[SIGCIS-Members] Copyright advice sought

Alexander Sayf Cummings alexcummings at gsu.edu
Thu Jul 12 12:27:15 PDT 2018

Hi Bernard,

I believe Bill is correct. In principle, works before the 1976 Copyright
Act *had* to be registered for copyright or otherwise the creator/publisher
would lose any rights -- meaning that much ephemera like advertising is
probably not technically under copyright. However, most libraries and
publishers basically regard anything post-1923 as being under copyright,
for reasons of legal liability.  In my experience, publishers have been
willing to use an item, such as an image, if a good-faith effort to locate
the copyright holder (which is frequently nearly impossible) and seek
permission is made.

As for the RAND stuff and all that, I would agree that only works created
directly by a government employee or agency are in the public domain.
Works contracted from outside consultants would likely be their IP.  I
doubt this is terribly helpful, but the main takeaway is that this stuff is
generally much fuzzier and vaguer than many people try to say.  It's mostly
about avoiding liability, most of the time.



On Thu, Jul 12, 2018 at 3:18 PM McMillan, William W <
william.mcmillan at cuaa.edu> wrote:

> 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.
> Best,
> Bernard
> --
> Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan
> Senior Lecturer in the History and Theory of Digital Media
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Dr. Alex Sayf Cummings

Associate Professor
Georgia State University
Department of History
25 Park Place, Suite 2008
Atlanta, GA 30303

*Democracy of Sound: Music Piracy and the Remaking of American Copyright in
the Twentieth Century* (Oxford, 2013): https://goo.gl/D3jfPk

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might be this quotation from the late baseball manager Casey Stengel, who
was addressing a team of losing professional athletes: 'Can’t anybody here
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