Putting Ideas in Motion

Little facts: on copyright law

Added on by Ryan Siemers.

I'm working on a project for the Homes By Architects Tour and a renovated home on the tour is a historic project that is being renovated.

Because of the nature of the project, it's helpful to show the historic images. However copyright law may come into affect when you want to republish an image.

Here's an exerpt from of an article on the topic from Standford University:

How long does a copyright last?

For works published after 1977, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. However, if the work is a work for hire (that is, the work is done in the course of employment or has been specifically commissioned) or is published anonymously or under a pseudonym, the copyright lasts between 95 and 120 years, depending on the date the work is published.

All works published in the United States before 1923 are in the public domain. Works published after 1922, but before 1978 are protected for 95 years from the date of publication. If the work was created, but not published, before 1978, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. However, even if the author died over 70 years ago, the copyright in an unpublished work lasts until December 31, 2002. And if such a work is published before December 31, 2002, the copyright will last until December 31, 2047.

Fair use is often used as an explination of republication without a copyright holder's permission but do you know what "Fair Use" actually entails?

acording tothe US Copyright Office,

One of the rights accorded to the owner of copyright is the right to reproduce or to authorize others to reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords. This right is subject to certain limitations found in sections 107 through 118 of the copyright law (title 17, U. S. Code). One of the more important limitations is the doctrine of “fair use.” The doctrine of fair use has developed through a substantial number of court decisions over the years and has been codified in section 107 of the copyright law.

Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair: 

    1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
    2. The nature of the copyrighted work
    3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
    4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.

In this case, the project is being produced for a not-for-profit entity who's primary purpose is the education of the public about architecture and representation of Architects. So this could be considered teaching, or scholarship. I don't believe it could considered as news reporting because the product I am working on is not part of a journal of record.

It's important however that I also consider that since I am a commercial enterprise, that if I publish it here on my blog, it could be considered advertising. If I put my logo on the video and it is used anywhere, that too could make it considered a advertisement.

So that leaves the necessity to verify the age of the original publication, but more importantly the original copyright holder.