The new telescope delivers stunning images of the cosmos which are available on NASA's web site.

The content use policy page states:

Unless otherwise specifically stated, no claim to copyright is being asserted by STScI and material on this site may be freely used as in the public domain in accordance with NASA's contract.

Does "in the public domain" mean that I can legally make prints of those images and sell them in order to make money, for example in a store or flea market?

  • Laws of other countries (which may not recognize public domain) may force the US government to have a copyright on the material, but within in the USA, government works are public domain. See also: law.stackexchange.com/questions/31330/…
    – crasic
    Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 18:38
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    Note that nothing whatsoever is stopping anyone from charging money for physical objects that contain Public Domain information. You might have trouble finding a buyer if its free elsewhere, but if someone wants to pay you for it, you can sell. That's kind of the whole point of Public Domain.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 19:19
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    I think you meant flea market rather than flee market. Ukraine and Russia currently are flee markets. A place where you see prints, etc., is a flea market. Unfortunately, a one character change is not a valid edit except by those with high privileges. Commented Nov 3, 2022 at 14:14
  • @David Lol, yes! As an aside, I don't understand the 1-character rule. Hm, I added a space to Martins answer below, do I have enough rep? Commented Nov 3, 2022 at 14:20
  • You can digitally enhance it, print it on photographic paper, and put it in a pretty frame with a nice glass cover. The image however isn't yours, despite all of the image processing you may have done. But you can sell that nicely enhanced and framed image for however much the public is willing to shell out. Commented Nov 3, 2022 at 14:31

1 Answer 1



I am tempted to leave the above as the entirety of my answer, but to expand:

Yes, you can do that. You won't (as a business matter) be able to charge all that much because many people will realize they can just download a similar picture from the net and print it off themselves. You can charge a bit because you've framed them (perhaps), and chosen the nicest, and perhaps you have a better printer, or have used the expensive glossy paper. Also, if you are successful charging a lot, other people will start selling the same pictures for slightly less (and you won't be able to stop them).

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    Also the same in case of most opensource software. You can sell a copy of Linux kernel, at any price you wish. Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 9:52
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    @AnishSheela (and Martin): Thanks for the clarification. As an aside at Martin: There may be some value in being able to find and navigate the web site, preparing the image for print and, yes, the "craftsmanship" part of putting it in a frame etc. because Mr. and Mrs. Smith aren't able to do that, or even if are willing to pay for the service. Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 9:59
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica You can even create a service to order printed pictures. Great business idea. It is the NASA's intention behind making it public domain. Public funded it, so it should be available for public to use however they want. Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 10:09
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    @Alan - In general (in the US at least), yes. See copyright.gov/circs/circ14.pdf . You have to do something to it, and of course nothing stops anyone else from taking the original and doing roughly the same thing to it themselves.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 19:25
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    "many people will realize they can just download a similar picture from the net and print it off themselves". Indeed. Still, in 2019 I paid over 100 € for a high-quality print of the Carina nebula since I do not have a printer doing 160 x 80 cm on canvas. There is a market, but it's probably covered by the generic printing services.
    – Hermann
    Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 23:59

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