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Signal Corp photos-copyrighted?

Discussion in 'Information Requests' started by Buten42, Dec 21, 2020.

  1. Buten42

    Buten42 Member

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    Wonder if the images made by the Signal Corp during WWII are subject to copyright restrictions.
    Thanks for any input.
     
  2. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    All images in the NARA collection are in the public domain. However, they are not the only source of Signal Corps photos, as an unknown number are in private hands and never entered into the archive.
     
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  3. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    You can inquire at the source regarding the status of a copyright. They're legally required to advise you on that matter.
     
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  4. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Um, if they are in "private hands" then they are held illegally, since all SC photos were originally shot on the government dime. If it is an original negative, then it was almost certainly purloined from the National Archives or from the Signal Corps Photographic Center or Laboratory. Otherwise, according to American copyright law, they are public domain. It especially chaps my ass when outfits such as the IWM try to charge exorbitant fees for reproduction rights for SC photographs in their holdings, since all those were simply copies donated to the British during the war.
     
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  5. Buten42

    Buten42 Member

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    Thank you all, very informative information. Seems every picture or map I need is copyrighted and they want too much to make it worth using. This gives me an alternate source--the SC images are generally much better quality..
     
  6. ARWR

    ARWR Active Member

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    But if you scan a copy of an SC image from a book and use that the publisher of the book may still have a legitimate breach of copywrite claim against you even though the SC image is copyright free!
     
  7. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Not neccessarily, only the best photos were passed along and kept.
     
  8. Takao

    Takao Ace

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  9. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Carl at one time was almost set to court for using net info so net data is not always free to use.the lawyer here was quite 'reread my text" not. Very funny check your position. We saved carl for our common defence.
     
  10. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Oh, definitely, but just because they were not "passed along and kept" did not change that they were produced on the government dime and so were subject to copyright until it expired. I believe that many of the SC photos produced in the excellent "Lost Signal Corps Photos" Facebook page are from the "not best" and so "not kept" sources, but they still are stamped Signal Corps. I also do not believe that reproduction creates a new copyright for the photo, but the book it is reproduced in is.

    Another oddity of copyright is that you cannot copyright the title of a book.
     
  11. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    No, they cannot be copyrighted...But, they can be trademarked.
     
  12. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Not titles. The title of a series of books can be trademarked.
     
  13. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    The bottom line on copyright of photographs is that if someone goes out and take photos of whatever as a course of his/her assigned duty, then those photos are government property, in the public domain, and not copyrightable. If Captain Jones looks at Corporal Snuffy and says go out and take some pictures of that stuff for our records, even though Corporal Snuffy is not a rated photographer, and Snuffy goes out with his trusty Brownie and shoots off a roll, alas, he was under orders, thus even those photos are government property. On the other hand, if Snuffy goes out all on his own, still not a rated photographer, and takes pictures for himself and his barracks mates, those photos are not government property and belong to Snuffy . . . he can copyright them as he chooses.

    Example, I have several USN produced photos of the pilots from VF-11, while at Maui and on Guadalcanal. These are works of the United States and cannot be copyrighted. On the other hand I've even more photos showing these same folks at social functions and hanging about the ready room and such. These are obviously private photos, you know, 2x3's with pinked edges. I suppose they're copyrightable, but I've no interest and I presume that there are additional copies floating around in various estates which would make declaring a copyright problematical. Sometimes, though, I might write something that might run 10-20 pages just to keep me amused. These I do stipulate as copyrighted and there's various tricks to make sure it sticks. I've been known to publicly call out those who would use same without permission when my nose is sufficiently out of joint.

    But note . . .

    Title 17 of the US Code covers copyright laws. In section 101, definitions, we find:
    A "work of the United States Government" is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as a part of that person's official duties.

    Title 17, Section 105, a stand alone section states:
    105. Subject matter of copyright: United States Government Works
    Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United State Government, but the United States Government is not precluded from receiving and holding copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise.


    Thus we see that works of the United States have no copyright protection though the US government can acquire a private copyright. If there is no copyright protection than the subject matter is deemed to be in the public domain. This creates problems for folks such as ourselves on the internet where every Tom, Dick, and Harry gets himself a decent photo and declares he has a copyright to it when it is one of those works of the United States. The only way to do that is to amass a collection and then copyright the collection, which some do. The catch is that only the collection is copyrighted . . . the individual photos, sourced from the public domain, are not.

    Lastly, since the US adheres to the Berne Convention, the Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988 states in Section 12: Works in the Public Domain. Title 17 United States Code, as amended by this act, does not provide copyright protection for any work that is in the public domain of the United States.
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2020

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