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Copyright on Space Images

Copyright and NASA data

NASA data is in the public domain: federal copyright law denies copyright protection for works produced by the federal government. So can individuals assert copyright over images that they produce from NASA data? Yes. Despite using an image not granted copyright protections, makers of pieces based in whole or in part on government creations may have limited copyright protection because they have produced “derivative” or “compilation” works.

Two important criteria must be satisfied in order to gain copyright protection. First, the new work must possess some creative difference which makes it readily distinguishable from the original work. Secondly, if the original image is copyrighted, you must have permission from the copyright holder to create a derivative work.

To continue reading a discussion of copyright on NASA images, read this blog entry by Andrew Rush.

Copyright and data from other agencies

While NASA does not hold copyright over their images, other agencies do. Both JAXA and ESA reserve some rights, but do grant the right to reuse their data for noncommercial purposes including in education and by the media. Both require attribution. Here are ESA's terms and conditions, and here are JAXA's. ISRO appears to reserve all rights to their data. China allows re-use of images for noncommercial purposes with attribution, according to personal communication with Dr. Yong-Chun Zheng. (Still looking for some terms and conditions for Russian data.)

When submitting an image to this site, you can choose what permissions you grant to others to use your work. Some examples include:

For all of these, you can, of course, grant broader rights to individuals who contact you to request permission from you. It is strongly recommended that you provide an email address that can be posted publicly in order to allow people to contact you to request permission to use your copyrighted image.

Image data attribution

Proper attribution is important to the space imaging community, both professionals and amateurs. For space images, credit is due not only to the image processor, but also to the organizations that produced the original data. Each data set from each instrument on each spacecraft might have a different proper attribution.

Below is an exhaustive list of the proper credit lines for each instrument on each mission. While you don't have to credit NASA legally, it's considered good etiquette to do so. ESA and JAXA data are shared under the condition that they are attributed.

