Intellectual Property Policy

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Intellectual Property Policy (PDF)

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's grantmaking across all program areas supports ideas and organizations that contribute to a more connected, creative, and just society.  In providing support for projects, the Foundation expects grant funds to be used in ways that take into account the interests of our grantees, as well as broader charitable objectives, including the long-term interests of the educational and cultural communities that our grantees serve.  

The Foundation aims to maximize the use and reach of intellectual property created with grant funds in order to broaden the impact of both our work and the work of our grantees.  Accordingly, the Foundation encourages wide dissemination of, and equitable access to, grant-funded work products.  Grant-funded work products include a variety of materials such as audio or video works (including podcasts, films, and oral history recordings), books, white papers and reports, databases, software, and digital collections.  The Foundation does not seek ownership rights in intellectual property created in the grant projects it supports.  However, in order to advance the above goals, the Foundation’s standard grant agreement includes provisions regarding grant-funded work products, as described below.

  • Grantees will obtain all necessary rights and permissions for the supported work so that grant activities and use of grant work products do not infringe on or violate the intellectual property, publicity, privacy, or other rights of any person.  
  • Grantees will make grant-funded work products available, as appropriate, for educational or charitable purposes.  Where suitable, the Foundation will request final grant-funded products to be licensed to the public with a Creative Commons license.  A Creative Commons license is a simple, standardized license that allows creators to retain copyright and receive attribution while allowing others to copy, distribute, and display their work; commercial uses may be prohibited by the creator.  For information on Creative Commons licenses, please visit https://creativecommons.org.
  • In the case of grant-funded software, grantees must agree, whenever possible, to make the software available according to the terms of an open source license and to other provisions aimed at promoting the sustainability, and maintenance of the software.  Open source software is software with source code that anyone can inspect, modify, and enhance.
  • With our grantees' agreement, the Foundation may use grant-funded work products to promote the grant project and the Foundation's charitable purposes.  The Foundation is eager to use its communications platforms and network to share the exciting and impactful work of our grantees.   

The Foundation recognizes that different projects have different intellectual property features and that limiting dissemination or access may be appropriate in certain cases to protect the interests of our grantees, the communities they serve, or participants in grant-funded projects.  Examples of such interests may include privacy concerns, culturally sensitive materials, and preservation of revenue streams where revenue generation is a key component of the grant's charitable goals.  Foundation program and legal staff are available to address questions and to discuss the Foundation's objectives and requirements with prospective grantees.


As of August 1, 2022