1. Rare photo 2. ??? 3. Profit!
November 2, 2008 6:55 AM   Subscribe

Found a rare photo in an out-of-print edition of a book. How can we make the most of it?

We've found a reprint of a daguerreotype of a famous incident in an out of print book. The image is long out of copyright and the original photo is thought to be lost. However, accepted knowledge of this subject (including scholars on the topic) state that there is only one know photo of the incident (and it's different than the one we've found). So basically, through some fluke, this second photo has been forgotten. How can we make some money off this situation? Once the photo is publicized, it's likely that other copies of the book will be found, and the photo will be reproduced by other people. We've considered setting up a website with ad revenue (because we think it could get a lot of hits in the short term), but what would be the easiest way to do this? Or is there something better we haven't thought of?
posted by kimdog to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Start by taking pictures of everything. Document this. That's the so very meta first answer for ya.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:31 AM on November 2, 2008

I don't know if its the BEST option, but one to consider is getting in touch with Getty Images.

From http://www.gettyimages.com/Editorial/Archive.aspx
"A truly global archival offering of defining moments, places and personalities - from the historical to the present-day."

"If you have a collection of substantial or unique archival imagery and, having reviewed the archival material available through Getty Images at www.gettyimages.com/archive, you feel you can offer material relevant and/or complimentary to the existing collection, please contact us at the following address: newcontributorsARCHIVE@gettyimages.com "
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:55 AM on November 2, 2008

Does the photographer have heirs? Because they may have renewed the copyright.

If you can prove that the image is out of copyright you can make a very large scan (at least 50 mbs), clean it really well and upload it to iStock. If it is of interest to people it will sell over and over through the years. And you don't have to worry about others doing the same because a) another iStocker is unlikely to have access to the original print and b) if there is already a XXLarge scan of some public domain image on iStock most iStockers will not bother taking the time to do a second. Which is not to say it won't happen but extremely unlikely.

Would it make an interesting wall print? Upload a scan to Imagekind.

Or sell limited edition prints through Etsy.

Make products at Cafepress.

Make a blog with links to ads, the iStock download, the Imagekind print and Cafepress products. And Etsy if you have limited edition prints.

Although the suggestions I make may seem pedestrian to you - iStock, Cafepress and Etsy are proven money makers. I don't know of anyone making good money from other similar companies on the Internet. I don't know of anyone that is making money at Imagekind but they seem to be the best place right now to offer fine art prints you just have to market them yourself.

IMHO if you offer this to Getty and they think it is valuable they will find their own copy of the rare book.
posted by cda at 8:05 AM on November 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Apply for copyright, which although I have no firsthand experience with, I would assume to be a drawn out process. Also, check with your local historical society, or one that has some knowledge/interest in the "incident" in question.

Not sure what this "incident" is, but it sounds like an interesting historical find. I doubt that one extra photo is going to change anything really, but for the niche of folks studying it, it could be a gold mine.

Just IMHO, going into the process asking "how can I make money off this" is all around bad karma. Our history is something that should be shared, not sold.
posted by timsteil at 8:44 AM on November 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Can't you contact Tiffany's or some kind of antique dealer similar to those seen in Antiques Roadshow? They could get you in contact with a real expert who would know exactly what your photo is worth.
posted by xammerboy at 8:48 AM on November 2, 2008

I would think a daguerreotype, due to the period in which they were common, would be in the public domain by now, no matter what. So I wouldn't worry about copyright, per se.

That said, it's likely that if there is any value to this photo that it will be lifted almost immediately by others, and there's very little you could do to protect any sort of exclusivity. Even if these images are the result of your own scan and clean-up, they'll be privy to piracy, and I don't know of many (or any) cases in which it's been worth the trouble to go after those who do this. For instance, the Bear Family record label goes to a lot of expense and trouble to master archival music sets (often early folk / country stuff that's in the public domain) from master lacquers or other relatively "pristine" sources . . . even when this means they must pay a lot of money to license these concrete sources from their owners. These unique masterings should be copyrightable, even if the recordings themselves aren't. But this doesn't stop labels like Proper from lifting them wholly from Bear Family sets. And despite wishing it weren't so, there's not much, if anything, Bear Family can cost effectively do to prevent. Your situation is one step further removed from protection (one could argue), since you are not even creating your "version" from an actual daguerreotype, but rather a printed version. So whatever you do, be quick about it; if it has commercial value, it won't be yours for long.

