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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 37, September 10, 2006, Article 11

ON IMAGE COPYRIGHTS

Ed Snible writes: "Kerry Rodgers' is correct that no publisher will
touch a book without copyright clearance for all photographs.  Like
Kerry I strongly advise authors to seek permission, even if the use
doesn't technically require permission.  Permission may be needed
from both the photographer and from the artists who created the
original collectable or artwork.

Bob Knepper plans a first printing of only 100 copies of his book
on "Wildman" collectables, so perhaps he is self-publishing.  Self-
publishing gives authors the freedom to risk printing photos where
the copyright holders cannot be located.

I've learned that copyright holders usually can't be located.  For
example, my web site reprints Admiral Dodson's article on Greek
counterfeits from two 1967 issues of COINage.  The magazine was
copyrighted to COINage rather than Dodson.  COINage gave me clearance
for Dodson's words but couldn't clear the photos.  Some of the coin
photos credited Ken Bresset (who gave me permission), others were
anonymous.  Photos of the forgers' studio were anonymous and probably
taken by an Athens police photographer.  If COINage ever knew the
name of this photographer they have forgotten.  Must I learn what
Greek law says about the intellectual property rights for crime
scene photos?

The risk in using photos by unlocatable photographers, stein-makers,
and notgeld engravers is low.  The creators probably wont notice a
book whose print run is 100 copies.  The creators will probably be
happy to have been included, especially if they or their employer is
credited.  The photographers may have sold or willed their rights to
someone who will not notice the use.  The copyright may have expired.
The photograph may not be copyrightable.  Even if you lose, damages
wouldn't be more than triple the price it would have cost you to
clear the photo -- thus probably about $0.

If the photograph was printed in the US in 1922 or earlier, the
copyright has expired.  If the photograph was printed in the US in
1963 or earlier and not renewed it's expired -- and no one renews
auction catalogs.  If the photograph was printed in the US in 1976
without notice it's public domain -- for example, Stacks didn't
include notice in their old catalogs.

For Wildmen, I'd guess most books and catalogs were never printed in
the US.  They may be "unpublished works" here, even if millions of
copies were printed in Europe.  The collectables themselves were made
in Europe.  The law is very complicated on reprinting such photos,
but a good rule of thumb is to use the foreign law's duration as a
guideline, and that is generally life+70 years.  This presents a
problem for images of collectables in catalogs -- the photographer
is uncredited.  How are you to learn when he or she has died?

The court case "Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp" appears to make
photographs of 2D objects, like coasters and maybe coins,
uncopyrightable.  This court ruling is very controversial.  The
basis is that no creativity is used when photographing flat objects,
like beer coasters, notgeld -- and perhaps coins.

Copyright infringement isn't "theft" (as the Supreme Court ruled in
Dowling v. United States).  Theft is wrong.  It's also wrong to use
someone's work without asking -- if that person can be easily found.

I believe that people who allow their works to be published anonymously
give up expectations of control over that work.  I believe that it is
asking too much to expect authors to trace copyright -- of an ordinary
coin photo -- using genealogy, wills, and through the creditors of
bankrupt corporations.  Great efforts to find creators is justified
when reprinting a novel or reissuing a jazz album, but not for mass-
produced collectibles and their photos."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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