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Old 06-16-2012, 10:02 AM   #1
Rizla
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How does one know if an image is public domain?

The subject says it all. Lets presume its an old image dating back to WW2, it's well-known and many versions exist on the net on many sites. How can one tell if it's okay to use for the cover of a book? I've heard some pretty awful horror stories...
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Old 06-16-2012, 10:06 AM   #2
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Simple answer: you don't.

Don't assume that just because something is often reproduced, it's freely copyable. In most cases it isn't. Remember that in most countries, copyright extends for 70 years after death, which means that a picture taken in 1942 will still be protected by copyright even if the photographer died on the day it was taken.

Image rights are a nightmare. It's just not worth the risk of using an existing image.
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Old 06-16-2012, 11:10 AM   #3
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That is definitely NOT the rule in Canada, with respect to images (and sound recordings). But -- point well taken! -- it's still murky.

Photographs, if owned by a corporation (for example a photo by a staff photographer published in his/her newspaper), are protected for 50 years from the date of the making of the original negative, ie 1961 or earlier.

But, in Canada, if the photographs are owned by a person, the date of death of the photographer is key. So, WWII war time photographs by Yousef Karsh, who died in 2002, won't enter public domain until 2053.
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Old 06-16-2012, 12:01 PM   #4
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Thanks. I better learn how to draw. Haw haw!
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Old 06-16-2012, 03:46 PM   #5
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What happens if you use it for tracing a drawing, or converting it into a drawing using some kind of software?
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Old 06-16-2012, 05:40 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kumabjorn View Post
What happens if you use it for tracing a drawing, or converting it into a drawing using some kind of software?
In the US, if the original photo was copyrighted then such a copy would be illegal unless the "copy" was substantially altered.
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Old 06-16-2012, 06:42 PM   #7
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Right now one of the better ways of searching for who might own an image is to see where it pops up using Tineye.com . The image might be attributed somewhere.
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Old 06-16-2012, 07:54 PM   #8
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What about photographs you take yourself?

A building, public or private?
A photo of an artistic reproduction--a statuette or vase for instance--something you purchased?
An outdoor photo with people in the background?
A photo of a public park or garden?

For those of us who can't draw...well.
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Old 06-17-2012, 08:36 AM   #9
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Photos you take yourself are *usually* yours but with some exceptions; some buildings are copyrighted and/or trademarked.
The usual criteria in those cases is "commercial gain". For personal use you can do anything but not for sale or for promotional use. i.e., using a picture of Cinderella's castle on the cover of your "historical romance" is probably not going to fly.

Very murky subject:
http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-protect.html

http://photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetc...&msg_id=004im1

Last edited by fjtorres; 06-17-2012 at 08:42 AM.
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Old 06-17-2012, 01:28 PM   #10
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There are several photos on Wikipedia and on Flickr that are specifically marked, "No copyright" or "Public domain." I have used a couple of these (for book covers, for website posts) and I just save a static copy of the page on which their copyright information is posted.

There are a couple of photographers that upload images to Wikipedia and specifically make them all "public domain" when releasing them.
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Old 06-17-2012, 02:27 PM   #11
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You can find images that are in the public domain via:

http://search.creativecommons.org/

I don't know how to check whether an existing image is in the public domain.
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Old 06-17-2012, 02:41 PM   #12
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I use photos from a lot of stock photo web sites for my ebook, websites, etc. for myself and my clients.

Here are some free ones:
http://sxc.hu/
http://morguefile.com/

The one I use most is a paid one. iStockPhoto.com. The selection is much better and more professional than the free ones and the photos usually end up costing me $3 to $7 each depending. Well worth paying the extra for the selection.
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Old 06-17-2012, 11:42 PM   #13
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Honestly the best way is to track the copyright owner/notice...
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Old 06-18-2012, 12:52 AM   #14
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You specifically mention WW2, and that the image is "well known."

Was this taken by an American photographer, employed by the government? If that's the case it might very well be in the public domain. I know -- this really only makes it more complicated!

Try looking for your photo here:

http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Graphics.shtml
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Old 06-18-2012, 11:09 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HenryCrun View Post
You can find images that are in the public domain via:

http://search.creativecommons.org/

I don't know how to check whether an existing image is in the public domain.
Creative Commons works are not in the public domain.
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