[WikiEN-l] Copyright question

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Tue May 9 07:40:31 UTC 2006

Guettarda wrote:

>If you have unpublished photographs taken by a deceased relative which you
>wish to use on Wikipedia, how would you license them?  Assuming that you
>have survivor rights or permission from other heirs of the photographer,
>would it be possible to release them under the GFDL or cc by sa?  If they
>were taken by, say, your grandfather, and there is nothing in his will
>dealing with "other stuff", would you have to get permission from all of his
>surviving children, or their heirs (if the children are deceased)?  I'm
>assuming here that the photographs are otherwise unpublished, and were taken
>recently enough/the person was alive recently enough that they would still
>be covered by copyright.
I'm assuming that you are talking about US law.  In some other places 
photographs have a shorter copyright life than texts.  In the US now 
these photographs should follow the manuscript and fall into the public 
domain 70 years after the photographer's death unless they have 
previously been published.  If you have the survivor rights you can 
license them in any way that you want.  You can probably also do it 
alone if the rights are shared.  Fortunately for me, my paternal 
grandfather (who died in 1948)  left nothing copyrightable; he had 16 
children (now all dead) and 48 grandchildren, many of whom are now dead; 
one of his daughters was a nun who would have taken a vow of poverty and 
made the church her heirs.  To the best of my knowledge, he did not have 
a will.  Many of his deceased offspring did not have wills, and lived in 
different jurisdictions.  There are times when the decision that one 
makes must be guided by practicality rather than an overstrict adherence 
to the letter of the law.

It is rare for persons who are not published to think of copyrights.  
Most wills, however, do have a residual clause for anything that is not 
otherwise specified, and copyrights would be transferred along with 
other things.  If the will is defective in that way the law of intestate 
succession where he lived would apply.  More problematic would be a box 
of family snapshots where you cannot determine who took which picture.


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