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License: Works made by employees of the U.S. federal government or its agencies (such as the NOAA, the USFWS, the NPS, and many others) as part of their duties are in the public domain in the U.S. Please note following, though:
- This applies only to the federal government of the United States. It does not apply to state governments or other local administrations and their employees. U.S. states can and do hold copyrights.
- This does not apply to contractors of the U.S. federal government. For instance, the publications from most of the national laboratories of the United States Department of Energy (DOE, a federal agency) are not in the public domain.
- If something is in the "public record", that does not necessarily mean that it is in the "public domain". A copyrighted work that becomes part of the public record remains copyrighted. That said, most U.S. public records are in the public domain by virtue of being works of federal employees, or by being laws, court decisions, and the like.
- Beware that *.gov websites may still use copyrighted third-party materials, either under a license from the copyright owner or under a "fair use" claim. Usually, such third party materials are identified by a credit line ("courtesy of..."). Such materials do not fall under the "U.S. government works are in the public domain"-rule; they are copyrighted.