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  1. #1
    battra92's Avatar
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    Reproducing and selling 100+ year old historic prints - Ethical?

    To start with a little background, my family has been in this area of the country for quite some time. We actually have roots back as far as the Revolution and even to early settlers of the colonies. Thankfully, this means that we don't hit the immigrant wall of around the early 1900s and my family has collected many old photographs over the years. Mostly the ones I was looking at are from the late 1800s to early 1900s

    What I was thinking of doing was, restoring them and selling them locally as postcards and framed prints. I know the copyrights are long up as the photos are well over 100 years ago and everyone in them is long dead so legally there is no issue in terms of reproduction and selling, but I am wondering whether it is ethical to sell someone else's work. Does the fact that it is history change that?

    Any feedback on this?

  2. #2
    Dave Parker's Avatar
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    If any of the images are famous, you may want to check and see if the copyrights have been renewed on any of them, death does not always invalidate copyright and as I remember it, the copyright law was redone a couple of years ago, to go back as far as 125 years, as far as reproduction, that is going to be something you have to make the choice on, if you choose to do it, I would say you would need to note they are not your images and are reproductions of others work.

    Dave

  3. #3
    battra92's Avatar
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    None are famous, that I know of. The few that I have are from in and around my local area, which is faily small. Many are photographer unknown with some having studio names on them. Methinks this calls for a trip to the historical society.

    I would say you would need to note they are not your images and are reproductions of others work.
    I guess while it may seem obvious to me (what with the fact that various buildings are now gone) that is an interesting thing to mention.

  4. #4
    titrisol's Avatar
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    Legal issues aside, I think it is a great idea.
    If they have a stamp or signature you may want to contact the successors of the photgraphers... otherwise ask a lawyer

    Quote Originally Posted by battra92
    To start with a little background, my family has been in this area of the country for quite some time. We actually have roots back as far as the Revolution and even to early settlers of the colonies. Thankfully, this means that we don't hit the immigrant wall of around the early 1900s and my family has collected many old photographs over the years. Mostly the ones I was looking at are from the late 1800s to early 1900s

    What I was thinking of doing was, restoring them and selling them locally as postcards and framed prints. I know the copyrights are long up as the photos are well over 100 years ago and everyone in them is long dead so legally there is no issue in terms of reproduction and selling, but I am wondering whether it is ethical to sell someone else's work. Does the fact that it is history change that?

    Any feedback on this?
    Mama took my APX away.....

  5. #5
    Dave Parker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by battra92
    None are famous, that I know of. The few that I have are from in and around my local area, which is faily small. Many are photographer unknown with some having studio names on them. Methinks this calls for a trip to the historical society.



    I guess while it may seem obvious to me (what with the fact that various buildings are now gone) that is an interesting thing to mention.
    You never know when a cousin or uncle 17 times removed is going to show up, and if they were to become popular, I can almost bet you, one will claiming that was my Great Great Great Grandfathers picture..

    It is just called covering your bases, also, the historical society would be a good idea as many of them still have rights of ownership on many images of buildings that don't exist anylonger, I do quite a bit of work for one of our local historical societies and you would be amazed at what rights they own concerning images of buildings and such...

    Also, another thing, do you have just prints you wish to reproduce, or do you have negatives, if you have negatives, then copyright is pretty much yours.

    Dave

  6. #6
    rbarker's Avatar
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    Dave's advice of watching out for silver diggers (the photo equivalent of "gold diggers") is good, I think. A lot depends on the practicality of scale, how the reproductions are used, and so forth. But, thinking about all that legal stuff in advance can't hurt.

    As noted, too, the issues shift around a bit based on what you're reproducing from. If from the original negatives, the legal issues are far more clear. If you will be making copy negs of the old original prints, however, more research might be in order. You might also consider "crediting" the images to something like the "XYZ Family Archives" - just to make it painfully clear that you're not claiming personal credit.


    the Barker kids, circa 1895. The young lad in the foreground was my grandfather.
    [COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]

    Ralph Barker
    Rio Rancho, NM

  7. #7
    battra92's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by titrisol
    Legal issues aside, I think it is a great idea.
    Thanks.

    If they have a stamp or signature you may want to contact the successors of the photgraphers... otherwise ask a lawyer
    No stamps on any of them actually. They are all mostly just prints made onto cardboard backing.

    Here is an example of the type of photo that I've restored so far. The original was ripped in the center, though I believe what's left will outlast any new print I would make so I'm thinking of making actual silver prints out of them if I can get digital negs made up.

  8. #8
    Dave Wooten's Avatar
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    You should do it!

    also there might be grants available in your state that would help you with the project-book, cards etc...a book that comes to mind for me is"Upon a Quiet Landscape...the Photographs of "Frank Sadorus..published by the Urbana Free Library...66 photographs taken between 1906 and 1912....Sadorus was not even a professional photographer and was considered insane when he died at an early age...he was a very accomplished amateur photographer....Raymond Bial put it together and has published 2 other books of photographs....Ivesdale: A Photographic Essay and also a book "Portraits of Older Blacks in Champaign, Illinois" check with your historical archives council in your area and the state university in your area etc....catalog your images...I think you will be surprised at the reception and encouragement you will receive...especially if the people are identifiable as citizens in your area etc...good luck

    Dave in Vegas

  9. #9

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    Good luck with your project. I love looking at those very old images from 100+ years ago. All that legal stuff really makes me sick as it discourages people like you from doing this wonderful work. Future generations can thank you for giving them a glimpse of history.

    Doug

  10. #10

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    I do not think this project is advisable. It sounds to me, regardless of your good intentions, to be something that will take a lot of time and effort and little chance of recouping your costs. Then there are the legal issues above and beyond that.

    After all if I were to sue you, and you won, it would still be a headache and costly. If you were to lose it would be a bigger headache and even more costly.
    Claire (Ms Anne Thrope is in the darkroom)

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