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How the project deals with copyrights of pictures


A few rules of thumb

Using pictures from the web can be done after permission is asked from the web site's owner. A caption is always written in or at the picture itself. Most of the time the owner gives permission to republish it under the conditions of what is generally known as Open Content License (OCL) (1).
If we know the origin of the picture but the contact is lost (e.g. the site is no longer on line) put it in the caption: courtesy of "xyz". The courtesy rule is also used when there is a "fair use policy" in power for a certain site; consequently we do not ask for permission but obey to that rule.
When pics are found multiple times on different web sites the editor usually copies the picture and does not bother to contact the owner of the site because experience tells us that trying to find the owner of the picture is impossible in that case. In such cases the editor refers to the site the picture was found on and quotes the url of the site and date accessed, when available, in a footnote.
If even the origin is lost and that happens, when no note on the origin of the picture exists, then no caption or footnote is made. When the owner shows up we apologize and ask for permission by defect.
Pictures of thocp origin are watermarked and put in the public domain by default under the OCL.
Pictures of books and magazines are ruled by international copyrights, it is difficult to get permission even when you know the correct address and person. Mostly they ask a fee which we do not want to pay since our foundation is for the public and education of all and free to use under the open content license. With truly copyrighted material we can not work, period. In some cases laws make an exception to that rule: when the book is out of print and the copyright holder is out of business or can not be contacted somehow, then we use the material with plenty of footnotes etc. When a legal representative asks to remove the material it is done so immediately and the picture is stored for much later use in the digital archives. International law learns that materials can be used when the author is dead over 70 years. And since the foundation will exist many many years the material we have been gathering will be used by the next generations of editors.
In case THoCP has obtained permission to use material from a site or any source it is presumed that that counts for all new material obtained from that site, a footnote will take care of the copyrights. In general this is done by referring to the url for any picture that is downloaded from the web (in the light of fair use policy), note the date the site has been accessed. Since most webmasters do not even bother to answer a request for permission we assume his or her consent.
From time to time random tests via Google are run to investigate whether a picture has more than one url or 'owner'. But most of the time the picture does not show up anymore, besides our own, or the site has gone off line. If the picture shows up on Google, one of our editors goes to that site and tries to determine the owner, mostly the webmaster isn't the owner as well. In 98% of all cases the pictures are referred to as owner unknown. A footnote takes care for the origin of the picture.


Something about the administration and storage of picture material

Some sites prohibit the storage of any material in any form. If that is the case we look for an equivalent picture. An editor can judge the information too important to let it go by in this very volatile environment of the internet. The editor then does store the information out of fear of loosing it, for his or her own personal study and research concerning the historical subject the editor is working on. By international law this behavior is permitted.

Since the start of the project in 2000 all pictures are downloaded with the entire page. In that way we are able to keep a sort of administration on the origin of all downloaded material. Also we keep the same structure as the site is build up for easier retrieval. And since 2005 the pictures' filenames when downloaded separately are extended in their filenames as to indicate their origin: e.g. transistor_mit_labs_20041123.jpg. That name is dropped when used on the site then it becomes transistor.jpg, most of the time ;)

We do not maintain a central database storing information to avoid legal issues. But individual editors might have one for easier retrieval when performing their research. Most of them are storing information in raw format, e.g. complete pages. They then set up a directory structure (on subject) on their local harddisks that makes is easier to retrieve the pages when needed for their research.



Quite a lengthy story of how we deal with copyrights of pictures, we realize that this by no means covers all legal aspects. But we feel this is one of the most pragmatic ways to deal with other people's rights while preserving the historic relevant information from the web.



Go Backgo to reference indexGo to main pagesearch this site Last Updated on April 27, 2005 For suggestions  please mail the editors 


Footnotes and references