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  #1  
Old 05-29-2013, 05:44 PM
ruth-gehrig ruth-gehrig is offline
Mich@el K. Tr0tnic
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Default 1927 Yankees Team Photo Negative

If I have this negative do I own the rights to print and sell copies of the picture? I'm a bit confused as to what I'm able to do with the negative. Thanks, Michael
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Old 05-29-2013, 06:04 PM
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That is a good question. I have purchased original 35mm slides of players from the photographers that took them and they said I now own the rights to those photos. But I bought them off the original photographer. Sometimes people will make additional negatives of a photograph so its hard to say. Anyone else know?
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Old 05-29-2013, 06:11 PM
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Short answer is no.
Just because you own the physical item doesn't mean you own the intellectual property.
My good friend Graig Kreindler explained it to me like this, when I asked about using the paintings he creates for other things.
When he creates a painting, the idea and creation of the painting is owned by the artist. The physical painting can be sold, but not the IP. You can arrange to purchase the IP, at an additional cost, but it is not included in the price of the painting itself.
A negative would be the same. I'm not sure who would technically own the IP. It could be the photographer or the news agency they work for. I also think MLB, the specific team, or the player's estate could all lay a financial claim prior to being able to use a negative for profit.
All that being said, I think it is unlikely that anyone will be chasing anyone down for taking a negative and printing some copies for friends or even selling a few here and there. None of the above parties appear to be cracking down on the million picture sellers on ebay, so I doubt a small seller would be targeted.
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Mark
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Old 05-29-2013, 06:13 PM
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Randall,
Your situation is certainly an exception. If the original photographer tells you that you own the rights, then you own them.
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Old 05-29-2013, 07:55 PM
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Copyrights--implied or otherwise--don't last forever. They must be renewed, and if they aren't the IP winds up in the public domain.

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Old 05-29-2013, 09:26 PM
HexsHeroes HexsHeroes is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Atkatz View Post
Copyrights--implied or otherwise--don't last forever. They must be renewed, and if they aren't the IP winds up in the public domain.
+1
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Old 05-29-2013, 09:38 PM
ruth-gehrig ruth-gehrig is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Atkatz View Post
Copyrights--implied or otherwise--don't last forever. They must be renewed, and if they aren't the IP winds up in the public domain.
So how would I ever know if this negative was copyrighted and renewed? If it wasn't renewed does that mean whoever has the negative is more or less the owner? I guess others could always make a reprint from a copy made from my negative.
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Old 05-29-2013, 10:34 PM
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I don't know how you would go about finding out whether the copyright is still in force. Perhaps Lance, Rhys, one of the lawyers on the site, or one of the other photo guys would know.
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Old 05-29-2013, 10:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ruth-gehrig View Post
So how would I ever know if this negative was copyrighted and renewed? If it wasn't renewed does that mean whoever has the negative is more or less the owner? I guess others could always make a reprint from a copy made from my negative.
You could contact the U.S. Copyright Office and have them perform a search for the image to determine whether it was registered, if so when, was it renewed, and what is its current status. I believe they charge an hourly fee for records searches.

I think that for the 1923 to 1973 time period, the copyright term was 28 years and could be renewed for an additional 47 years which was later extended by 20 years for a total renewal of 67 years. So 1927 + 28 years + 67 years would be the year 2022 before it would pass into public domain IF all the renewal steps were taken. That's for the image itself, but there are other issues with reproducing MLB logos and player images that I don't know the specifics of.

That said though, you need to keep in mind that there is a big difference in "do I have the right to" and "can I get away with" when it comes to reprinting most old photos. If you do it the right way, and go through the proper channels to determine rights ownership and fees for reproducing the image itself, the team logos, individual player images, etc., I can pretty much guarantee you'll give up before ever selling your first print. That said though, nobody in their right mind is going to go to the expense of taking you to court over a couple of cheap prints of an image that they have rights to that you sold on eBay, which is why the eBay "RP" photo sellers can get away with it. Use the image in a multi-million dollar Microsoft ad campaign or something though, and you're looking at a whole different scenario in which the very well might come after you.

Bottom line though is that the whole "rights" issue is pretty complicated, and as with any kind of legal advice, you would do well to speak with someone who actually deals with this stuff on a professional basis (and doesn't have to preface everything with "I think" as I do).

Last edited by thecatspajamas; 05-29-2013 at 11:07 PM.
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Old 05-29-2013, 11:09 PM
Michael B Michael B is offline
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The rule of thumb that I have used and appears to be supported by copyright law is that a photo, if copyrighted when originally taken or not, falls into the public domain 85 years after it could have first been published in a newspaper, magazine or book. This is a good rule of thumb for press photos. If a copyright is renewed, then it is extended. The extension of a copyright is usually done for iconic photos or those taken by famous photographers, ie. Ansel Adams, Margaret Burke White, Eisenstadt. Images of Adam's photos taken in the 1920's are still covered by copyright.

The use of images of famous persons can be controlled by the estate, but only under certain circumstances. The State of California has statutes in place that prevent people from profiting off of the names and/or images of famous people who were legal residences of the state. Even this has its exceptions. A person found some unpublished negatives of Marilyn Monroe in California and was trying to make prints to sell. Her estate stepped in and tried to prevent the sale since she was living in California at the time of her death. The estate lost the case. Even though she was living in California, she also maintained a residence in New York and paid taxes to the State of New York, making her a legal resident of that state.

Sorry to get off track. It is highly unlikely that anyone is going to come knocking on your door if you make up some prints and try to sell them. BUT, and I am talking elephant butt, Major League Baseball maintains all marketing rights over the logos of every team in baseball. Since the Yankees logo and the word Yankees on a jersey are their logo, you could not really go into large scale marketing without a license from MLB. Think of all the advertising in magazines and other advertising where you see a player wearing a lookalike team uniform without any logos, especially the hats.

Two last points:
1) If you are purchasing an image directly from the photographer and he is giving you all reproduction rights - GET IT IN WRITING!!!. The verbal statement has little control, especially if the family steps up after the photographers death.

2) Not every organization claiming copyright on an image actually has one. Getty Images claims copyright on images they could not possibly have. Not true for all images, but for some older images this is the case. They are trying to control the dissemination of photos in the public domain.

Last edited by Michael B; 05-29-2013 at 11:11 PM.
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