I found a really OLD photo. How can I be SURE it's public domain?...

14 replies
I found a really OLD photo. How can I be SURE it's public domain?...



I wanna use it for a commercial product I'm gonna sell, so I really want to know if this pic is safe to use.

What's the best way to be sure?

-- TW
#domain #found #photo #public
  • Profile picture of the author seasoned
    Just find out the provenance from this instant back to the beginning, EASY!(sarc) Oh SURE, some people NEVER know for sure, and some people are paid a lot to research, but that is the only way.

    In theory, the picture could be 100 years old, and everyone associated with it could have died, and there may never have been any requirement, and you could use it and get sued because someone ELSE made a change to it, and THEY want payment.

    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author Kelvin Chan
    Hi TimothyW,

    You may wanna start here:
    https://www.google.com/search?tbs=sb...Yp6ysZYi-v0Cao

    And see the other sites using it and the credits they use, etc.
    Signature

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  • Profile picture of the author spearce000
    Do you have a hardcopy print, or just the digital image?
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  • Profile picture of the author Thomas Unise
    The default year for public domain is anything before 1923 however it's not always the case.

    LibraryLaw Blog: The myth of the pre-1923 public domain

    Do you know who took it?
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    I Can Help You Sell More Sh*t And Look Sweet Doing It ----> CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE
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  • Profile picture of the author TimothyW
    I don't know who took it.
    I only "have" the digital version.

    Any more ideas on how to figure this out?

    -- TW
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  • Profile picture of the author Steve B
    Originally Posted by TimothyW View Post

    I found a really OLD photo. How can I be SURE it's public domain?

    Tim,

    You can't be sure that the photo is in the public domain unless you establish who took it and the year it was published.

    You're talking about the Times Tower in New York City where the NY Times newspaper was published from 1904 to 1913. The problem is, you don't know when the actual photo was taken - it could have been shot years later after the Times moved to a new location.

    If the photo was published in a book that was published pre-1923, chances are very good that the image could be used. But there is still some cause for concern. If you just have to have this image, I would pay to have a copyright search done on the book (if pre-1923). At least you will have evidence that you did a professional search in an attempt to establish copyright.

    And, as I always advise, seek competent legal assistance in all such matters.

    Good luck,

    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author TimothyW
    What if I *know* that is was printed as a postcard (not in a book), long before 1923?

    Does that carry any weight in terms of assuming it's ok?

    -- TW
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    • Profile picture of the author Michael Shook
      Originally Posted by TimothyW View Post

      What if I *know* that is was printed as a postcard (not in a book), long before 1923?

      Does that carry any weight in terms of assuming it's ok?

      -- TW


      Unless you really need "this" photo, perhaps it might be to your good if you went to a public domain archive site and got a different photo.
      Signature


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    • Profile picture of the author spearce000
      Originally Posted by TimothyW View Post

      What if I *know* that is was printed as a postcard (not in a book), long before 1923?

      Does that carry any weight in terms of assuming it's ok?

      -- TW
      Unless you have the actual postcard, and you can PROVE is was printed before 1923 (e.g. it has a postmark on it that shows it was sent through the mail before that year) I would avoid it.

      As my old boss used to say: "Assume makes an ASS of U and ME!"
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  • Profile picture of the author Gene Pimentel
    Even if a photo is old enough to be considered public domain, there are copyright laws that prohibit the use of a recognizable landmark like this one without a formal release.
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    • Profile picture of the author TimothyW
      Originally Posted by Gene Pimentel View Post

      Even if a photo is old enough to be considered public domain, there are copyright laws that prohibit the use of a recognizable landmark like this one without a formal release.
      Thanks Gene.

      But a formal release from whom? The owners of the building?
      Why does the fact that it's a recognizable landmark make any difference?
      I'm not understanding. If I take my own photo of the Grand Canyon, how is that
      any different than taking a pic of my car?

      -- TW
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      • Profile picture of the author ForumGuru
        Banned
        Originally Posted by TimothyW View Post

        Thanks Gene.

        But a formal release from whom? The owners of the building?
        Why does the fact that it's a recognizable landmark make any difference?
        I'm not understanding. If I take my own photo of the Grand Canyon, how is that
        any different than taking a pic of my car?

        -- TW
        Public property is one thing, images of private and/or properties and items associated with a trademark can be another (depending on the end use). If a release is needed then you would need to get it from the property owner, manager or trademark holder etc.. Generally speaking, the end use of the particular photo determines the need for a release or not. With some exceptions, images of multiple buildings (like a landscape view) where a single property is not singled out (and signs and logos are not visible) a release may not be needed.

