A photographer has donated his negatives to the library. Does the library now own the copyright in the photographs?

No, the library owns the physical objects, the negatives. The copyright is separate from any physical object in which the work may be stored, such as a print or a negative. The library may even own the only existing copy of a photograph, but it does not own the copyright unless the copyright owner (in this case, the photographer) specifically transferred the copyright in writing.

For bulletin boards in a public library's children's area, is there any restriction on posting graphics found on the Internet or copying them from books?

Yes, there are restrictions. One of the rights of copyright owners is the right of public display. So, copyrighted graphics and illustrations from books and those found on the web should not be reproduced for public display without permission of the copyright holder. There is an exception for displaying books and book jackets, but not for reproducing them for display. Section 109(c) of the Copyright Act states that "the owner of a particular copy lawfully made under this titles, or any person authorized by such owner, is entitled, without the authority of the copyright owner, to display that copy publicly, either directly or by the projection of no more than one image at a time to viewers present at the place where the copy is located." So, enlarging graphics or illustrations from a book or reproducing them from the Internet for a bulletin board in a public library requires permission, but placing the original book jacket or original pages from the book on display is not a problem.

A faculty member wants to use one graph from an article available in electronic format in the New England Journal of Medicine in a PowerPoint presentation at a national conference. Does he need to get permission, especially since there is the possibility that the PowerPoint presentation might be put on the national organization conference website, or that a CD might be made of all presentations? Do the Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia help?

These guidelines did not enjoy wide adoption and certainly do not have the same stamp of Congress as do some of the other guidelines.

One certainly could argue that displaying a graph to a live audience at a national conference of educators is fair use, but it certainly would be prudent to seek permission if the chart is likely to be reproduced on the conference website or in multiple copies on CDs distributed to participants. Another alternative would be for the faculty member to display the chart in the live presentation but simply to include a link to the chart on the slide that is reproduced on the website and on the CDs, rather than including the chart.

A teacher wishes to use photographs and other material in a professional presentation for which she is not being paid. Is this the same as an "educational" presentation since it is an employment-enhancing activity?

The Copyright Act does not automatically exempt even educational presentations. The fair use exception sometimes permits use in a nonprofit educational institution for instruction, but not always. Section 110(1) of the Copyright Act covers classroom performances and displays in a nonprofit educational institution, which is a limitation on the exclusive rights of the copyright holder. Professional presentations may or may not be fair use, but they are not the same as use in a nonprofit educational institution and do not qualify according to section 110(1). If the presentation is live and no copies of the images are distributed, it may be fair use, but not definitely. Often speakers use images without permission for such presentations and assume that their use is fair use. If the presentation is to be placed on a website, then the presenter should remove the copyrighted photographs, or seek permission to post or otherwise reproduce and distribute them.

The institution recently sponsored a film festival at which a staff member took photographs that are to be posted on the library's website. Some of the photos depict members of the library staff, all of whom have agreed to have their likenesses posted on the website. For other festival goers who can be identified, does the library need to get their permission for posting the photos? Do they have to be identified by name?

This is not really a copyright question but is a right to privacy or, if the person is famous, a right of publicity question. Typically, schools and organizations do not worry about it when photos are taken at a public event. If a person complains about his or her photo being on the website, the library can then remove that photo. If the festival goers are students, however, the library may want to seek permission because of the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) concerns. This is a situation in which university counsel should be consulted.

In 1969, the student photography editor for the university newspaper photographed a student sit-in that appeared in the student paper with "Photo by XXX" under the picture. The original photograph eventually was donated to the library by the publications department. It was not marked by the student with a copyright notice or any attribution. The photograph has been presumed to be university property and was reprinted in a book celebrating the institution's sesquicentennial a few years ago. Since then, the student has become a professional photographer and sought money from the school for reprinting the image, which it thought it owned. In order to make the threat go away, the publicity department wants to promise the photographer that it or any similar photo will be marked on the back with the line "Copyright 1969 XXXXXXX Photography, contact 555-555-5555 CLASS OF 1970)." Were student newspaper contents and photos owned by individual students or the college in 1969?

Under the law, the student photographer (the author) would own the copyright unless there is some agreement with the student newspaper that the newspaper itself or the university owns the copyright. If the photography editor position was a paid position (student newspaper positions usually do have a stipend), then the photograph is a work made for hire and the university owns the copyright. Note that some student newspapers are separate incorporated entities, and these newspapers, rather than the university, may own the copyright.

The e-learning division of a for-profit educational institution wants to use images of some standard workplace notifications such as one would see in a company cafeteria (e.g., dealing with workplace safety, mandatory lunch breaks, and so forth). The images would be used as part of an instructional program. Is there a problem with using them if they came from an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) website?

While materials produced by the federal government are not eligible for copyright protection according to section 105 of the Copyright Act, government websites also include copyrighted studies and such that were commissioned by the agency with outside contractors. If the images were created by government employees within the scope of their employment, then they are copyright free. Although copyright notice is not required on works, often those commissioned studies and other works that appear on a government website do contain a copyright notice, so this would be the first thing to check. If in doubt about the copyright status, the educational institution should contact the EEOC webmaster and seek information about the copyright status of the images. If the webmaster answers that they are copyrighted, then ask permission to use them.

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