[SIGCIS-Members] Copyright advice sought

McMillan, William W william.mcmillan at cuaa.edu
Thu Jul 12 12:18:16 PDT 2018

Bernard, as I understand it, a work is copyrighted when it's created and fixed in a tangible medium.  No need to register the copyright (though that's a good idea).  At least nowadays -- not sure about the 1950s and 1960s.

Government works are in the public domain if created by a government employee (and not secret, I guess).  This doesn't apply to works created for the government by a contractor such as IBM or Rand.

Proprietary information, if it can be considered a trade secret, is protected forever without registration.  But if it's readily available, it would be hard to assert that it gives away a trade secret.

For advertisements, I would seek permission from the company or its descendant (if there is one).  Even if out of copyright, you're presenting the company's face to the public, and it would be a courtesy to let them give you their blessing.  Also, they would want to know about it... might even like it!

I think you're safest to get permission for anything for which you aren't sure that the copyright has expired due to the passage of time.

... but I'm not an attorney, and I don't even play one on TV!  Have just taught some of the basics of IP to computer science students.

- Bill

From: Members [members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org] on behalf of Bernard Geoghegan [bernardgeoghegan2010 at u.northwestern.edu]
Sent: Thursday, July 12, 2018 2:20 PM
To: members at SIGCIS.org
Subject: [SIGCIS-Members] Copyright advice sought

Dear Members,

I’m looking for some copyright tips. I’d be grateful for feedback. I’m trying to figure out if I need copyright holder permission to reproduce in an academic publication images from the following items that appeared in print between 1923 and 1963, i.e. a period when things normally require explicit copyright renewal to stay out of the public domain. I can’t figure out if some of these materials count as government documents. Unless noted, none of these materials come from an archive or otherwise privileged source.

  1.  Figures from IBM manuals for SAGE from 1958. There’s no evidence the manual was copyrighted, nor that the copyright was renewed, but there is a statement in the manuals that reads “This document contains information of a proprietary nature. Any use or reproduction of this document for other than government purposes is subject to the prior consent of International Business Machines Corporation.”
  2.  A figure from a 1950s RAND memo prepared for the US Air Force—no evidence that it was copyrighted, nor that the copyright was renewed. There is a statement on the cover that permission must be sought from RAND to quote or reproduce its contents.
  3.  Figures from a 1947 report produced by a university-based laboratory for the US Air Force, no evidence that it was copyrighted, nor that copyright was renewed. I don’t think it was publicly circulated. I got my copy from a US government archive.
  4.  Pre-1964 magazine advertisements, I have no information about their copyright status.

Thanks for your advice, colleagues.



Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan
Senior Lecturer in the History and Theory of Digital Media

Department of Digital Humanities
King's College London
The Strand Building
Room S3.08

Office: +44 (0)20 7848 4750
Cell:  +44 (0)75 7713 9098

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