providing permission to publish of anonymous photographs

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    • #131890
      Charlene Martin
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      Hi everyone. I have a question outside of the usual preservation context. I’d like to establish a rate schedule for reproducing photographs in my archival collection, but many of the photos are “orphan works” because they lack provenance – no photographer name, no deed of gift, etc.

      It seems clear that my institution can charge for at-cost reproduction services for research purposes, but can we charge additionally for permission to publish? We don’t own the intellectual property of these photos. I have been looking at Permission to Publish forms from other institutions, hoping to get a hint of policy. Some archives state that if they grant permission to publish, it does not constitute copyright clearance, and that researchers must obtain written permission from the original copyright owner. Other institutions state that in circumstances where they do not own copyright, they cannot grant permission to publish unless prior permission has been secured from the copyright owner.

      Which of the two policies is more “legally correct”? I am not looking to charge huge fees, but I need to sustain the archive. Thank you for your help with this!

    • #131891

      Either is legal. But here is a caveat… our museum has an interest in a huge collection of images once acquired by the University of Texas. Even though we are a small museum, a nonprofit, and the collection was created and born here in our community, we cannot use them for educational or exhibit purposes… without paying UT large fees for publication or public display. This collection represents the only body of photographic evidence related to our city (1880’s-1930’s… a huge, comprehensive collection). We can’t use it because of the fees associated with it. Maintaining an archive is vital, obviously… but access is supposed to be our primary mission; our mantra. It is common practice to levy these significant fees, even to members of the museum community. We do not do this. Our images are free to use by all museums. I am arguing you do the same.

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