All materials in MONTANA NEWSPAPERS are intended to support research, teaching and private study under fair use provisions of the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.).

The Montana Historical Society has attempted to ascertain any possible legal rights embodied in the materials. In cases where copyright holders could not be reached or identified, the materials are provided here under an assertion of fair use (Title 17, U.S.C. 107). MONTANA NEWSPAPERS also complies with the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Copyright Overview

Is the content I want to use protected by copyright?

Copyright is currently 95 years. All materials published in a given year enter public domain on january 1st of the 96th year. For example, items published in 1925 (the month doesn't matter) were protected through 2020 and entered the public domain January 1st 1921. However, certain conditions have to be met for materials to have copyright protection. Below is a quick guide by publication date.

  • : Everything published this year or earlier is in the public domain.
  • -1963: During this period, publishers had to actively register for copyright and then renew their copyright after 28 years. If they didn’t, then it’s public domain.
  • 1964-1977: During this period publishers had to actively register for copyright. Renewal wasn’t necessary. If they didn’t register, then it’s public domain.
  • 1978-current: Still in copyright and can only be digitized and put online with publisher permission.

  • NOTE: Just because a newspaper is public domain doesn’t mean that all the content therein is public domain

    Montana newspapers don’t seem to have registered for copyright, so as of now every newspaper that we’ve conducted copyright research on has been public domain. However, this isn’t the end of the copyright discussion. Newspapers include varying amounts of third-party materials (comics, fiction, syndicated columns, photos, etc). This material can have its own copyright, indicated by a © or "copyright" and a year. (For example, "© 1932" or "Copyright 1932".) Sometimes a publisher (ex. WNU) or author will be included.

    While creating the quote, as part of the content evaluation process, MHS staff evaluate the newspaper for copyright risk. Some of the considerations for 3rd party content are:

  • Does it say it was copyrighted?
  • How old is it? (Older material is generally considered safer. So there’s less risk in making a comic from the 1920s available than a comic from the 1970s.)
  • How much is it? (This means a couple of things. How much of the newspaper issue is 3rd party material? On the other hand, how much of the copyrighted material is available? For example, if the newspaper under consideration has 3 months of a comic that ran for 30 years, then it is less problematic then if we were digitizing the whole run of the comic.)
  • Is the copyrighted material available to buy? (One of the 4 elements of Fair Use revolves around the financial impact on copyright holders. However, our stance is that if it’s not available for sale then we’re not affecting sales.)

  • It is important to note that the more 3rd party copyrighted material a newspaper had the less likely that we would want to digitize it. Our priority is local and state content, which makes newspapers with lots of 3rd party content undesirable regardless of the copyright issues.

    As a side note, 3rd party material is one of the arguments against article level metadata. So those of you who wonder why most newspaper repositories don’t have the ability to let you look at all instances of a certain type of article, copyright is one of the reasons why. Part of the copyright argument is that we’re showing the copyrighted materials within the context of the page. If we separate the article from the page, our Fair Use argument gets weaker.

    Your responsibility as a user of this site

    You are free to share, print, or download the material on this site for your research, education and personal use. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner.

    Takedown policy

    If you are a rights holder and you believe inclusion of certain material in MONTANA NEWSPAPERS violates your rights (i.e. inclusion is not covered by the Fair Use or other exemption), please contact us at

    In your message, please include the following:

    • Your contact information (including email address and phone);
    • Full URL where you found the material. If your message refers to many items, provide at least one URL;
    • Description of the material (newspaper title, issue dates or date range);
    • The reason why you believe that your rights have been violated, with pertinent documentation;
    • A statement that you in good faith believe that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law; and
    • A statement that the information in your notification is accurate and that you are the rights holder or are authorized to act on behalf of the rights holder.

    Upon receipt, we will:

    • Promptly acknowledge your request via email.
    • Assess the validity of your request.

    Upon completing our assessment, we will take appropriate action and communicate that action to you. At our discretion, we may temporarily remove the material from public view while we assess your case. Note: We will consider only those requests that come directly from the copyright holder.