Akatsuki Longwave Infrared Camera (LIR): JAXA
Akatsuki 1-mm Camera (IR1): JAXA
Akatsuki 2-mm Camera (IR2): JAXA
Cassini Titan Radar Mapper (RADAR): NASA / JPL
Cassini Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS): NASA / JPL / SSI
Cassini Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS): NASA / JPL / UA
Chandrayaan-1 Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC): ISRO
Chandrayaan-1 Hyper-Spectral Imager (HySI): ISRO
Chandrayaan-1 Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3): ISRO / NASA / JPL / Brown University
Chandrayaan-1 Moon Impact Probe Video Camera (MIP): ISRO
Chang'E 1 Stereo Camera: CNSA
Chang'E 2 Stereo Camera: CNSA
Chang'E 3 instruments: Chinese Academy of Sciences
Clementine Ultraviolet/Visible Camera (UV/Vis): Naval Research Laboratory
Dawn Framing Camera (FC): NASA / JPL / MPS / DLR / IDA
Deep Impact High Resolution Instrument (HRI): NASA / JPL / UMD
Deep Impact Medium Resolution Instrument (MRI): NASA / JPL / UMD
Deep Impact Impactor Targeting Sensor (ITS): NASA / JPL / UMF
Deep Space 1 Miniature Integrated Camera Spectrometer (MICAS): NASA / JPL
Galileo Solid State Imaging (SSI): NASA / JPL
Galileo Near Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (NIMS): NASA / JPL / UA
Hayabusa (MUSES-C) Asteroid Multi-band Imaging Camera (AMICA): ISAS / JAXA
Hiten (MUSES-A) Optical Navigation System (ONS): ISAS / JAXA
Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3): *depends upon investigator*
Hubble Space Telescope Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS): *depends upon investigator*
Hubble Space Telescope Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS): *depends upon investigator*
Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2): *depends upon investigator*
Hubble Space Telescope Faint Object Camera (FOC): *depends upon investigator*
Huygens Descent Imager and Spectral Radiometer (DISR): ESA / NASA / JPL / UA
Kaguya Terrain Camera (TC): JAXA
Kaguya High-Definition Television Camera (HDTV): JAXA / NHK
Kaguya Multiband Imager (MI): JAXA
Kaguya Laser Altimeter (LALT): JAXA
LCROSS Visible Camera (VIS): NASA / ARC
LCROSS Near Infrared Camera 1 (NIR1): NASA / ARC
LCROSS Near Infrared Camera 2  (NIR2): NASA / ARC
LCROSS Mid-Infrared Camera 1 (MIR1): NASA / ARC
LCROSS Mid-Infrared Camera 2 (MIR2): NASA / ARC
Luna 3 Lunar Photography:
Luna 9:
Luna 13:
Luna 21:
Luna 22:
Lunar Orbiter 1 Lunar Photographic Studies: NASA / USGS
Lunar Orbiter 2 Lunar Photographic Studies: NASA / USGS
Lunar Orbiter 3 Lunar Photographic Studies: NASA / USGS
Lunar Orbiter 4 Lunar Photographic Studies: NASA / USGS
Lunar Orbiter 5 Lunar Photographic Studies: NASA / USGS
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera Narrow Angle Camera (LROC NAC): NASA / GSFC / ASU
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera Wide Angle Camera (LROC WAC): NASA / GSFC / ASU
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA): NASA / GSFC
Magellan Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR): NASA / JPL
Mariner 4 Mars TV Camera: NASA / JPL
Mariner 6 Mars TV Camera: NASA / JPL
Mariner 7 Mars TV Camera: NASA / JPL
Mariner 9 Television Photography (TV): NASA / JPL
Mariner 10 Television Photography (TV): NASA / JPL
Mars 2:
Mars 3:
Mars 3:
Mars 4:
Mars 5:
Mars Exploration Rover Panoramic Camera (PanCam): NASA / JPL / Cornell
Mars Exploration Rover Navigational Camera (NavCam): NASA / JPL
Mars Exploration Rover Hazard Avoidance Camera (HazCam): NASA / JPL
Mars Exploration Rover Microscopic Imager (MI): NASA / JPL / USGS
Mars Express High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC): ESA / DLR / FU Berlin (G. Neukum)
Mars Express High-Resolution Stereo Camera Super-resolution Channel (SRC): ESA / DLR / FU Berlin (G. Neukum)
Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC): NASA / JPL / MSSS
Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA): NASA / JPL / GSFC
Mars Observer Mars Observer Camera (MOC): NASA / JPL / MSSS
Mars Odyssey Thermal Emission Imaging Spectrometer (THEMIS): NASA / JPL / ASU
Mars Pathfinder Imager for Mars Pathfinder (IMP): NASA / JPL
Mars Pathfinder Rover camera: NASA / JPL
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE): NASA / JPL / UA
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM): NASA / JPL / JHUAPL / Brown University
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mars Color Imager (MARCI): NASA / JPL / MSSS
Mars Science Laboratory ChemCam: NASA / JPL / LANL / CNES / IRAP
Mars Science Laboratory Hazard Avoidance Camera (Hazcam): NASA / JPL
Mars Science Laboratory Mars Descent Imager (MARDI): NASA / JPL / MSSS
Mars Science Laboratory Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI): NASA / JPL / MSSS
Mars Science Laboratory Mast Camera (Mastcam): NASA / JPL / MSSS
Mars Science Laboratory Navigational Camera (Navcam): NASA / JPL
MESSENGER Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS): NASA / JHUAPL / CIW
MESSENGER Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA): NASA / JHUAPL / CIW
Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous Multispectral Imager (MSI): NASA / JPL / JHUAPL
New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI): NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI
New Horizons Visible Imager and Imaging Spectrometer Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (Ralph MVIC): NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI
New Horizons Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (Ralph LEISA): NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI
Nozomi Mars Imaging Camera (MIC): ISAS / JAXA
Phobos 2 Videospectrometric System (VSK): Russian Academy of Sciences
Phoenix Surface Stereo Imager  (SSI): NASA / JPL / UA
Phoenix Robotic Arm Camera (RAC): NASA / JPL / UA / MPI
Phoenix Microscopy, Electrochemistry, and Conductivity Analyzer (MECA): NASA / JPL / UA / UCL
Pioneer 10 Imaging Photopolarimeter (IPP): NASA / JPL
Pioneer 11 Imaging Photopolarimeter (IPP): NASA / JPL
Pioneer Venus Radar Mapper: NASA / JPL
Ranger 7 Lunar Photographic Studies: NASA
Ranger 8 Lunar Photographic Studies: NASA
Ranger 9 Lunar Photographic Studies: NASA
Rosetta Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS): ESA / MPS / UPD / LAM / IAA / RSSD / INTA / UPM / DASP / IDA
Rosetta Comet nucleus Infrared and Visible Analyzer (CIVA): CIVA / Philae / ESA Rosetta
SMART-1 Asteroid-Moon Micro-Imager Experiment (AMIE): ESA /SPACE-X (Space Exploration Institute)
Stardust Imaging and Navigation Camera: NASA / JPL
Surveyor 1 Television Photography: NASA
Surveyor 3 Television Photography: NASA
Surveyor 5 Television Photography: NASA
Surveyor 6 Television Photography: NASA
Surveyor 7 Television Photography: NASA
Vega 1 Television System (TVS): Russian Academy of Sciences
Vega 2 Television System (TVS): Russian Academy of Sciences
Venera 9 Panoramic Telephotometer for Surface Imagery: Russian Academy of Sciences
Venera 10 Panoramic Telephotometer for Surface Imagery: Russian Academy of Sciences
Venera 13 Panoramic Telephotometer for Surface Imagery: Russian Academy of Sciences
Venera 14 Panoramic Telephotometer for Surface Imagery: Russian Academy of Sciences
Venus Express Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC): ESA / MPS, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany
Venus Express Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (VIRTIS): ESA / INAF-IASF, Rome, Italy, and Observatoire de Paris, France
Viking 1 Orbiter Imaging: NASA / JPL
Viking 1 Lander Imaging: NASA / JPL
Viking 2 Orbiter Imaging: NASA / JPL
Viking 2 Lander Imaging: NASA / JPL
Voyager 1 Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS): NASA / JPL
Voyager 2 Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS): NASA / JPL
Zond 3:
Zond 6:
Zond 7:
Zond 8:

Disclaimer: this article is not intended to constitute legal advice. Legal advice and counsel requires a fact-specific analysis of your particular issues, and you should thus obtain legal advice directly and individually from an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction, or patent agent, if appropriate.

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