Copyright and Licensing

This includes the fields Copyright/IP holder, Copyright statement and Creative Commons License. These fields are not required, and can be left blank if you are unsure of the correct values or if you feel that they are inapplicable. The MorphoSource Download Use Agreement and the Additional Usage Agreement are alternative approaches for regulating re-use of media and do not require information to be present in these fields.

Copyright/IP holder

For many 3D media created recently, the copyright or IP holder is probably the museum or lab that manages the physical specimen or object represented by the media. Some examples of museum policies include the American Museum of Natural History Vertebrate Paleontology and Field Museum of Natural History.  However, there are many exceptions, and you should be aware of all agreements relating to ownership of the media and its derivatives. You should also have a discussion with all stakeholders associated with your scan to ensure consensus exists regarding IP ownership. It is not necessary to know or to indicate whether the Copyright/IP holder you provide is a copyright holder or a non-copyright owner of the media as this is implied by other settings. 

Do contributors become copyright holders by processing or editing media? For derivatives of media where the Copyright/IP holder is a museum or other institution, it is unlikely that museum or institution will consider any form of data processing, cleaning, or enhancement as valid criteria for assigning ownership of the derivative to the individual who does the processing, cleaning, or enhancement. Creative (imaginative) modification may hypothetically justify a claim of copyright by the creator over a media derivative; however, it is up to the creator to know whether such creative modification is allowed by the museum or institution holding the specimen. Furthermore, creatively modified images are generally not appropriate for MorphoSource, as the focus of MorphoSource is on 2D and 3D media faithfully representing imaged physical specimens and objects.

Copyright statement

This drop-down field lists a number of different statements that a data contributor can make relating to the copyright, non-copyright, or use restriction status of a media. These statements were created by the Rights Statements project as, “a set of standardized rights statements that can be used to communicate the copyright and re-use status of digital objects to the public.” ( Some of these statements indicate that no copyright has been or can be applied to media, but that other usage restrictions apply to this data. 

Do non-copyrighted media have to be shared without restriction? Media that do not qualify for copyright can still be owned and restricted. In other words, there may still be a valid IP holder and certain re-use restrictions may still be applied. 

Copyright statement may affect availability of licenses. If you select a copyright statement, it may affect the options available to you for other Ownership and Permissions settings.  For example, if you select the statement No Known Copyright, you will not be able to select any Creative Commons Licenses except Creative Commons CC0, Public Domain Mark, or License Terms Unknown, because Creative Commons licenses are specifically for use with copyrighted works (e.g., footnote #1).

Creative Commons License

This drop-down field lists standardized Creative Commons (CC) copyright licenses that can be used to restrict use and re-use of copyrightable works. CC licenses are intended specifically for resources that qualify for copyright and cannot be applied to media where you indicate there is no copyright. More information can be found about the different CC licenses available at the Creative Commons website (

Importantly, according to our understanding, if the media you share does not legally qualify for copyright for any reason, claiming copyright and specifying a CC license (which itself implicitly claims copyright) may not adequately control reuse of that media (see footnote #1). 2D or 3D images that are created as highly accurate faithful recreations of real-life objects are often not considered copyrightable, at least in the US (e.g., Meshwerks, Inc. v. Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., 2008). If there is uncertainty about the copyright status of media or whether a media may be copyrightable, the MorphoSource Download Use Agreement and the Additional Usage Agreement described below may be used to specify reuse requirements and restrictions without reference to copyright.

 1D’Andrea A, Conyers M, Courtney K, Finch E, Levine M, Rountrey A, Kettler HS, and Webbink K. 2022. Copyright and Legal Issues Surrounding 3D Data. In: Moore J, Rountrey A, and Kettler HS, editors. 3D Data Creation to Curation: Community Standards for 3D Data Preservation: Chicago: Association of College & Research Libraries.