Photographs for church anniversary

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  • I have photos taken in the 1930s and 40s relating to a church that will be celebrating its 130th anniversary. An exhibit is going to be made celebrating this milestone and the church wishes to use some of the photos in the exhibit. The photos were taken by two different commercial photography companies that no longer exist. I have been unable to locate any possible copyright holder, be they decendants of the owners of the companies or other entities that were given the copyrights to the photos when the companies went out of business.

    Would an exhibit for a non-profit, religious institution count as fair use?

    If so, would the church also be able to use the photos in commemorative booklets if they cite the original copyright holder and they do not sell the booklets?

    Any help would be appreciated.
  • Sounds like what you have there falls into the category of orphan works. And you've made a good faith effort to find the copyright owners, but without success. I think this would be fair use, as long as you realize that if the copyright owner does step forward, you may have to take them down (unless the offer of acknowledgement in the exhibit is sufficient).

    HOWEVER -- if these photographs include recognizable people, you may be getting into privacy issues I don't know much about. If they are just of the building, you should be fairly safe.

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