Rights and Reproductions
The National Postal Museum is committed to making its collections accessible and available to researchers, publishers, and the general public in support of scholarship, education, and personal enrichment.
High-resolution digital images of many objects in our collection can be downloaded for nonprofit, commercial, and/or personal use. Images meeting the criteria for such use are marked with the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) designation, and are available for download on the National Postal Museum website.
In keeping with the Smithsonian’s move toward an open access policy for its digital images, the National Postal Museum does not charge for the use of any digital images. Fees may still be required for additional services related to digital imaging, e.g. generating new or higher resolution images to meet a user’s need. Such fees are determined on a case by case basis.
The museum requests a complimentary copy of publications in which museum images are published. The museum requests that its digital assets be used with full attribution to the National Postal Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
Permission to use copyrighted material (photographs/designs/artwork/etc.) does not automatically transfer with your order if copyright is held by another institution. For example, some photographs on the museum website are copyrighted by the Library of Congress or other institutions. Before using those images, permission should be obtained from the appropriate institution.
Museum website text may be used without cost. Permission from the museum is not required to use the text. The museum, however, does request that the text be used with full attribution given to the National Postal Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
Historic photographs on the museum’s website and social media accounts are published at the only available resolution and size. Images that do not have a credit line on the museum’s online platforms should be credited: National Postal Museum, Smithsonian Institution. All images with credit lines to individuals and organizations should be credited as such and permission from the copyright owner may be required for use. Researchers may download images, however, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine rights and use permissions that might pertain to images on the museum’s online platforms and objects in the collection. Other sources for historical images of the U.S. postal system include: Library of Congress, National Archives, as well as other libraries, museums, archives, news organizations and commercial outlets.
The U.S. Postal Service holds the copyright of all U.S. stamps issued after December 31, 1978. As such, the museum cannot give permission to use images of post-December 31, 1978 issued U.S. stamps. Permission should be obtained from the U.S. Postal Service Licensing Department. Also, the USPS has high-resolution scans available of most U.S. stamps.
For USPS contact information and other questions, please visit the USPS website at: U.S. Postal Service Licensing Department
The United States Postal Service’s policy is that formal, written permission is not required to use images of stamps that were issued prior to January 1, 1979.
When using pre-1979 stamp images you must still follow the reproduction guidelines which are as follows:
Illustrations may be in color or in black and white, and may depict philatelic items as uncanceled or canceled. When depicting uncanceled items in color, illustrations must be less than 75% or more than 150% in linear dimension of the size of the design of the philatelic items as issued. Color illustrations of canceled philatelic items and black and white illustrations of uncanceled or canceled philatelic items may be in any size.
In many cases, particularly with older stamps including those released before 1979, the U.S. Postal Service does not have information about other potential third-party ownership interests. In these cases, you would be solely responsible for identifying and obtaining permission from any other third parties that may have an ownership interest in the image.
For additional information and to obtain image files please contact the U.S. Postal Service Licensing Department.
Permission for use of international stamp images (non-USA) should be obtained directly, before use, from the entity, or entities, to whom stamp copyright belongs.