And in similar thought with "cda," the minute that the image is known or thought to have come from a book, other copies will be found.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:53 AM on November 2, 2008

Thanks for the input and great ideas so far. To clarify... we aren't trying to gain any sort of exclusivity, just make the most of "rediscovering" the photo. Once it's publicized, the genie is out of the bottle, and any number of people may realize they have this book on their shelves.
posted by kimdog at 9:22 AM on November 2, 2008

Oh, and unfortunately, I Stock strictly prohibits "photos of photos" or "found photos from a book", so that's off the list.
posted by kimdog at 9:35 AM on November 2, 2008

Before you do anything else, why not try to corner the market on copies of that book, if you can?
posted by dirtdirt at 10:08 AM on November 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


there has been a surge of iStockers uploading scans of public domain prints from old books. they don't sell well but they are allowed. an example is the illustrations from Alice in Wonderland.

you can upload scans of old photos - if you can prove you inherited the copyright or the image is in the public domain.

iStock allows, for example, an image of Abraham Lincoln that is an engraving from a photograph. Practically the same thing if you ask me.

I'm thinking about Abraham Lincoln because I think your image is of the scene where he was killed or a picture of the capture of John Wilkes Booth. Am I right!?

I just think iStock is your best bet for selling downloads of the image and it would be worth a call to them to ask if they would allow it.
posted by cda at 10:16 AM on November 2, 2008

One possibly significant obstacle to the iStockphoto suggestion is that I believe you'd have to apply to become a contributor - which, unless you're already a decent photographer may be a challenge. Perhaps an exception could be made for a single, exceptional image but I'm fairly sure you'd have to go the usual route... which many have found frustrating because of the level of technical expertise required.
posted by blaneyphoto at 11:06 AM on November 2, 2008

Seconding dirtdirt!
posted by rhizome at 11:47 AM on November 2, 2008

Forget iStockPhoto. It's pocket change at best for 99% of the contributors. (Possible slight exaggeration)

Without the knowledge of a more specialised or appropriate solution, I'd think about getting it on Getty. Getty have the money-making stock photo market mostly sewn up, and they keep consolidating it, so they'll certainly be able to find a profit for it somewhere.
posted by Magnakai at 12:29 PM on November 2, 2008

In that case, you could look into getting a publicist or agent. They'd be able to help you make a splashy announcement of the find, and possibly arrange for a speaking tour to show it off and establish you as the authority on this find. But I've a feeling that the hard part would be to first find one who's convinced you and your book can be sufficiently profitable clients. It would help if you can get an historian to verify, under NDA, that (a) this is what you think it is and (b) why the find will be mainstream-newsworthy.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 3:33 PM on November 2, 2008

Maybe I missed something, but how will folks know what book it was in? Is it possible to not disclose the source book? And I do like the idea of trying to corner the market on that book, beforehand. Buy up a bunch, knowing that the price will rise substantially if and when the book information is disclosed.
posted by redsparkler at 11:13 PM on November 2, 2008

IANAL, but...out of print doesn't mean out of copyright. When was the book published, who is the publisher? The original daguerreotype may be in the public domain by now, but as I understand the law, the publisher (or the publisher's photographer) would own the rights to that particular reproduction of the daguerreotype (the one published in the book). If the publisher is still in business, depending on when the book was published, they may still hold copyright of the reproduction.
posted by faineant at 12:02 AM on November 3, 2008

And my bad if you mean by "the image is long out of copyright" to mean the book is long out of copyright.
posted by faineant at 12:06 AM on November 3, 2008

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