Copyright status of publications created by the city of New York
December 22, 2012 8:53 PM   Subscribe

What is the copyright status of works created by the New York City government? Specifically works created by the Department of Health or similar agencies, concerning vital statistics and similar public data? (That is, indices to vital records but not actual vital records, which are protected by privacy restrictions.) Does it make a difference if the records and books were published more than 50 years ago? 40 years ago?
posted by Asparagirl to Law & Government (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If they were first published (rather than created) before 1 March 1989, they would only be under copyright protection if they contain the proper copyright notice.

The Cornell Copyright Information Center has a relevant page, "Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States" which says when works created and published in various time spans enter the public domain.
posted by grouse at 9:06 PM on December 22, 2012

Yes, but some government publications are defined as always having been in the public domain, because they were created by public (tax) funding. Federal publications are generally like that. But this question is specifically about New York City publications, which are governed by New York State laws, not Federal.
posted by Asparagirl at 9:22 PM on December 22, 2012

I'm having a hard time finding a cite, but I've looked this up before and as a result am 99% sure NYC government works are under conventional copyright, like any private work.

Data, but not proof: NYCDCP Copyright Policy/Form.
posted by zvs at 10:05 PM on December 22, 2012

But this question is specifically about New York City publications, which are governed by New York State laws, not Federal.

New York City publications are governed by New York State and federal laws. U.S. works published before 1 March 1989 without a copyright notice are in the public domain, irrespective of whether they were created by a state or some other entity.
posted by grouse at 10:35 PM on December 22, 2012

I am afraid you have to treat works created by an employee of the government of New York City as you would works created by an employee of a private employer. The Cornell page linked by grouse is an excellent summary of how to evaluate the public domain status of such works.

Only two US states, California and Florida, have laws that generally place works of state employees in the public domain.

Per County of Santa Clara v. CFAC, a record of the government of California that was in any way "involved in the governmental process" and "prepared, owned, used or retained by any state or local agency" or officer, and has been obtained pursuant to the Sunshine Amendment of the Constitution of California, and/or the California Public Records Act (CPRA), and is not subject to any other copyright claim, is in the public domain. However, there is a specific statutory exemption from that general rule for works of California's Department of Toxic Substances Control.

Similarly, Florida's Constitution and its statutes do not permit public records to be copyrighted unless the legislature specifically states they can be. Such works are those that are part of the "public record made or received in connection with the official business of any public body, officer, or employee of the state, or persons acting on their behalf, [which includes the work of] the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government and each agency or department created thereunder; counties, municipalities, and districts; and each constitutional officer, board, and commission, or entity created pursuant to [Florida] law or [its] Constitution" (Florida Constitution, ยง 24). Florida's legislature has passed statutes to authorize several state agencies to claim copyright, including Florida's Department of State, Department of the Lottery, Department of Citrus, Florida Space Authority, and certain works of state universities (this list may not be exhaustive).
posted by RichardP at 10:53 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

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