Friday, July 20, 2007

Posting Photos

There have been several excellent essays about Copyrights and posting family photographs in recent days.

First, Steve Danko wrote "Who Owns the Copyrights to Your Photographs"

Next, footnoteMaven wrote "To Post or Not to Post: That is the Question"

Steve wrote about the Copyright laws in the USA, and who owns the copyright to photographs. footnoteMaven wrote about her own dilemma about posting a fmaily photograph dated around 1926. Based on her analysis of the photograph's origins, she has decided to post the photo on her blog based on "common sense." I think she made the right decision.

I thank Steve and footnoteMaven for these posts, which are very well thought out and reasoned. Based on these posts, the topic for the next Carnival of Genealogy has been changed to:

"Moral or legal dilemmas in genealogy and genea-blogging, which ones have you had to deal with and how did you resolve them, if you did?"

Obviously, posting photographs that might have copyright protection would qualify as one of those moral dilemmas, especially if the picture was not obtained from a family member (I'm thinking about studio pictures, wedding pictures made by a professional photographer, etc.). I have posted some of these types of photos before, and I need to go back over my posts and see if I have a problem. I encourage other genea-bloggers to do the same, and go through the thought process that footnoteMaven did in her post.

UPDATE 7/21: Steve Danko has a followup post on this subject at that addresses some of these issues, with a link to an interesting and troubling article. Read Steve's posts.


footnoteMaven said...


The blog post Steve lists in his follow-up is excellent. Daniel Solove is a associate professor at George Washington University Law School, so he has some blog cred on this subject.

I really think our family photos fall out of most of his areas of discussion, with the exception of studio photographs and those by professional photographers, as you said. I doubt genealogists will be the subject of a crack down because they would have to go dig up a lot of dead relatives to commence suits for copyright infringement.

I also think the law may evolve with regard to "Fair Use" and the web. The law was written when educators were handing out copies to their classes. Today a great deal of educating by family historians is on the web.

The law is fluid. I guess we'll just have to wait to see what happens.


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