Monday, May 30, 2016

PHOTO RIGHTS | Copyright Law (Updated Oct 18, 2016)

The Copyright Office administers
changing copyright laws.
I am on both sides of the copyright issue. On one side I am a rights manager. On the other I am a user of works that are or were under copyright or are protected by common law.

As my mother's executor, I am managing copyrights for her published writing that expire in 2056, rights to her unpublished writing, copyrights to her published illustrations that expire in 2076, and rights to her unpublished art. I am approached by museums to allow reproduction of my mother's art, by publishers who want to reprint her books, and by movie-makers seeking to turn books into television shows or movies.

As a publisher, I need to protect the intellectual property that I publish while making sure that we don't infringe on the rights of others.

As a blogger and writer, I am often looking for artwork to include with my writing and usually want something quickly and free. The "Fair Use" provisions of copyright law allow me some leeway because my blog posts represent commentary.  Here's one summary of Fair Use:
In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. Source: What Is Fair Use? - Copyright Overview by Rich Stim. 
Increasingly, I am getting into the habit of checking on the "Visit Page" option when I look up Images on Google, and only using an image when there is no copyright attached or a liberal policy of fair use is announced or implied. I seek to acknowledge sources for every image I use as well as quotes or paraphrases.

Recently I came across a summary of the basics of copyright law as applied to photos that I found useful. What goes on in the real world is that there is a lot of appropriating of other people's work in the name of commentary and hommage. If the system is to work, we need a higher level of understanding of and compliance with the law. It doesn't help, however, that copyright law is so complicated. Here are the basics from the Copyright Office.

If you know of other good sources, please comment.