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Alain Gomez said:
When perusing about the internet for cover art materials, how can you tell if an image is public domain or not? Frequently and image will not have a copyright insignia on it or will not be credited to any artist.

I say that's fair game...?
Um, no. You need to assume exactly the opposite. Not everyone credits their work, nor registers it, but the photos are still protected. If in doubt, try to contact the photographer. If you can't, best to move on.
 

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Yeah, what John said. If there is no licensing information you should assume it's covered by copyright. You can find a fair few public domain/free images at Wkimedia and Flickr. Just make sure the license allows commercial use of the work or is public domain. There are also plenty of good, cheap image libraries on the net where you can pick up images for as little as $5.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Herc- The Reluctant Geek said:
Yeah, what John said. If there is no licensing information you should assume it's covered by copyright. You can find a fair few public domain/free images at Wkimedia and Flickr. Just make sure the license allows commercial use of the work or is public domain. There are also plenty of good, cheap image libraries on the net where you can pick up images for as little as $5.
Yes, that's generally what I do. Or just use images of my own.

I was just curious how far the whole public domain thing went on the internet.
 

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Copyright is a tricky thing.

Did you know that you can publish a work without getting a registered copyright, and it doesn't fall into the public domain?

Copyright goes into effect anytime something is published, but you don't have that many rights under an un-registered copyright. In short, it is very difficult to sue someone for copyright infringement if you don't have a registered copyright.

My research is about a year old, and I may be mistaken, but I don't think I am.
 

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Alain Gomez said:
What about photoshopped work? How photoshopped does something have to be before it becomes your own?
I AM NOT A LAWYER SO TAKE THIS WITH A GRAIN OF SALT:

First something I'm pretty darned sure of -- just doing a little photoshopping to disguise where something came from does not make it yours. Just don't do it.

There is a blurrier line as you get farther and farther from the original -- if you take a copyrighted picture of a dozen people and copy the lamppost from the background, is that fair use? (And if it isn't, will anybody notice?) I can't tell you.

One thing I can say is that if you take an original image -- drawing or photo -- and use it as a reference for a painting (no copy an paste, no Photoship -- you hand draw or paint it) you can still get into trouble if you imitate the original in too many ways. For instance, you know that famous "HOPE" poster of Obama? The artist who painted that got into trouble. He used a press photo as a model for it.

Here's the kicker: The issue in the court of law wasn't that he used the photo, but that he copied the whole photo. In his legal defense, he claimed that he had used a part of another image taken right around the same time -- one with a lot of people in it. However, that was proven to be untrue, because that photo didn't match the artwork.

The question is, if it were proven that he had used the other photo, would he have been okay? Not necessarily. There probably would have been a lengthy case to sort that out. (And remember, he was NOT accused of photoshopping the image. He painted it by hand.)

IMHO, don't mess with it.

Camille
 

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Ryne Billings said:
Copyright goes into effect anytime something is published, but you don't have that many rights under an un-registered copyright. In short, it is very difficult to sue someone for copyright infringement if you don't have a registered copyright.
Neither publication nor registration are required for something to be copyrighted. It is protected from the moment of creation. The biggest advantage of registration with the US Copyright Office is that if you sue an infringer and win, you can also collect statutory damages, including attorney fees.

You must first register and create a public record of the work to sue for infringement. To attain the statutory advantage it must be within three months of creation. Regardless or whether or not the work has the statutory-damages advantage, the creator always can collect actual damages plus any profit the infringer might have made.

Here's a good FAQ on copyright law:
http://www.photolaw.net/faq.html
 

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John Hamilton said:
Neither publication nor registration are required for something to be copyrighted. It is protected from the moment of creation. The biggest advantage of registration with the US Copyright Office is that if you sue an infringer and win, you can also collect statutory damages, including attorney fees.

You must first register and create a public record of the work to sue for infringement. To attain the statutory advantage it must be within three months of creation. Regardless or whether or not the work is has the statutory-damages advantage, the creator always can collect actual damages plus any profit the infringer might have made.

Here's a good FAQ on copyright law:
http://www.photolaw.net/faq.html
Thanks for clarifying. Only about a third of what I know seems to come out when I try to explain it.
 

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Ryne Billings said:
It most certainly is. I probably wouldn't know half of what I do if not for the fact that I read a discussion about copyrights on another writing forum.
Oh, yeah. I studied copyright for a while. Public domain is complicated. There's a lot of work out there which probably is in the public domain for this odd little reason or that, but you can't prove it, so you can't use it. For instance, there is some odd little wrinkle where things published before 1980 or so (don't recall the date off hand) without a copyright notice on it is possibly in public domain. However, things published without a copyright notice tend to not have the date on them, so... you can't prove it. If you find an old pamphlet with women dressed in 1940s style, how do you know it's not a retro design published more recently?

The only safe and fast rule is that if something was published before 1923 (not including 1923 itself) in the United States, it is in the public domain in the United States. Can't guarantee other countries. Also, even if it was originally published in 1922, but you're looking at a reprint, any changes put it at a later date.

It's a tricky thing. Don't mess with it. Do your own work, or pay for it, or take the charity of those who have put their work officially in the public domain. (And make sure you understand what rights they are licensing.)

