Monday, July 15, 2019

Copyright Basics and Exceptions

Copyright exists so that creators of books, films, sound recordings and more can get credit and perhaps profit from their creations. It involves ideas such as licensing, fair use, competing rules and court cases.  This blog will briefly address and explain these issues.

One of the more recent additions to copyright is that most things that were published in 1923 are now part of the public domain; this means these items are no longer copyrighted and can be used freely. For instance, this picture of Harold Lloyd in the movie Safety Last can be used and any theater can show the movie The Ten Commandments without being charged a fee.

Over time, the laws and rules of copyright have changed.  Currently, the US has treaties with other countries which allows the original author and their heir to hold a copyright on materials.

There is another idea in copyright called “fair use.”  It is an exception to copyright law and allows for the right of:
  • Reproduction of a work or part of a work
  • Adaptation
  • The distribution of works
  • Public performance
  • Public display
  • Digital transmission (sound recordings only).

This idea allows libraries to send items out on interlibrary loan, let teachers share things in the classroom and other possible uses.

There are four factors that someone must consider to see if fair use can be applied. The four factors include:
  • Originality
  • An expression of an idea.
  • Fixed in a tangible medium
  • Value of use

Fair Use Checklist 

In order to balance the ideas of access to information and copyright, there are guidelines that have been created to help librarians and users if they are within the limits of fair use. This checklist allows someone to consider different factors in making a decision whether an item such as a book, film, picture or other media can be used even if an item has a copyright.  If someone is using a copyrighted item in the classroom, for research, and for an educational institution, this favors fair use and under many circumstances would be allowed. If the item under question is for commercial use, someone is profiting from using the item and denying the original author credit; this leans against fair use and might be against the law to use the material because of copyright infringement.

There are certain things that cannot be copyrighted, such as recipes and facts. Other things that cannot be copyrighted are titles, short phrases, and US Government Documents.   State documents are usually not copyrighted although once in a while there is copyrighted material in a state document, especially if an outside author or firm has been contracted to produce a document or part of a document.  Items that were once under copyright but the copyright expired become part of the public domain and can be used.

Monkey selfies cannot be copyrighted.  Monkeys or any animal do not have the right to copyright their work because they are not human.  This is a real court case of a monkey selfie.  A photographer set up the picture.  Then the monkey took the camera and took a picture of herself. The monkey picture is online and is in the public domain.  The camera owner also does not have copyright because he did not take the picture.

A newer way of dealing with copyrighted documents or images is Creative Commons licensing.  According to their website:

Every license helps creators — we call them licensors if they use our tools — retain copyright while allowing others to copy, distribute, and make some uses of their work — at least non-commercially. Every Creative Commons license also ensures licensors get the credit for their work they deserve. Every Creative Commons license works around the world and lasts as long as applicable copyright lasts. 
There are 6 licenses in the Creative Commons licensing as listed on their website
These are: 

  • A) CC BY (Attribution) This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms. 
  • B) CC BY-SA (Attribution-Share Alike) This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.
  • C) CC BY-ND (Attribution-No-Derivatives) This license lets others reuse the work for any purpose, including commercially; however, it cannot be shared with others in adapted form, and credit must be provided to you.
  • D) CC BY-NC (Attribution-Non-Commercial) This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.
  • E) CC BY-NC-SA (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike) This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.
  • F) CC BY-NC-ND (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike-NoDerivatives) This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.


If one wants to use images that are free of copyright, one can look at images that have CC0 licensing through Creative Commons.   The CC0 means there are zero restrictions on these images and you do not even have to mention the person that is responsible for the image which is called an attribution.  These images are in the public domain and there are no restrictions on them.

Flickr images can be used although it is good to check with whomever owns the images to see if they want credit or have other restrictions.

A search for items in the public domain can be done but if you do a search you may get a warning that the images may be under copyright, especially if you are searching images in Google.

For more information

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian

Monday, July 8, 2019

Happy 147th Birthday Calvin Coolidge!

