Digital photo copyright

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  • Our Archives Department owns a photo that has been taken in 1953. The photo has been taken by a person and sold to a magazine since that time. We do not have more information on how this photo has reached our collection.

    Our Archives Librarian would like to know if she can digitise the photo and add it to our online catalog to be available for search.

    We are the American University of Beirut and we follow the US Copyright law.
  • I'm not an expert on photos.

    If I understand you correctly, you have a print which was developed from the same negative used by the magazine. Do you know if you have the original print, which I think would have some kind of magazine mark on the back?

    You could ask the magazine for permission. If the image is a widely-recognized photo like the kiss after World War II, the magazine may not want to give permission. However, I think the magazine might grant permission in many cases. If the magazine initially refuses permission, you might be able to negotiate with someone higher up.

    I think you could make a decent argument that this is fair use. However, I'd like to wait a couple of days and see if anyone else with more expertise in this area responds.
  • I think that more information is needed in this case. You indicate that the picture was sold to a magazine. Was it then published by the magazine? If so, where was it published and was it published with notice? If so, was the noticed renewed? If the picture was published (presumably in the magazine) and either there was no notice (not unheard of, especially with smaller publications) or the notice was not renewed, then the photo may now be in the public domain. You can use the public domain chart linked from our home page to figure this out.

    Unfortunately, researching photos can be especially tricky, since they often become separated from author, owner and copyright information, so getting permission may be easier than finding out whether or not you need it at all.

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