Copying, scanning and photographing maps

Reproducing maps and map data

Subject to certain conditions, you may reproduce maps and map data in the Bodleian Libraries’ collection. You must first ensure that the material in question is out of copyright, that you have written permission from the copyright holder, or that your reproduction and subsequent use of the material qualify as ‘fair dealing.’

Copies may be made by:

  • taking a photograph of material yourself (by arrangement only)
  • requesting a staff-mediated photocopy at the Enquiries desk
  • ordering a scan or photograph from Imaging Services
  • transferring a copy to your personal memory device (in the case of digital map data)  

It is necessary to obtain the Bodleian’s permission to further reproduce your copy, if you intend to publish it in any way – including in academic works. See 'Permission to use' below.


You must observe the copyright restrictions of any maps and map data that you use. Read a summary of these restrictions. Generally, copyright resides with the creator of a work and lasts for 70 years after the creator’s death. For maps, however, the rule is 70 years after the first publication. Crown Copyright, in the case of maps, applies for only 50 years. The copyright situation for older maps is more complex.

You should note the following points of guidance about how copyright applies to maps and map data.

Material out of copyright  

Even if an old map or book is out of copyright, any image or copy that is made of it (e.g. a reprint, photograph, digital scan, or tracing) is generally considered to be a new item of intellectual property, with a new and separate copyright. The new copyright, however, does not ‘extend’ in any way the expired copyright of the original material.

In general, anyone who images or reproduces out-of-copyright material then owns the copyright to their reproduction and can – in principle – use it in any way. Because of the potential for damage to the materials, tracing is not always allowed in the Bodleian Libraries.  

However, tracing and photography of maps are both generally permitted, by arrangement (see below). If you are given permission to take photographs of Bodleian Libraries material, you must formally assign copyright of your images to the Bodleian Libraries.

Material in copyright

Reproducing (reprinting, photographing, scanning, tracing) material that is still in copyright does not create a new piece of intellectual property. The original information continues to be represented or expressed in the same (copyright) way.  

However, by performing an act of interpretation, it is possible to create new intellectual property from copyright works: for example, a line drawing made from a copyright photograph.

Manuscript (as opposed to printed) maps are subject to manuscript copyright.

Copyright applies to digital map data in the same way as it does to paper maps and books.

However, many maps and map datasets are available in the public domain and may be used freely, e.g. most US government maps and data. There is often a requirement that a citation be included in the final image.

Readers are required to observe the specified terms and conditions of any map datasets they use. They should bear in mind that access to view material and data does not necessarily imply a right to reproduce it. In any case, any relevant citations should always be included in final map images.

Reader photography

Readers are generally allowed to take their own photographs of out-of-copyright maps. Several conditions apply.  

Readers must follow instructions from staff to ensure the safety of material, e.g. you cannot stand on a ladder or use a tripod or a flash. Also, you must agree not to transfer the images to a third party or publish them in any way without written ‘permission to use’ from the Bodleian Libraries.

In general, readers may photograph copyright maps only within the terms of ‘fair dealing'.

The Ordnance Survey (OS) has formally indicated that they will not object to researchers making up to four copies of a single A4 extract of any given copyright OS map, for their own use, under the terms of ‘fair dealing’. However, under special licence from the OS, Oxford University members may photograph an entire OS map.

Reader tracing

By arrangement with Map Room staff, readers are generally permitted to make tracings of maps. Clear sheets are available for this purpose. Readers should be aware that tracings are subject to the same copyright restrictions as any other kind of reproduction, e.g. photographs and scans. For conservation reasons, some material may not be traced.

Staff-mediated photocopying

By law, libraries cannot provide readers with reproductions of copyright maps unless they constitute illustrations in literary works. Copying such an illustration is permitted only if it is incidental to copying a larger amount of work, e.g. if there is an illustration contained within an article, the library can provide a copy of the entire article, but not of the illustration alone.  

Map Room staff are happy to make photocopies of eligible maps on behalf of readers. This is done using the Libraries’ Print, Copy & Scan (PCAS) system. This allows copies to be printed, emailed, or transferred to a USB memory device. The appropriate fees are charged to the reader’s PCAS account.

As an exception to this, under special licence from OS, staff can provide limited copies of extracts of any copyright OS maps. Maps that constitute illustrations in copyright literary work may also be copied by staff under the general terms of mediated copying for ‘fair dealing’ purposes, i.e. only in ‘reasonable’ or ‘insubstantial’ amounts.

For conservation reasons, some material may not be photocopied, regardless of copyright. Such material may still be suitable for reproduction by photography or scanning (see below). This includes:

  • items published before 1801
  • hand-coloured maps (mostly pre-1850)
  • multiple folded maps in books
  • damaged items
  • any ‘a’ or ‘b’ sized item
  • items weighing more than 3 kg

Ordering copies from Imaging Services

The Bodleian Libraries’ Imaging Services offer both digital scans and photographic prints. Again, the material in question must be out of copyright, you must have the copyright holder's permission, or the copying must satisfy the conditions for 'fair dealing' in staff-mediated reproduction of copyright work. Fees will apply, depending on the format and delivery options chosen. Find out more about how to order.

Permission to use

The Bodleian Libraries owns and retains the copyright on all reproductions produced at all times. This is separate from the original copyright of the material.

Readers may not reproduce any copies supplied for any reason (including academic or personal, whether for profit or not) without written permission from the Bodleian Libraries. Any commercial use of reproductions of the Bodleian’s material will be subject to appropriate fees. The Imaging Services office is responsible for granting permissions to use.