Copyright Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean when the Field Museum says it owns the copyright?

As copyright owner, the Field can make decisions about how others use collections media without needing to contact researchers or scientists for each new request. Still, the Museum strives to properly attribute media creators and share this information with other researchers.

Access Field Museum data and images

What materials are included in the Field Museum’s copyright?

The Field owns copyright to the material it produces, such as accession records, archival material, and media created by staff members. The Museum does not own copyright to academic work—like journal articles or field notes—or things created by external researchers who have not signed a copyright agreement. 

Some materials aren’t subject to copyright by any party. This includes: 

  • Genetic data
  • Factual data, e.g. measurements, place and date of origin
  • Natural specimens
  • Human-made, non-expressive objects, e.g. tools, shoes
  • Data about media, e.g. XMP metadata in an image file

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is a set of standardized licenses that make it easier for people to share and use copyrighted works. By releasing a work under a Creative Commons license, the copyright holder can grant blanket permission for use of the work, without requiring individuals to obtain specific permission for each use case. 

Learn more about Creative Commons

What is the Nagoya Protocol?

The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international agreement regarding the use of genetic material. The protocol’s goal is to ensure that communities are fully informed about the uses of genetic material from their area and benefit from the use of those materials. 

Learn more about the Nagoya Protocol

While the U.S. has not ratified the Nagoya Protocol, the Field may have agreements with countries who have. This means that agreements such as collecting permits, memorandums of understanding (MOUs), and material transfer agreements may be subject to Nagoya-related obligations and restrictions. 

Contact Us

For more information about copyright and Field collections data and media, contact

Further Reading