Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Date of this Version


Document Type



Wallace, A. (2020). Copyright. Open GLAM.


CC-BY 4.0


Copyright is intended to incentivize the production of new creative works and protect authors’ connection to them. In return, the author receives exclusive rights over the creative work and can commercialize or release them for various uses. Once the copyright expires, these works pass into the public domain and can be used by anyone to produce new creative works and knowledge.

GLAMs (Galleries, Archives, Libraries, and Museums) protect, preserve, and extend access to these works (and many other materials) for the appreciation of current and future generations. This is often facilitated today by digitizing collections and making them available online. But new questions arise during this process. What is the reproduction’s theoretical or legal relationship to the work that it captures? Is the reproduction a new work? In fact, is it a new creative work worthy of its own copyright? If so, what is the effect of claiming and enforcing a copyright in the reproduction, especially considering the vast amount of rare or unique public domain materials in heritage collections? What options are available to users seeking to access and reuse those public domain works?