyright infringement. Moreover, the patron indemnifies the Library from sharing in that liability and risk.
As in the case with letters, photographs in a collection to which copyright has been transferred to the University are not necessarily copyright free. If the donor was not the creator of the photographs, copyright remains with the original photographer or his/her heirs, regardless of who owns the actual photographs.
If a photograph was taken by a professional photographer, copyright is retained by that photographer, his/her agents or heirs, unless the image was a work for hire, in which case copyright belongs to the photographer’s client or heirs.