When you talk about clearing properly you are applying modern notions to historic situations. The notion of copyright and clearing copyrights is quite modern. Licensing is also quite modern. It is easy to expect the clearing of copyright to be done properly it is however an unreasonalbe expectation.
There have been Wikimedians who explicitly stated that material that predated the oldest free licenses were unfree because they did not state their preferred license. The analogy is true in that many people made pictures and they were bought and sold and re-use of the material was not considered, let alone re-use in our current digital scenarios.
Historic situations are ambiguous from our perspective of what makes a "proper clearance". Often the photographers is likely to be dead. It is impossible to ask him, it is almost impossible to learn who the current right holder may be. It is exactly to prevent the material to be lost forever that this material ended up in archives and museums. It is exactly to prevent this material to be lost and remain lost that museums and archives want to share this material with us.
2009/3/30 Gerard Meijssen <email@example.com>:
> <grin> you indeed can do better </grin> Often the person who did theIf the permission is cleared properly, there is no need to contact him.
> photography is known, but it is not possible to contact him.
If the permission is cleared properly, there should be documentation
> Often the
> material does not have a known photographer but the material was donated by
> the organisation that commissioned the work.
and it should be possible to provide a complete chain of transfer of
rights of usage.
I am not disputing that our interest overlap.
> When you talk about
> "liberating", it is the wish of museums and archives to do exactly that.
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