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  • copyright releases

    I was just looking through some of the very early threads in this forum, and I came across one that touched on copyright releases. My question is this: If the client signs a statement indicating that he/she owns the copyright or has permission to have it copied, does that take us, as restoration artists, off the hook legally? There are also times when a photo appears to have been made professionally, but in fact was made by the client. Or, what if you know that a certain original was made by a professional, but no copyright symbol appears on the original?


  • #2
    Tough questions Ed. I always thought that copyright laws were set up to protect the owner from having others capitalize on their work. I would say since we are not making money on any of these photos on this site we are not capitalizing on them in any way so it shouldn't be a problem. Isn't it the same as copying music from the radio or recording movies on TV etc? They are copyrighted and if you were to sell them commercially or even use a portion of them for a commercial endevour that would be infringement. I would think that photos would be considered the same.

    I think the main copyright issue here would be posting an image of someone publically without thier permission.

    I have a feeling lawyers could make a real case on both sides for years to come.


    • #3
      As it was explained to me, if your client signs a statement like you described that would probably cover you as regards liability.
      As long as the Professional retains the Negatives, permission must be obtained to least in this State. If the customer has the negatives, there is no copy right issue with the person who took the photos. He who has the negatives has the copyright that is what I have been told and as far as I know that applies only in Montana...probably should check with a lawyer in your State of residence to see what , if any, other issues are involved. Tom


      • #4
        I wasn't referring to the use of photos on the site, but if you make a copy of an image and someone uses it to make prints, that could be a problem. I think you could do a restoration without a problem, but if you give the original scanned file to a client, then things could change considerably.

        Again I'm not sure, but I think what you say is probably true for most (all?) states. But since the people who frequent this site are more likely than the average Joe to encounter copyright infringement, I think it's a good topic for all.



        • #5
          I've been reading about copyright laws, and there is so much to read that you'll probably never get the answer you need. So I wrote to Katrin Eismann to see if she could shed a little light on just what our concerns should be. If she replies, I'll post the info for all. I did tell her that we were discussing the subject again, so maybe she'll visit herself. Wouldn't that be nice?



          • #6
            The Lawyer I talked with told me the whole copyright issue is a mine field contained in a can of worms.....Hopefully Ms. Eismann will be able to shed some light! Tom


            • #7
              I received a request to enter my two cents worth in here so I'll give it a try. It's a complex subject for sure! I won a major case against a shopping center and the copy reprographic house that did the work for them on some of my photos a few years back.

              During the course of the more than three years that it takes to get through the various court hearings and trial one can learn far more than you ever wanted to about what can and can't be done however, I wouldn't profess to knowing much that could be applied specifically here nor would I give anyone any advice (I'm not the lawyer in the family, my son is) because every case is different and so much depends on the Judges.

              I will say that most people here have little or nothing to be concerned about unless you are handling known works and attempting to run off fakes of them for sale on the Internet!

              If the work is unregistered and has no real commercial value (as is the case with nearly all family photos), it gets very little protection. While the "author" can sue, it has to be for "actual damages" from a violation, and possibly court costs. Actual damages means actual money lost by the author due to publication, plus any money gained by the defendant. But if a work has no commercial value it would never get to court before some Judge would toss the case because even with a win the true damages would likely be zero.

              Consider that in my case the legal fees came in at more than $70,000 (and that's fairly typical), it is a practical matter of economics that tells you, you are not going to get into any trouble over copying family photos. Somebody has to put up the legal costs and gamble on a win to cover them! And even in a win the Judge may make them pay their own legal fees.

              Now, as a matter of policy at Timemark, if we can find the studio that made an original, we contact them in writing before doing any work and offer a use fee. The reason for copyright is money - the way to protect yourself is to offer to pay. I've never had a studio turn me down on that nor refuse me permission.

              Jim Conway

              BTW I think US Copyright law is Federal Tom and as far as I know the States do not have their own set of laws. If they do, then I'm still learning! :-)


              • #8
                Good info Jim. Thanks for the contribution.



                • #9
                  You are most likely correct, Jim. It is a confusing tangle, to me anyway...something was mentioned by the Lawyer I spoke with about not only criminal but Civil penalties...dont know if that is a State issue or Federal ...Thanks for the input, it helps clear the issue a bit, hearing from someone with actual experience! Thanks...Tom


                  • #10
                    Thank you Mr. Conway for the detailed answer. It clears up my questions on the subject!


                    • #11

                      I did receive a reply from Katrin. Basically, she suggests having the client sign a document saying that they have the copyright and they give you permission to copy it for restoration/retouching purposes. The resulting digital file is an interpretation of the original, and the copyright remains with the original owner. She also made it clear that she was not a lawyer.

                      But I think Jim's post is probably right on the money.



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