Quote Originally Posted by alanrockwood View Post
A quote from the US patent and trademark office (http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/dco...efresher.htm):

"For works created by individual authors on or after January 1, 1978, copyright protection begins at the moment of creation and lasts for a period of 70 years after the author's death. In the case of "a joint work” (prepared by two or more authors) the term lasts for 70 years after the last surviving author's death. "

What is unclear to me is the meaning of "at the moment of creation". Does that mean at the moment the exposure was made? Probably not, since the creative work is not completed at that point, at least not with print film. Does it mean at the moment of development of the negatives? Does it mean when the print was made? I don't know, but these seem to be important questions.

It seems to me that if you develop and print the film then it is a "joint work", and you would have equal interest to the work with the person who snapped the shutter. Under US patent law (which may or may not apply to copyright law, I don't know) unless there is an agreement of other provisions to the contrary, all inventors have 100% undivided interest in the work, which means that each can market or use the work without permission from the others. If copyright law works the same way, and if developing and printing the photos counts as part of the creation, making it a joint work, then it would seem to me that you would be free to sell the work without permission from the persons who snapped the photos.

I am not a lawyer, so take my comments with a grain of salt.

processing the film+printing it has nothing to do with its creation.
creating a photograph happens in a camera with film or paper,
not in the darkroom with an enlarger.

for copyright laws to be enforced, in the usa at least, the images
have to be registered with the copyright office, or it is not easy to declare ownership / creatorship
and if there is an issue, you won't be able to get a judge to hear the case. registration is needed.
if the film was abandoned / orphaned you might have a chance because of new laws
that suggest if you look for the owners and can't find them
you can use their work without consent ...

i'm no lawyer either so take my comments with a grain of salt as well ...