[APG Public List] Copyright question

Ray Beere Johnson II raybeere at yahoo.com
Wed Nov 25 09:39:10 MST 2009

I AM NOT A LAWYER. As a non-lawyer interested in IP issues, I'd mention several points.

First, the _image_ of the postcard _may be_ copyrightable by the creator, even if the card and contents themselves are not subject to copyright. Whether or not it is copyrightable depends on your interpretation of how much creative work went into that image creation. Photographs are traditionally considered the property of their creator - scanning, which is in result indistinguishable from photography in some cases, complicates that issue.

Second, I have seen some opinions to the effect that _unpublished_ material (i.e. manuscript, such as the message on a postcard) _may_ be copyrighted now even if it was created years before the commonly assumed "safe" cutoff dates. It is usually stated that the owner of this copyright would be the owner of the _original_ manuscript. How this would play out in court, I don't know.

Thus, using the image seems doubly problematic. Even using a transcription might be debatable - but this _could_ be considered fair use, depending on how you intend to use it. (For your private notes, I don't _think_ a court would find against you - in a published family history, they _might_.)

Bottom line, if you want to use it for anything other than your own private notes

--- On Tue, 11/24/09, finleyc at sonoma.edu <finleyc at sonoma.edu> wrote:

> There is currently posted on E-Bay, a postcard being advertised because 
> it contains a Christmas stamp for the year 1909. Item no. 350280236349.
> The content is what interests me. It was written by Lizzie Jones 
> Armstrong to her cousin. This is a family I have been researching for
> the last five years.
> Can I use an image of this postcard without worrying about infringing on
> copyright?


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