Crown copyright covers material created by civil servants, ministers and government departments and agencies. This includes legislation, government codes of practice, Ordnance Survey mapping, government reports, official press releases, government forms and many public records.
Crown copyright is legally defined under section 163 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 as works made by officers or servants of the Crown in the course of their duties.
Copyright can also come into Crown ownership by means of assignment or transfer of the copyright from the legal owner of the copyright to the Crown.
Our role in managing Crown copyright
The Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office (HMSO) at The National Archives manages Crown copyright and Crown database rights on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen:
- licensing a wide range of Crown copyright and Crown database right information through the Open Government Licence and the UK Government Licensing Framework
- granting delegations of authority to government departments and agencies to enable them to license the information that they create or hold
- regulating any government departments and agencies which have authority from us to license the information they create, through our Information Fair Trader Scheme (IFTS)
Many of the public records held at The National Archives are subject to Crown copyright. You may quote or transcribe from Crown copyright documents freely and without formal permission. Where you are using documents held by The National Archives you must give the document reference number and acknowledge The National Archives as custodian of the document.
If you wish to publish an image of a document held at The National Archives (including readers’ own photographs of records) contact the image library for further advice.
More detailed guidance on the copyright and use of records held at The National Archives can be found in Using Materials from The National Archives (PDF, 0.16 MB).
You can find useful links on our Copyright guidance page.
A civil servant’s guide to copyright (PDF, 0.26 MB)
A Permanent Secretary’s guide to copyright (PDF, 0.34 MB)
Crown copyright – an overview for government departments (PDF, 0.10 MB)
How we deal with alleged breach of copyright (PDF, 0.05 MB)