credit where credit is due, photography edition
January 31, 2017 11:18 AM   Subscribe

I've found a photograph dated 1954 that would work nicely for a book I'm writing. On the back is the photographer's name and a notice asking for credit to be given to (the now defunct) United Press Association. It does not specifically claim copyright for UPA, and I have not been able yet to discover when or if the photographer died. YANML, but any thoughts or advice on its copyright status and if there still is ownership, who has it, would be welcome.
posted by BWA to Law & Government (11 answers total)
What's the actual language of the notice?
posted by praemunire at 11:44 AM on January 31, 2017

Response by poster: Ah!


“This picture is sold to you for your publication only and must not be loaned, syndicated, or used for advertising purposes without written permission from the United Press. By accepting this picture you agree to hold the United Press harmless form any loss oor damages arising by reason of your use or publications of this picture”

No © in sight
posted by BWA at 12:02 PM on January 31, 2017

According to your own link, the United Press Associations (not "Association") has reorganized several times and now exists as UPI. So it's not defunct as you said.

On preview:

According to what you've provided, the original purchaser was licensed to use the photo, but you aren't. And, the absence of a (c) is not dispositive.

TINLA since I haven't done the research. Just reading what you've posted.
posted by JimN2TAW at 12:03 PM on January 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

I did some research recently into responsibility for finding copyright owners for orphaned works, which you might find helpful. My research was for something published in the UK, so I don't have specific links for you, but for instance the Library of Congress and the US Copyright Office both have materials on their websites. What I found laid out specific steps to take, how to undertake research, how to document your attempts to find the copyright holder, and, if you were ultimately unable to, how to cite the work.

It can be very complicated because copyright law has changed repeatedly in the last sixty years, including whether copyright holders were required to renew copyright after a certain period in order to retain it. But "orphan works" was a fruitful approach for me and may be for you as well.
posted by Orlop at 12:32 PM on January 31, 2017

In the U.S. copyright exists regardless of whether the © symbol is attached. UPI's photo library was sold several times as described in that Wikipedia link and now appears to be licensed by Getty Images, which has a self-service web site that seems like a good place to start. There's a chance the rights to the photo may have reverted to the photographer at some point along the way, but check with Getty first.
posted by fedward at 12:33 PM on January 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

In the U.S. copyright exists regardless of whether the © symbol is attached.

This is not an adequate statement of the (very complicated) law concerning works published prior to 1978. Under the 1909 Copyright Act, copyright notice (Copyright, the C, or Copr.) was required upon publication or the work immediately entered the public domain. This photo looks like it might be such a public domain work.

However, if Getty Images really is claiming rights in the image, you should be aware that they are ultra-litigious and may attempt to sue you for alleged "unauthorized" use. Up to you whether you want to pay them off for their dubious claim.
posted by praemunire at 12:52 PM on January 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This photo looks like it might be such a public domain work.

As was my unspoken hope. I suspect it was never published anywhere, for whatever that's worth. Nothing for it but to approach the Gettys, I suppose. I didn't find it on their website, but that means nothing.

Honestly, you try to do the right thing....

Many thanks to all for your thoughts and insights, very much appreciated.
posted by BWA at 1:04 PM on January 31, 2017

BTW here's an article about Getty's practices with regard to images in the public domain, by a law professor, that may or may not inform your choices. I'm not qualified to talk about any of the finer points of copyright law, but I do know that going to court is expensive, even if you have reason to believe you'll win.
posted by fedward at 1:08 PM on January 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Good to know, fedward! V. much appreciated. Yes, I believe I am duly intimidated.
posted by BWA at 1:32 PM on January 31, 2017

Drop a clean, smallish scan/photo of it on TinEye. They have most of the large image libraries memorized, along with much of what's in Wikimedia Commons. It should identify at least which library is licensing it, if any.

(disclosure: I know the TinEye folks well — but then, if you happen to be in this sector in Toronto, you'd also know them well, as they're sociable folks.)

The Highsmith case is kind of a sad one of the photographer misunderstanding public domain. Yeah, Getty acted sleazily by trying to shake down the artist, but they absolutely had the right to charge for public domain images.
posted by scruss at 5:51 PM on January 31, 2017

they absolutely had the right to charge for public domain images

In the same sense you, me, and the OP do, or the same sense I have the right to charge for the Brooklyn Bridge.
posted by praemunire at 5:57 PM on January 31, 2017

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