[APG Public List] RE: Copyright question

Ray Beere Johnson II raybeere at yahoo.com
Wed Nov 25 13:31:49 MST 2009

--- On Wed, 11/25/09, Chad Milliner <research at milliner.com> wrote:

> Unless the post card was hand-made (and thus not something
> available for sale to the general public) then there is no
> question about the photograph's status -- it is now in
> the public domain.

     I was not suggesting the _original_ photograph on the postcard would still be copyrighted. It is the image of the postcard which was posted which _might_ - for example, if it included the unpublished, handwritten portion _and_ met the test for creative work be subject to copyright. _That_ image was created in 2009, not 1909.

> Since what was written on the post card was never published then the 
> copyright rules are different, and copyright persists until 120 years 
> from date of creation (when the death date of the author is not known)
> or 70 years from the date of the author's death (when that date is 
> known).  So as I said in my first post, if the author died before 1939 
> then what was written is now in the public domain.  Otherwise, it is 
> not.

     As noted before, I am not a lawyer. However, I have read of cases where, for example, the contents of handwritten Civil War diaries were considered to be eligible for copyright protection. Exactly what conditions must be met to claim this, I have no idea. It may be a combination of ownership and transcription, or something completely different. This being November, I do not have the time to sift heavily skewed search results ("thanks" to SEO) for an example of this type of case, _and it would not matter anyway_. None of us are IP lawyers, and could not hope to determine exactly how the details of this situation would apply by reading of another specific instance. The point is that unpublished mansucripts, like fair use, are murky waters best left to those who _do_ understand what they're doing.
     Anyone who feels safe ignoring that advice is free to do so; I have no way to stop you even if I wanted to. But there are some very strange situations that pop up on the IP law blogs I follow as I can, and my own position is that, if I do not understand, _beyond any possibility of doubt_, how the law applies in a given situation, I'd rather be safe than sorry.
                              Ray Beere Johnson II


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