Tuesday, December 02, 2008

LIFE photo archive hosted by Google

Google announced this archive in its blog last month and the Spellbound blog has done a nice review of it. Work on this 70+ year archive containing 10 million images was done by the Crowley Company. In talking about the project, the Crowley press release said:
When asked about the challenges of such a large project, [Crowley project manager DeAnne] Larsen says, “At this point, it’s down to a science, although the early months offered a lot of learning opportunities. Every time we’d open a negative drawer, there was a ‘size surprise’ and we became quickly adept at having stations for every type of image – 35mm, 120 mm, 4x5’s, 8x10’s, prints, you name it.” She continues, “It’s impossible not to be awed by this collection. In the beginning there were a lot of ‘Hey, check this out’s.’ We quickly realized that almost every photo in the collection had a wow factor.”
The press release noted that each photo was given a digimark for copyright protection. This photo taken in 1863 is of a former slave, who became a Union soldier during the Civil War. The photo shows the scars on his back from the beatings he suffered while a slave. There is a copyright on the photo page, but -- really -- this photo is still protected by copyright law? Really? According to my math, the answer is "no", but perhaps Life did something to extend the copyright?

I would like to see more text on the Google Life photo archive page that explains their expectations for this collection and their copyright claims. How do they expect people to use this collection? Do they have different expectations of students? What is copyrighted? Prints are for sale, but what if I wanted a digital image to use? What do they consider Fair Use?

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Rebecca Buerkett said...

It's funny that you just posted this because I am currently sitting here debating about whether or not to include a link to this site on a list of fair use sites I'm creating for a lesson plan on copyright! I agree that I wish there were some terms of use posted on the site- I looked all over and didn't see any. I am glad the pictures are available, but does Life just want us to look at them? In the absence of information to the contrary, I am sure people will be tempted to use them.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. I've seen several photos I'd like to "spotlight" on my local history blog, but was concerned about the lack of ToS/permissions info. Thanks for pointing these out and I hope you receive a response soon.

Jill Hurst-Wahl said...

I've heard that my post is being forwarded to people who may be able to address the copyright questions that I've raised. I'll post what I hear (whenever I hear it).

Timo said...

Jill, according to the legal regulations regarding public domain in the USA everything is in the public domain that was published before 1923. Since, according to the magazine, the images never were published before, the images are copyright protected. It's just a question who is the owner of the copyright but they are still protected.


Jill Hurst-Wahl said...

Timo, an unpublished work in the U.S. is covered by copyright for the life of the author plus 70 years. Anonymous works are covered for 120 years. According to Peter Hirtle's chart, works prior to 1888 would be in the public domain (and some even younger than that).

Jeanne said...

I would love to hear more about their official position on fair use and purchase of the soft copy of these images! I spent a long while before deciding to include a few of the images in my blog post. I too hunted everywhere I could think of to find out the copyright details.