        These links should give you a bit better understanding.

        Known Image Restrictions

        Releases for People & Property | Alamy

        Click the WSJ link...if I direct linked the article you would need to login to read it. The article is "Landmark Buildings Make Move To Trademark Their Images".

        https://www.google.com/search?q=are+...m=122&ie=UTF-8

        Property and Model Releases | American Society of Media Photographers

        http://www.photokore.com/tutorials/m...ty_releases/en

        https://help.market.envato.com/hc/en...perty-Release-

        http://help.bigstockphoto.com/hc/en-...ease-required-

        http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/law/st_...999021901.html

        With lesser known private properties, and properties not associated with a trademark, it can get a bit cloudy --> but it's always best to get a release for commercial use.

        http://propertyintangible.com/2010/0...tent=Bloglines

        If you want to get much, much deeper into the complexities ---> Dan Heller has a written a lengthy article and many may read it as a more liberal view on the law. Many areas of the law can get gray, and sometimes the shade of gray can be determined only after a lawsuit has been filed. Stock photo companies sometimes take a firm hard line on certain items and properties because they don't want to deal with certain photos being used in many different contexts...so a blanket ban is put on the photo submissions.

        http://www.danheller.com/model-release-copyrights.html

        Below are a few excerpts from one of Dan's many articles:

        If that's what you're wondering, understand that the need for a "property release" is not triggered by the subject of the photo. It depends entirely on how the photo is published. Releases of any kind (whether a model release for people, or a property release for things) are only necessary if the publication of the photograph implies an "association" between the subject and the publisher. The photographer is not the publisher. Photographers can take pictures of anything they want—people, buildings, works of art, anything—provided they are not violating other laws, like trespassing or using hidden cameras.

        So, the rumor that "you can't take pictures" of buildings or monuments or people is entirely wrong. you can always take pictures. What's more, you can always sell pictures. Selling in itself does not imply an association between the subject and you or the publisher. The act of selling is merely a transactional act, which doesn't imply "association" at all. More information about this can be found in Model Release Primer.

        Some photographers ask, "why do photographers need releases?" The answer to that is photographers don't need releases. Publishers do. Photographers get releases for photos so as to broaden the market of buyers for their photos.
        Most photographers (and licensees) think property releases are required for publishing photos of buildings because of a slight misunderstanding of a key aspect of copyright and trademark law: the mistaken assumption that what applies to photos of people, applies to copyrighted or trademarked works, like buildings.

        The source of this misunderstanding is the copyright: buildings are made from architectural designs, and such designs are copyrighted by definition, exactly the same way photos are. Also like photos, architectural drawings don't have to necessarily be registered to be protected. So, technically, items such as buildings are protected by copyright protection, as any other item would be. The part that's misunderstood, is that "any" use of a photo of a copyrighted item does not itself constitute a violation of that copyright.

        The protections that copyrights provide usually come down to some economic measurement: is the display of a photo somehow having an economic effect on the copyright owner's ability to sell his product? Does it diminish its value? Similarly, is the use of the photo somehow enabling the user to benefit economically? That is, just as the "good will" of a well-recognized logo may help with the perceived value of a product that bears it, a "good design" (regardless of whether it's recognized) can have a positive economic effect on the user's ability to sell his wares. The question of whether any given use violates a copyright is judged on how closely one can attribute the use of the photo of the item in question with any of the hypothetical effects listed above.
        A different example is The Transamerica Building, also in San Francisco. What's different is that, unlike the Golden Gate Bridge, the Transamerica building is owned by a company, not a government institution, so their objectives are different.

        Here, the building's owners hold both a copyright and a trademark registration. In the case of the copyright, no similar buildings could be erected based on that design (at least, not without permission). As for the trademark, the design of the building is also represented as a "logo" with a similar shape, and it is used to represent the company and its various business units.

        To reiterate, the trademarked logo is a "symbol identifying the source of a commercial product." So, you can't have a beer named Transamerica Beer that uses the logo (whether a photo or a simple drawing). Such use would cause a reasonable person to assume that the company was somehow affiliated with it, or that they might buy the beer because of the "good will" associated by the company's logo. (The "name" of the beer has nothing to do with the intended use of the logo. It could be called "Joe's Beer" and still not use the Transamerica logo.)

        On the other hand, I can freely use the Transamerica logo in this text to discuss the topic because I am not using it as a source of "good will," exactly as discussed in the case of Coca Cola. Whether I (or the publisher) "make money" from this text is irrelevant, and whether you read it for free on the web, or pay for a book with this text are also irrelevant. It's only how the mark is represented in the work that matters
        Cheers

        -don
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