Gallery Exhibition of Old Snapshot Collection... and Exhibition Book

← Return to forum

  • #1. I want to have an art gallery exhibition of old snapshots I have collected. I am not claiming to have created them. Just showing them off.

    Various dates from 1910-1980. Most from the 40's and 50's
    Various unknown photographers.
    Most authors assumed dead.
    All photos assumed unpublished.
    I am not charging to view these photos.

    Works enter public domain a certain number of years after publication, but these have yet to be published by the authors, so I assume these are not in the public domain.

    May I exhibit the photos.
    May I sell the original photos.

    #2. I would like to print a gallery exhibition guide.

    In the book, I will be talking about the photos, and documenting the exhibition.
    I will also be talking about the imagery and subject matter as it relates to a historical context
    I will not claim credit for the photos, but rather for the book.
    I am hoping this is fair use.

    May I reproduce the photos in the gallery guide?
    May I sell the book for profit.
  • Hello Elmer,

    Assuming that said photographs are copyrighted, there may be a a couple of provisions within copyright law that would allow your first enumerated use without seeking the permission of the copyright holder.

    [1]. USC Title 17, Section 109(c) states that:

    (c) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106 (5), the owner of a particular copy lawfully made under this title, or any person authorized by such owner, is entitled, without the authority of the copyright owner, to display that copy publicly, either directly or by the projection of no more than one image at a time, to viewers present at the place where the copy is located.

    (The full text of this section of the law is online at

    [2]. Section 107, Fair Use, which requires you make an evaluation of your use based on four factors, as outlined in the law

    (The full text of Section 107 is online at

    If you have diligently searched for the copyright owners for each item you intend to publicly display and have reached dead ends (no identifiable copyright owner or no way to make contact with the owner) you may be able to make a fair use claim because you simply have no way to secure permission.

    With regards to your second enumerated use, you will also need to perform a Fair Use analysis. This analysis must consider that you are now planning to republish and redistribute the photos in such fashion that you could be competing with the reproductino and distribution of the images themselves. While you are not claiming credit for the photos (which gets you off the hook for plagiarism) you are still distributing and profiting from someone else's creative works -- a violation of copyright law unless you can establish that your use is Fair using the factors provided in the law.

Posting to the forum is only available to users who are logged in.

← Return to forum