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Portrait photos

Posted: Fri Sep 11, 2020 10:34 am
by Squibbs
Hi all.
Being a music lover for nearly 70 year, I, in 'lockdown', made my own 'Rock'n'Roll' Hall of Fame.
I found photos of artists on the web, and I modernise them in a unique way, but not in a detrimental way.
It was suggested that I could sell them. A good idea, but I am old and do not need the money, so I want to donate whatever I can sell them for to charity.
With this in mind I am being very careful to not use copyright material. I have been told to use only 'Creative Commons'.
But I have noticed that some that I found under 'Wiki Commons', or 'Flickr Attributes' are on the net one day, but later they are not there.
My question is how can a person be sure that these two sites, and others like them can protect me from falling foul of copyright?
I look forward to your advice.

Re: Portrait photos

Posted: Fri Sep 11, 2020 3:55 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Squibbs,

You highlight a perennial problem of how you can be certain that an image which has, ostensibly, been made available under a Creative Commons licence is truly what it claims to be. Just to take the two example sites you mention, Wikimedia Commons are fairly fastidious in checking the provenance of the images they use, but the catch is that they use American copyright law as their yardstick, which doesn't always mean that the image concerned is free from copyright restrictions outside the USA. On the other hand, Flickr largely relies on its contributors to self-certify the conditions under which they have offered the image for others to use. This of course doesn't guarantee that the uploader is actually the photographer who owns the copyright and who can say what licence it is subject to.

Of the two, I would say Wikimedia Commons is the more reliable, because the editorial staff take an active part in checking the provenance of the images they include in their corpus. Although Flickr's own community guidelines do mention the following:
Things not to do

Here's the deal: We like to give second chances. However, when we discover you stepping across any of the lines listed below, we will take action, which may mean deleting your account with or without warning.

Don't upload collections of photos that aren’t yours.

This includes other people's photos, video, and/or stuff you've copied or collected from around the Internet. Accounts that consist of such collections may be deleted at any time.

Don't violate copyright laws
if one is being a bit cynical, it is worth remembering that Flickr is a business and that it faces very little risk arising from the bad behaviour of a small minority of its members, because section 512(c) of the US Copyright Act 1976 protects it from legal liability, provided that they act expeditiously once they are informed of an alleged infringement.

The other thing to bear in mind is that you should not use photographs which have the ND (No Derivatives) Creative Commons licence, as the copyright owner is signifiying that they don't allow their work to be altered, even if this is in a non-detrimental way.Image

I can't offer any full-proof method of ensuring that you will never inadvertently infringe someone else's copyright, but a few prudent checks can reduce the risk:
  • if the photographer is contactable, contact him or her and double check that they have authorised the CC licence.
  • use the reverse image search facility of Google images, or TinEye or one of the others, to see if you can locate other instances where the image is being used, and what if any copyright notices appear there. The fact that someone has attached a copyright notice isn't proof that the image doesn't have a valid CC licence, but it should certainly raise a red flag and needs to be investigated with more care.
  • And lastly, do a search using the rock star's name, on some of the popular stock agencies, such as Shutterstock, Getty, AP etc. If the image you are interested in turns up there it is inviting trouble to use it in the belief that the CC licence will protect you. These agencies quite often 'adopt' images which are in the public domain and then treat them as if the agency holds the copyright. This can mean a lot of tedious false claims being made, which although they may, ultimately, be resolved in your favour, will sap your energy and possibly your bank balance in the mean time.
Afternote. I have edited this posting to remove a reference to section 230 of the US Communications Decency Act because it doesn't apply to copyright infringement.

Re: Portrait photos

Posted: Mon Sep 14, 2020 10:19 am
by Squibbs
Hello Andy.
Thank you for a very informative reply to my question. I have spent the weekend checking the artist portraits I wish to use, and possible copyright connections.
Several that I found earlier, two which had 'wiki commons' and saying it was available to be used, I now can't find at all through 'Google'. I did, however check them on 'Tineye' as you suggested, they were there on many sites, but no copyright notice, and no way of finding one.
Also two, which again was previously labeled CC BY 2.0, now have 'Getty Image'. Maybe adopted, maybe not.

I doubt that I will ever put any of my portraits on the internet. I am only producing them for charities, and they will only be availabe in my local area. I will however only use the 'wikimedia commons' images, and although this will reduce the number of pop artists in my collection, I will at least satisfy myself that I am doing my best to stay within the law.

If there is anything else you think of that may help me, I would be grateful.
Thank you again for your help and advice. You have helped me to understand more about copyright in your one reply than I could find previously by searching through 'Google'.
Kind regards

Re: Portrait photos

Posted: Mon Sep 14, 2020 3:05 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Squibbs,

I'm glad you found the earlier reply helpful. The only other thing I can think of at present is that where the pictures of these rock and roll stars are concerned, given their commercial value, I would tend treat almost all of them as the work of professional or semi-professional photographers who are much less likely to release their work under CC licences than, say, an ardent fan. So if the source work looks to be of professional quality, assume that work is not free to use until the authenticity of the CC licence can be established with reasonable certainty.
It is worth adding a little bit about how Wikimedia concludes that a photograph is in the public domain. This only applies to photographs first registered or published in the USA. For the genre you are interested in that will probably cover quite a high percentage. There are broadly three cases where a photograph in this category, published prior to 1 March 1989 is now in the public domain in the USA:
  • Up to 1977: Published without a copyright notice - In the public domain due to failure to comply with required formalities
  • 1978 to 1 March 1989: Published without notice, and without subsequent registration within 5 years - In the public domain due to failure to comply with required formalities
    (1978 to 1 March 1989: Published without notice, but with subsequent registration within 5 years - Still in copyright today)
  • 1925 through 1963: Published with notice but copyright was not renewed - In the public domain due to copyright expiration
All other photographs, including those first published outside the USA are subject to the more usual copyright term of the lifetime of the photographer, plus 70 years after their death. Since we are talking about stars who were at the height of their fame from the 1950s, photographs of them are not yet in the public domain in the UK except by virtue of the exceptions mentioned above.

Re: Portrait photos

Posted: Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:22 am
by Squibbs
Thanks again Andy.
It certainly does look like I have entered a minefield. Treading carefully is an understatement.
I will place a notice on all the prints to say where they came from, the name of the photographer, if there is one, and the licence that came with it.
I can't do more than that.
I'll probably only do this up until Christmas now, in the hope of making some money for my charities, then pack it up, and think of something else.
Thanks for all your help. I has been very enlightening.
All the best to you, and yours.