(This discussion includes information on how long copyrights last) 2. In all cases, it is the researcher's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the Library's collections.
You will need to consider what you know about when and why the image was created, what you plan to use the image for, and then assess the risk of using it for that purpose. Pictures can fall into a murky area where they may or may not be copyrighted. A publishing company wants to copy, reprint, and sell as a postcard (intended use) a photograph copyrighted before 1923 (facts about the image). Government is not eligible for copyright protection (see page 5 of the Copyright Office's Circular 1, "Copyright Basics").
(LC-USZ62-113250 ) After reviewing the Rights and Restriction statements for both the New York World-Telegram and Sun Photograph Collection and Wide World (facts associated with the image, the collection from which it comes, and the company that made it), he decides to accept the risk of using a Wide World image that is not marked with a copyright notice and for which no registration has been found.
However, after considering publicity rights, he decides to check and see what rights may be held by the estate of Rita Hayworth and Marlene Dietrich before using the image. A teacher who wants to obtain a copy of the photograph “Masterpieces of Art building, New York World's Fair, 1939-1940“ (LC-USZ62-117149) to show her architectural history class (intended use) sees that image doesn’t include any copyright notice or stamp nor a name of a photographer or publisher (facts about the image).
Examples of unpublished material in P&P include: Based on what you conclude about whether the work in question is published or unpublished, the next step is to determine how long the copyright protection would last. Copyright Office web site at as are circulars that explain specific aspects of the law, including these circulars, which deal with duration of copyright: Note: In some interpretations the fact that no copyright notice is found on the item that was published from 1923 through 1977, means that the item has passed into the public domain (see, for instance, Cornell’s chart (link below) on when works pass into the public domain).
You can apply facts about the duration of copyright to determine if a copyright has expired or is still in effect. The pre-1978 copyright law required that a copyright notice be placed on a work as way to alert potential users that permission was needed. Copyright Office literature states that "Before March 1, 1989, the use of the notice was mandatory on all published works.
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