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Guidelines for the use of Copyrighted Material


Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum (CGDC) distributes some materials, including digital images, under the Fair Use of the United States Copyright Law or as public domain. Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum does not hold the copyright to most of the materials in its collections. The nature of museums and historical collections is such that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine. Some of the photos in our collection may have aged out of copyright and are now considered public domain.

It is not the role of CGDC to be legal advisor as to the copyright status of any specific item. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine copyright and secure permissions for any reuse of CGDC materials exceeding fair use or to determine whether it is in public domain.

Any use of copyrighted reproductions from the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum collections exceeding fair use of copyrighted materials, including transferring or recopying, requires the permission of the copyright holder. Acquiring that permission is solely the responsibility of the user. Permission for usage of copyrighted material that exceeds the definition of “fair use” is not conveyed by purchase of an image or materials from Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum.


Copyright is a form of legal protection provided by the laws of the United States (Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976) to the authors (creators) of “original works of authorship” fixed in a tangible form of expression. The protection is available to both published and unpublished works. This includes, but is not limited to: photography, written works, music, audio and video material, art, design, and architecture.

As a general matter, copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.

The material does not need to be imprinted, stamped, or marked with a copyright notice to be covered by copyright law.

In 1998 the copyright term was increased to the author’s life plus 70 years, and 95 years for corporate authors — and, if the author is unknown, up to 120 years from creation, whichever expires first. This definition was not only granted to future works, it was retroactively applied to works that had already been created and enjoyed their full copyright term.

Copyright is considered personal property, so when an author dies, ownership can be passed on as part of the estate to an heir or to a third party via a will or a purchase from heirs.


The term “public domain” refers to creative materials that are no longer protected by copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use public domain work without obtaining permission, but no individual can claim ownership.

There are four common ways that works arrive in the public domain:

    1. The copyright term has expired,
    2. The copyright owner failed to follow copyright renewal rules,
    3. The copyright owner deliberately places it in the public domain, known as “dedication,” or
    4. Copyright law does not protect this type of work.


Fair use is a legal doctrine in U.S. Copyright law that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the limited, unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act provides the framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use.  The following four factors are used to determine  when you can use and/or claim fair use:

    1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.
    2. The nature of the copyrighted work.
    3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
    4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.


As a matter of best practice, we recommend patrons and scholars using museum collection materials cite the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum and/or the museum’s web pages as the source for collection materials. Photo images with a catalog number including “WCPA” should credit “Wasco County Pioneer Association, courtesy of Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum.”



(rev. 6/25/2019)

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