DAC Copyright Information

There are three main copyright options for assets being uploaded into DAC:

According to the SPG on Copyright at the University of Michigan, “Under U.S. copyright law, the University holds the copyright (as “works made for hire”) in copyrighted works authored by its EMPLOYEES who are acting within the scope of their employment.” This means that any work created by employees (including students employees acting in the capacity of employee) falls under this scope.

For works that initially vested with the University, the copyright will end 95 years after the year of first publication.  For other published works, the copyright will end seventy years after the author’s death.

Although the U-M Regents retain the copyright, “the University units most closely associated with the creation of specific University held works may authorize uses of those works (e.g., they may authorize a third-party to copy, adapt, or distribute a University held work).” For the purposes of DAC, this means that each School, College, or Unit can determine what kinds of rights and usage are assigned to the assets within their jurisdiction.

Assets created at U-M that do not fall under the Regents’ copyright, and therefore are considered “third-party” copyright include:

  1. Scholarly works (copyright to these are transferred to the creator)
  2. Content created by students in a non-employee context
  3. Independent Contractors retaining copyright*

*Note: It is the policy of the U-M Regents that works created by Independent Contractors are officially transferred to the University. However, if for some reason, the rights are not transferred, then the copyright remains with the creator.

In summary: assets created for scholarly purposes or by students not in the capacity of employee, or by contractors who retain copyright would be considered “Third-party” copyrighted works.

What about Stock Photography?

Another instance wherein you would choose Third-party is when uploading stock images purchased under any account associated with the University of Michigan. Assets purchased under RF licenses from stock agencies require no further permission. Information about the stock agency from which the file originated can be entered in the “Creator” section of the metadata template.

Stay tuned for information regarding availability of integrations with Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, and Getty Images accounts within DAC.

Important Note: only “royalty-free” stock (RF) should be placed in DAC, however, because assets labeled “Rights Managed” (RM) are generally licensed for a specific, limited purpose and time period. If you’re unsure, check your license, EULA, or the file’s embedded metadata.

For any assets falling under the Third-party category, it is especially important to complete Copyright Owner, Credit Line, and Contact Information fields. Please see Metadata in DAC for more details. 

Public Domain is a term used to describe assets falling outside of copyright. It applies to works created by government agencies, or works for whom the original copyright has expired or transferred to the Public Domain by the creator. It is a common misconception regarding digital files that if the original is old enough to be in the public domain, that the digital reproduction will be available to use for free as well, but this is not always the case. Another misconception is that if a photo has been shared widely, it is in the public domain, this is definitely not the case.

Examples of copyright scenarios:

  • Contractor, created as “Work for Hire” ⇒ Regents of the University of Michigan copyright
  • Faculty or Staff, University Business ⇒ Regents of the University of Michigan copyright
  • Student Employee ⇒ Regents of the University of Michigan copyright
  • Contractor, Retaining Copyright ⇒ Third-Party copyright
  • Faculty or Staff, Scholarly Work (copyright is transferred to creator)  ⇒ Third-Party copyright
  • Stock Photographer ⇒ Third-Party copyright
  • Student, Retains Copyright ⇒ Third-Party copyright

Ambiguous copyright situations:

If the copyright status is unknown for any reason, for example: you do not know who took the photo, or if the photo was taken by a student whose contact information is not available, or there is anything else that makes the copyright situation murky, I’d advise not uploading them to DAC.

If you’d like to read up on Copyright, the U-M Libraries offer a great guide. You may also email the library or attend their copyright workshops to learn more about copyright. If you have a specific copyright issue related to U-M business and require legal advice, consult the OGC.

Digital Asset Collaborative Copyright Notice: 

Copyright 2023 Regents of the University of Michigan.

Disclaimer: All copyright information in asset metadata is accurate to the best of the uploaders’ knowledge. For all copyright questions related to specific assets, please use the contact information listed in the asset metadata.

More information about U-M Copyright

Acceptable use of DAC is governed by the relevant laws, regulations, and policies

When using images found in DAC, please first consult the Rights and Usage field for the asset in question.

Please note: not all assets are available for all uses, and not all images are licensed in the same manner.

Some assets are restricted as to who can use or in what context, some require permission, while others you may use freely but require attribution. When in doubt, reach out using the contact information for that asset to clarify.  

Credit Line:

Please refer to the “Credit Line” Value; if this field is blank, use the following standard format:

Creator, School College or Unit, Regents of the University of Michigan 

Additional credit information: 

Depending on what information is in the Rights and Usage field, you may wish to follow the credit line with “Used by Permission” (if applicable).


Scott C. Soderberg, Michigan Photography, Regents of the University of Michigan. Used by permission.

Creative Commons 

Some assets within DAC utilize Creative Commons Licenses. Please refer to the “Rights and Usage” field in the asset details to identify this information. 

Recommendation: Use the standard credit line above, followed by the relevant Creative Commons license (including both the license and the link, if possible).


Scott R. Galvin, Stamps School of Art & Design, Regents of the University of Michigan. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Other Citation Styles

Citing in AP:

Photograph Title. (Photograph). Collection, Museum/Institution, Location. Month, Date, Year Created. 


“University Hospital and Michigan Medicine against a magenta late evening summer sky.” U-M Digital Asset Collaborative, Michigan Photography, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. (Photo/Scott C. Soderberg/Michigan Photography). August 5, 2020.

Citing in Chicago Style:

Author last name, First name. Year. Image Title. Month, Day, Year. Format description. Website Name. URL.


Soderberg, Scott C. 2023. “University Hospital and Michigan Medicine against a magenta late evening summer sky.” University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. Digital Photo. U-M Digital Asset Collaborative. https://digitalassets.umich.edu/

Citing in APA:

Title, author, date, site name, URL, followed by the name of the Creative Commons License, if applicable.


“Stamps 3D printers and items each printer has printed.” Galvin, Scott R., February 16, 2023. U-M Digital Asset Collaborative. https://digitalassets.umich.edu. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

If you have any questions, please reach out.