Copyright and permissions
The British Museum wishes to encourage the dissemination and use of information about our collection and expertise that we publish on our website.
For this purpose, we increasingly intend to release content on our website under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.
See 're-use of images' for specific information around using images from the British Museum website.
Copyright and permissions
What does the Creative Commons licence apply to?
The Creative Commons licence does not apply to everything on our website. Content that is published under the Creative Commons licence will be marked with the following logo:
Why is everything on the website not published under a Creative Commons licence?
All the content on our website is protected by internationally recognised laws of copyright and intellectual property. The British Museum can decide under what terms to release the content for which we own the copyright.
However, not all the content on our website is owned exclusively by the British Museum. Some of it may have third-party intellectual property or image rights that the Museum does not own. While we have made all reasonable efforts to obtain permission from the owners of such content to post it on our website, we cannot allow any additional uses ourselves.
Additionally, there may be content we cannot share under a Creative Commons licence due to cultural sensitivities, or if doing so would be against any existing Museum policies (such as our human remains policy).
How can I use the content published under a Creative Commons licence?
The British Museum publishes some of the content on our website under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.
This licence allows you to:
BY (Attribution): Copy, distribute, display and perform our copyrighted work – and derivative works based upon it – but only if you give us credit in the way we request:
© The Trustees of the British Museum.
NC (NonCommercial): Copy, distribute, display, and perform our work – and derivative works based upon it – but for non-commercial purposes only.
SA (ShareAlike): Distribute derivative works only under a licence identical to the licence that governs our work.
Creative Commons defines commercial use as 'reproducing a work in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or monetary compensation'.
For the avoidance of doubt, the British Museum considers the following to be commercial activities (this list is not exhaustive):
- anything that is in itself charged for, including textbooks and academic books or journals;
- an individual's website or blog that is used as a platform to promote or conduct commercial activities (for example, to sell products created by or services provided by such an individual);
- a commercial organization’s website or blog, including trading arms of charities;
- freely distributed leaflets or merchandise that promote goods or services;
- corporate stationery or any business communications such as annual reviews;
- free-entry events, presentations or lectures promoting a product or a service;
- displays in public places offering or promoting a product or service, such as use in a shop, restaurant, hotel, public bar or property showroom.
The British Museum considers the following to be non-commercial activities (this list is not exhaustive):
- use in free-entry, educational lectures (or in activities promoting free-entry lectures);
- promotion of any non-commercial activity, such as a poster advertising a bursary;
- one-off classroom use;
- reproduction within a thesis document submitted by a student at an educational establishment (an electronic version of the thesis may be stored online by the educational establishment as long as it is made available at no cost to the end user);
- use in websites as long as they are informational, academic or research-oriented and not linked to any commercial activity;
- display within a free-entry public space (including museums and galleries), as long as the use is not promoting a product or a service;
- educational and classroom use within an educational establishment or in the course of formal instruction.
How can I use the content that is not published under a Creative Commons licence?
Please note: the British Museum cannot guarantee that your use of any content found on our website will not infringe any third-party copyright or other intellectual property rights. It is your responsibility to judge whether any of the content may need additional clearances for your intended use and to obtain them.
Frequently asked questions
I am a doctoral candidate. Can I use British Museum content in my thesis?
Yes, you may use British Museum content at no charge in your thesis (including images from Collections Online and content from our website) as long as:
- we have made the content available under a Creative Commons licence;
- you attribute us with the appropriate credit line;
- if published, the thesis is made available for free and, if placed in electronic deposit, the electronic copy is also available for free;
- you or your academic institution further distributes our content by applying the same conditions under which we gave it to you.
What if my thesis is chosen for publication?
If your thesis is published, whether as an article or a book and whether in print or electronic format, you need to contact us to request permission. You may do so by emailing email@example.com or, in the case of photographs, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can I use British Museum content on social media sites?
You may use British Museum content that has been made available under Creative Commons on social media sites, so long as the page does not advertise or is not connected to commercial activity or commercial services of any kind.
Please note: we distribute our content under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence, which does not allow use of our content for commercial purposes.
Some social media sites distribute content under a Creative Commons Attribution/ShareAlike licence, which does allow the content posted on their site to be further used commercially. In other cases, by uploading content to the social media site, the user is granting the host of the site permission to further use the content commercially.
In those cases, posting British Museum content to those sites would not be allowed.
Can I use British Museum content in my article if it is published in an Open Access journal?
It depends. One of the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence is that the content be further shared under the same conditions we shared it with you.
If the journal where you would like to publish our content is published under a licence that is less restrictive than ours (for example, CC BY-SA, which allows commercial uses) or more restrictive than ours (for example, CC BY-NC-ND, which doesn’t allow the creation of derivative works) you may not use our content without asking us for permission first.
If, on the other hand, the journal is published under a licence that would not limit or expand the rights we grant you (that is, a CC BY-NC-SA licence) you may use the content we have published under a Creative Commons licence without needing further permission.
If you are unsure under which licence the journal is being published, you should ask your editor for clarification.
What if the journal is published by a charity?
Again, it depends. Some charitable uses could be made within the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence. However, Creative Commons differentiates between uses, rather than between users, for its definitions of commercial and non-commercial uses. This means, for example, that:
- If a charity or not-for-profit society sells products in order to carry out or support itself, the activity is commercial because the sales (as opposed to free distribution) of the products are ‘primarily intended or directed toward a commercial advantage’, even if the commercial advantage is in the public interest of supporting the charity.
- On the other hand, if a commercial entity, such as a private university, holds a series of free-entry educational lectures, the activity may be non-commercial (provided it is not a form of marketing) even though the institution may normally charge commercial rates for all other courses and events.
I found a 3D photograph of a British Museum object on your website. How can I use it? Can I print it out with my 3D printer?
The British Museum is starting to explore the possibilities of 3D imaging. We make 3D photographs of our objects (both the images and the data files) available via our website and external sites dedicated to 3D imaging under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence, which allows use of the 3D photographs for non-commercial purposes only (as explained in more detail above).
As for printing out the 3D objects, you may do so for personal, non-commercial uses only. Under no circumstance may you sell, lease, rent or otherwise commercially distribute 3D printouts of our objects.
Where the British Museum permits the photography or scanning of objects in its collection that are culturally sensitive or have continuing religious meaning in their cultures of origin you are asked to be mindful and respectful of such cultural sensitivities when taking and using films, photographs, scans and printouts for your own purposes.
- Should you wish to use the scans or printouts commercially, you may contact email@example.com to obtain the appropriate licence.
Re-use of images
Unless stated otherwise, the copyright for the majority of images on the British Museum website belongs to The Trustees of the British Museum. However, please note that the copyright for certain images is held by third-parties.
To re-use any of the website images, the type of license you may need depends on your intended use. Determine whether it is for non-commercial or commercial use, by referring to the lists of activities above, under the title How can I use the content published under a Creative Commons licence?
Find out where and how to source and download images, plus further licensing and copyright information, on our images and photography page.