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Getting conflicting copyright info?

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David Roth WeissGetting conflicting copyright info?
by on Jul 26, 2006 at 6:46:58 pm

Okay, here's an interesting topic of conversation for the ongoing copyright discussions here... This one concerns the use of U.S. government still images and those taken by active military.

Instance #1 - Images taken by Whitehouse staff photogs or Dept. of Defense staff photogs should in theory belong to "we the people," or so my understanding goes. Use of these images in a documentary film should be fair game. Thoughts???

Instance #2 - Images taken by uniformed military while on duty, are also in theory supposed to belong to "we the people," or so my understanding goes. Use of these images in a documentary film should also be fair game. Thoughts???

For the record, these are not just my theories, but are in fact widely published theories, however, getting a lawyer to state definitively that they are fact is another matter. So, I'm openning it up for discussion... Would appreciate hearing everyone's views...

TIA,
DRW


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Bob ColeRe: Getting conflicting copyright info?
by on Jul 26, 2006 at 8:08:12 pm

I think they WH pix are public domain, though there may be fees involved for printing copies. You may want to call the White House press office and ask.

As for DOD images, there could be obstacles involving security issues, but again I think if you can get your mitts on them, they should be public domain.

-- Bob C


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DougRe: Getting conflicting copyright info?
by on Jul 27, 2006 at 3:19:08 pm

As a former Marine, I think in instance #2, if the pic is taken by someone with their personal camera, for personal use, whether they are on duty or not or what they do with it afterward (except sell the rights), the pic belongs to them. If they were taking it because it is their job to take it (i.e. Public Relations or whatever) it might be fair game.

I bring this up because a LOT of active duty military take personal pics. It isn't right to think you have the right to use it just because they are in the military.

Doug


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Ron LindeboomRe: Getting conflicting copyright info?
by on Jul 27, 2006 at 3:31:51 pm


As Doug states, when active duty military personnel take pictures for themselves, these pictures are not part of their job description and I do not believe that the "spirit of the law" releases these photos as belonging to the general public.

I have bags of photos that were taken by my now departed little brother while he was in the military in Deutschland, and I do not consider them to be public property.

I agree that the photos of those who are serving as "ministers of information" are public property but would never use the work of a private soldier without their permission and release.

Beast regards,

Ron Lindeboom
creativecow.net


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David Roth WeissRe: Getting conflicting copyright info?
by on Jul 27, 2006 at 5:48:30 pm

Ron and Doug,

You both have good personal arguments, and this is why I opened his topic up for discussion. I thought it was a good subject for this forum, as it brings up the realities of copyright search, which are not always clear, even to lawyers who specialize in IP matters.

As you both know, sometimes laws may seem a bit (or a lot) counterintuitive and even unjust. For example, on the well-known website, Wikipedia, certain wartime images taken by individuals in the military have the following copyright info attached, "This image is in the public domain because it is ineligible for copyright. This applies worldwide. Pictures taken by U.S. military personnel on duty are ineligible for copyright, unless the photographer successfully claims that the photographs were not taken as part of his or her official duties. The photographers of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse photos have not made this claim, and have in fact denied it under oath."

The Dept. of Defense unsuccessfully attempted to suppress the publishing of the Abu Gharib photos, claiming they were DOD property, but, a coalition of various press organizations sued and won on grounds similar to that stated in the Wikipedia disclaimer.

Now, the issue where we are all concerned is, would these arguments suffice when applying for E&O insurance or when a broadcaster or motion piture company does its due dilligence?

DRW


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DougRe: Getting conflicting copyright info?
by on Jul 27, 2006 at 9:25:02 pm

As I stated in my previous post, if it was taken as part of their military duties, public relations or military newspapers, it might be free for use. If it was taken by military personnel for their own use then you have no right to use it....would you want to have pictures you have taken of family and friends used without your permission? Even if you were talking about all the tragic deaths of the military personnel and the pic had several of them in it. If it was a pic taken by a member of that persons unit for their personal use then they own the rights to it.

As far as E&O insurance and due dilligence is concerned. If it was me, I would require you to prove that they were in the public domain just to avoid lawsuits. Saying 'they were taken by military personnel and are therefore in the public domain' would not cut it. You know how this country is about lawsuits.

Doug


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David Roth WeissRe: Getting conflicting copyright info?
by on Jul 27, 2006 at 10:17:24 pm

Doug,

What you're saying certainly sounds logical and it seems like a logical interpretation to most laypersons, but, the interpretation of "as part of his or her official duty" is interpreted differently by the courts. If you are employed by the government and on duty while taking a snapshot for your own enjoyment, that snapshot is more than likely PD. You see, regardless of your intent, the fact that you were being paid by the Federal Gov., and on your shift at the time, means that your work product or intellectual property is not your own. You'd have every right could to contest it, but that would cost you if you were forced to fight it, and the burden of proof would be on you. There's no automatic feature at play that says its yours because it seems right and because you feel like it should be yours.

Now, this is where it gets interesting again, because insurance companies aren't always in 100% agreement with prevailing law. Often they just take easy way out and make you replace the stuff with something they know about.

DRW



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Steve WargoRe: Getting conflicting copyright info?
by on Jul 28, 2006 at 9:01:24 am

It's safer for the insurance comppany to say "no" of course. But, there's more than one insurance company out there and having a carrier who has done their homework and is serious about the business would certainly be a step ahead. And remember, the further an employee is down the ladder, the more prone they are to deny in order to cover their butt.

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona

It's a dry heat!


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David Roth WeissRe: Getting conflicting copyright info?
by on Jul 28, 2006 at 3:32:11 pm

Steve,

You and I have definitely driven around the same block a few times...

Hope you're feeling better.

DRW


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