Camille
 

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daringnovelist said:
For instance, there is some odd little wrinkle where things published before 1980 or so (don't recall the date off hand) without a copyright notice on it is possibly in public domain.
I think you're referring to the Copyright Act of 1976, Camille. Which didn't go into effect until Jan 1, 1978. See, complicated. I wrote an article on copyright when I was managing editor of Photomethods Magazine in '88. That whole area of law still confuses me.

daringnovelist said:
The only safe and fast rule is that if something was published before 1923 (not including 1923 itself) in the United States, it is in the public domain in the United States.
Even that rule isn't hard and fast, especially with corporate ownership of copyright (you can partly thank Disney for that). The Copyright Term Extension Act of '98 shuffled the deck a bit.

The intro to the Wiki entry:

"The Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) of 1998 extended copyright terms in the United States by 20 years. Since the Copyright Act of 1976, copyright would last for the life of the author plus 50 years, or 75 years for a work of corporate authorship. The Act extended these terms to life of the author plus 70 years and for works of corporate authorship to 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever endpoint is earlier. Copyright protection for works published prior to January 1, 1978, was increased by 20 years to a total of 95 years from their publication date.

This law, also known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, Sonny Bono Act, or pejoratively as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, effectively "froze" the advancement date of the public domain in the United States for works covered by the older fixed term copyright rules. Under this Act, additional works made in 1923 or afterwards that were still protected by copyright in 1998 will not enter the public domain until 2019 or afterward (depending on the date of the product) unless the owner of the copyright releases them into the public domain prior to that or if the copyright gets extended again."

daringnovelist said:
It's a tricky thing. Don't mess with it. Do your own work, or pay for it, or take the charity of those who have put their work officially in the public domain. (And make sure you understand what rights they are licensing.)
That's the best takeaway from this discussion. Well said.
 

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John Hamilton said:
Even that rule isn't hard and fast, especially with corporate ownership of copyright (you can partly thank Disney for that). The Copyright Term Extension Act of '98 shuffled the deck a bit.
But that didn't effect anything before 1923 (i.e. 1922 or earlier) because one thing they can't do is retroactively take back the public domain. The reason things from 1922 or before are in the public domain are because they were already IN the public domain at the time of the new laws. Once its in, it doesn't go back.

There are actually a tremendous number of public domain works after 1922 (up through 1950s, I think -- have to do math to figure it out). Before the 78 revision of the law, you had to register the copyright for something to be covered at all, and then it only lasted for 28 years. You could then renew it for another 28 years. If the copyright holder failed to renew (and frankly, with most pop culture items they did not) then they passed into the public domain.

If it was published in the US 1922 or earlier, it's in the public domain in the US for sure... but only if it was published. (Ironically, even before the reform of the law, if it wasn't published it belonged to the creator until his or her death as private property -- but don't quote me on that, it's tricky too. There was an interesting Supreme Court case that turned on that in the mid-19th century.)

Any other circumstance requires some sort of proof that the item has passed into the public domain. With a photograph, it would be very hard, because it's impossible to do a search on where it was originally published, and when it was renewed. (Unless that information was written on the picture.)

Camille
 

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daringnovelist said:
If it was published in the US 1922 or earlier, it's in the public domain in the US for sure... but only if it was published.
Splitting hairs here, but it has to be an "authorized" publication. For example, some groups have tried to argue that the "Happy Birthday" song is public domain because it was first published in 1912 and again in 1915. But the heirs who own the copyright have argued successfully that the song's first authorized publication date is 1935, therefore no public domain.

Point is, you don't always know. If in doubt, don't use it.
 

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John Hamilton said:
Splitting hairs here, but it has to be an "authorized" publication. For example, some groups have tried to argue that the "Happy Birthday" song is public domain because it was first published in 1912 and again in 1915. But the heirs who own the copyright have argued successfully that the song's first authorized publication date is 1935, therefore no public domain.

Point is, you don't always know. If in doubt, don't use it.
But in that case, the burden of proof was on the copyright holders, not the alleged violators. I'm not fully familiar with the case, but I believe that it hinged on the fact that the valid copyright wasn't registered until 1935.

Which takes me back to the issue of revisions: if there is a old old photograph which is in the public domain as an original, and someone has done the work to restore it, they do control the restoration. (This is something that I am unsure of the case law on, but you'd have to have a pretty darned fine lawyer to fight it.)

Camille
 

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daringnovelist said:
But in that case, the burden of proof was on the copyright holders, not the alleged violators.
I was commenting on your statement "If it was published in the US 1922 or earlier, it's in the public domain in the US for sure." My point is that it's not for sure, there are exceptions. I'm not trying to pick a fight here, honest.
 

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daringnovelist said:
It's a tricky thing. Don't mess with it. Do your own work, or pay for it, or take the charity of those who have put their work officially in the public domain. (And make sure you understand what rights they are licensing.)
This is the bottom line for me. (Quilt artists deal with this issue all the time, too. I've read MANY online discussions of copyright in my quilting forums.) Good advice.

Betsy
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
daringnovelist said:
With a photograph, it would be very hard, because it's impossible to do a search on where it was originally published, and when it was renewed. (Unless that information was written on the picture.)

Camille
Yes, I've always been careful to use public domain stuff.

It just seems ridiculous to me all the copyright stuff you have to deal with for cases like this ^^. I mean, there is no named artist AND the person uploaded it to the internet. In my opinion, anything uploaded to the internet is public and no longer private. It's like standing nude in front of your house and getting mad at people who see you saying "it's private!" :D
 

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If you upload your book to the internet, does it become public domain?

Remember, a lot of people get away with posting photos and stuff because they're not really using them for commercial purposes. You try to profit off someone else's work, though, and you could be in trouble.
 
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