Over the past few months, I was a cataloger helping the State Library catalog their vast collections of maps and pictures. During this project, I came across some new photographs of Calvin Coolidge and his family that were not previously accessible in the collection. With Coolidge’s birthday just around the corner, I thought it was a good time to share these new photographs with you, as well as some of our other items concerning Coolidge.

Calvin Coolidge was born on July 4, 1872 in Plymouth Notch, Vermont.  He was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and President of the Massachusetts Senate.  He was also the 48th Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, before becoming Vice President to Warren G. Harding.  On August 2, 1923, President Harding died of a sudden heart attack, making Coolidge the 30th President of the United States.

The new photographs being added to the catalog are portraits of Coolidge and his family.

This one is of him and his wife, Grace.

This one is of him and his entire family,
including his sons John and Calvin Jr.

This one is of the Coolidge children, along with, who we presume, is their
grandfather Colonel John C. Coolidge and Captain I. Goodhue.

This photograph, from the same series, is of Coolidge
alone, maybe for a gubernatorial or presidential portrait.

There are many other photographs of Calvin Coolidge in the State Library’s collections, some are available to see digitally through Digital Commonwealth and can be accessed through our online catalog. The Digital Commonwealth is an online resource started from a grant by the Massachusetts Board of Library Trustees to connect Massachusetts libraries and their patrons with digital content from all over the Commonwealth and provides free online access to thousands of images, documents, and sound recordings.

The Special Collections Department also has many collections of ephemera about Coolidge-- one being a scrapbook of newspaper clippings concerning Calvin and Grace Coolidge. You can find it in our online catalog here and please feel free to visit our Special Collections Department in Room 55 to look at it.

The State Library will also be featuring Calvin Coolidge in our fall exhibit, so keep an eye out in this blog for more details!

Katherine Davis
Reference Technician

Monday, July 1, 2019

Friends Newsletter - July issue is here

Monday, June 24, 2019

Bird’s-Eye View Maps Are Now Online!

The State Library has a large collection of bird’s-eye view maps that were digitized and are now available online!  These maps illustrate with great detail aerial views of cities and towns in Massachusetts--much like what you can imagine a bird would see flying overhead!--with a few maps from other areas outside of Massachusetts.  The online collection includes 120 maps so far, with many more to be added in the near future.  Most maps date from the late 1800s up to the early 1900s. 

You can search and browse the collection in our DSpace online repository by visiting the following link:

If you have any questions regarding bird’s-eye view maps, or other maps in the library’s collection, please contact our Special Collections Department at 617-727-2595 or by email at

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, June 17, 2019

LGBTQ+ History and Pride in Massachusetts

Happy Pride Month from the State Library of Massachusetts!

Massachusetts has been home to a thriving LGBTQ+ culture throughout its history. In the late 20th century, LGBTQ+ activism came to the forefront following events like the Stonewall Riots in New York City. In 1971, the first official Pride March took place in Boston. Several years later in 1978, the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) organization was founded in Boston. Cultural organizations, like the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus founded in 1982, also popped up as activists fought for acceptance and civil rights.

The Massachusetts government was also changing at this time. In 1974, Elaine Noble became the first openly lesbian or gay candidate to be elected to a state legislature. In the same year, the Massachusetts Supreme Court also presided over the landmark case Commonwealth v. Balthazar regarding the legality of same-sex sexual activity. In 1989, Massachusetts became the second state to pass a law prohibiting discrimination against sexual orientation in employment, housing, credit, and public accommodations.

Elaine Noble, the first openly gay candidate
to be elected to the Massachusetts State
Legislature, listed in the Public Officers of the
 Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1975-1976)

In the 1990’s, the impact of continuous LGBTQ+ activism was even more visible in the Massachusetts state government. Previous laws prohibiting same-sex couples from acting as foster parents were rescinded thanks to the work of GLAD and the ACLU. In 1992, Governor William Weld began supporting certain rights for LGBTQ+ state employees and also appointed a Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, which published several reports throughout the 1990’s including Recommendations for the support of gay/straight alliances in Massachusetts (1996), which is available online. He also appointed a Governor’s Task Force on Hate Crimes, which was instrumental in implementing and amending both the Hate Crimes Reporting Act and the Hate Crimes Penalties Act in the 1990’s.

