We went to Walmart the other day to copy some photos of me whan I was a
kid and of my kids when they were young. The pictures were taken in
late 30s - early 40s and late 50s - early 60s.
Walmart tokd me they couldn't copy some because they were taken by
professional photographers and doing so would violate copyright laws.
I was irritated enough to go home and read up on copyright law.
I think they make this stuff deliberately obscure to give the lawyers
First, none of the photos had a stamp or any other identifying mark on
them, so they were not copyrighted acoording to the law at the time they
were taken. And of course that made it impossible to locate the
photographers (some of whom are probably dead by now) to get copy
permission even if they had been copyrighted.
Secondly there seemed to be a gray area called "works for hire" which
might, or might not, imply that I owned the copyright on my kids pics,
and by inheritasnce from my parents on my pics.
Finally, the basic import of the law seemed to be to protect the
"commercial value" of any copyrighted work. Much as I'd like to think
otherwise in my case, old pictures of ordinary children have no
commercial value, only sentimental value to the immediate family.
If Walmart's lawyers are correctly interpreting the latest finagling
with the copyright laws, the laws need to be changed. I'll write my
senator and representative and send a copy to Walmart's headquarters,
but I doubt it'll do any good.
Note that I would not think of using a photo from a published and
copyrighted work in something I did. At least not without getting
permission. Protecting commercial work is a good thing.
I'd be interested in hearing if others ran into this problem and how
they solved it.
I got my copies by signing a form saying I claimed the rights and
holding Walmart blameless if anyone sued us. I think I'm safe :-).
BNSF = Build Now, Seep Forever