February 24, 2009

Copyright violated?

I have a little copyright issue, and need some advice.

I get really fired up about community history, and the role of libraries in preserving our community histories. About two years ago, I worked on a local history project that involved lots of people in my home community, the library, and other community organizations, and came to fruition in an essay and exhibit. The purpose of the project was to gain some publicity for a historic building and community gathering place very near and dear that is in constant financial trouble.

So, I was googling around the Internet yesterday, and I found the following video:

The Parks and Recreation Dept., who I intended the research to ultimately benefit, posted the video on their blog.

That's cool, right? Community history belongs to the community, and people are interacting with it because it means something to them. I shared my research becuase it's not just me and the archive that are wrapped up in the pool. There is a version of the essay on a local wiki, and I would love it if people added to that. Some have. The history of that pool means a lot to me, and to so many others in my home community, so we should all be able to celebrate it and pass it along, right?

Well, maybe not entirely. The images are copyrighted and property of the public library. There is a use fee and use agreement connected with the images. The fees help to keep the archive alive. The agreement helps keep the use of the images legal. Taking screenshots of the images and then citing "courtesy of..." when the library mostly likely did not okay this, isn't really legal. If the library did okay it, please, prove me wrong. If taking screenshots of copyrighted images is legal, please, prove me wrong.

I'm a librarian. I'm uptight about citing sources. I think plagiarism is the 8th deadly sin. The research for this project took a long time and involved a lot of people. I cited my sources like crazy so that other people wouldn't have to spend two years in front of a mircofilm reader reading unindexed newspapers to find information about the building, and to find the photos used in the video.

Am I being too uptight? Too invested? Should I let it go? Should I let the library and historical commission deal with it, since they own the images and I donated my time and research to them? Any free advice?

1 comment:

  1. Standard Lawyer response:

    It depends. It depends on whether or not the Historical Commission (or library?) submitted a renewal to the Copyright Office. "if a work was published between 1923 to 1963, the copyright owner was required to have applied for a renewal term with the Copyright office. If they did not, the copyright expired and the work entered into the public domain. If they did apply for renewal, these works will have a 95 year copyright term" (see: http://www.bitlaw.com/copyright/duration.html )

    Just as a note: simply digitizing a work does not create a new creative work so the initial copyright date of the digital image is the same as the original photograph. So I'm assuming the copyright date for these images is something like 1929-33. Still in copyright, but not for long (if it was renewed). (for more about that, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridgeman_Art_Library_v._Corel_Corp. ).

    note: I Am Not A Lawyer.

    To answer some of your questions:
    "taking screenshots of copyrighted images" and then redistributing those images is indeed illegal.

    "Should I let it go?" Probably. If it was someone who did this out of the good of there heart and not for the money (which is most likely true given that it is available for free on youtube) then you would only be hindering more awareness of the issue. And awareness is the goal of archives/libraries.

    Also, would they have paid the Use Fee anyways? If not, then there is no "lost sale." And if that would have stopped them from making the video, then we're all at a loss. Of course, that is just my opinion and you may have a different but equally valid opinion. Friends sometimes disagree with me on that.