In late 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health found the commonwealth’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. In 2004, Governor Mitt Romney ordered town clerks to begin issuing marriage certificates to couples beginning May 17, 2004. That day, over 75 same-sex couples would marry throughout the state, making Massachusetts the first state in the United States where same-sex marriage was legal.

Panel from the State Library of Massachusetts’ exhibit on
Massachusetts Firsts regarding the legalization of same-sex
marriage in 2004.

But political activism for the LGBTQ+ community is not finished and continues today. According to Boston Magazine, Massachusetts has the second-largest LGBTQ+ community in the United States as of 2018. Governor Baker re-established the Task Force on Hate Crimes in 2017, and also signed legislation that included protections for transgender individuals in public restrooms. In 2018, the people of the commonwealth of Massachusetts voted against removing protections that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, which was added to the Massachusetts General Law in 2016. Governor Baker also signed legislation that banned conversation therapy in Massachusetts in 2019.

The State Library of Massachusetts welcome LGBTQ+ researchers, organizations, and groups. Please take a look at our catalog and DSpace Online Repository for state publications related to LGBTQ+ communities and history.

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Monday, June 10, 2019

Government Documents Librarians Visit the State House

Members of the group pose in the State Library’s conference
room, one of them holding a facsimile of Jacques Nicolas
Bellin’s 1760 map of Boston.
On May 20, 2019, the State Library hosted a meeting of Government Publications Librarians of New England.  The group meets twice a year and we discuss topics and host speakers relevant to federal government documents. We had a presentation from a staff member from Project Citizenship, a non-profit that seeks to increase the naturalization rate in Massachusetts and beyond by providing free, high-quality services to permanent resident to help them become U.S. citizens the different paths people have for becoming citizens. I gave them a tour of our spring exhibit on early advertisements in city directories.  I also showed them the artwork and architecture of the third (Room 341) and fourth (Room 442) floors of the State Library.

The group also toured the State Library’s Special Collections Department, which is in a different part
Plan de la ville de Boston et ses environs,
by Jacques Nicolas, 1760
of the State House (basement level, west wing); the department head showed us examples of the types of holdings that department handles. We saw a bird’s-eye view map of Arlington, Massachusetts, both before and after careful cleaning treatment by the Library’s former Preservation Librarian; a hand-colored 1760 map of Boston that shows a very different land mass than we know today; a volume of photographs of members of the state Senate from 1880, featuring men with significant facial hair; the Library’s earliest city directory (1789, Boston); a volume of the newspaper the New England Chronicle from 1776 that includes the text of the Declaration of Independence; an 1862 issue of the short-lived Russell’s Horse Railroad Guide for Boston and Vicinity; and a beautiful facsimile volume of William Bradford’s Of Plimoth Plantation. (Note: the entire Bradford manuscript is available in digital format in our digital repository, DSpace.)  For more information about some of our resources please see our list of city directories and a list of our early newspapers including the New England Chronicle.

The group really appreciated their time spent at the State Library of Massachusetts.

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Now Open!! The New State Library Store

The State Library is excited to announce the launch of our BRAND NEW online storefront powered by Shopify!  Our online store is your go-to place for beautiful reproduction maps and notecards, as well as various items featuring the State Library’s logo, including mugs, aprons, tote bags, and magnets. We will be adding more State Library-branded merchandise in the coming months.  All items are also available at our main Reference Desk in Room 341 of the State House so stop by or order online—your choice!

Thank you for checking out the new storefront directly through Shopify or by clicking through on our State Library homepage’s “quick links” section.  And don’t forget that your purchase directly supports the services and programs at the State Library.  Happy shopping!

State Library of Massachusetts Staff