[ Contents | Search | Post | Reply | Next | Previous | Up ]

Photos donated to, and held by, AWM

From: "Copyright" scandal
Date: 12/4/2001
Time: 2:26:00 PM
Remote Name:


Something mentioned by Steve Becker touched a bit of a raw nerve with me. Steve wrote that "The AWM was good but [too] expensive for photos, and few if any, have been seen before."

I've always questioned how the AWM can claim to hold copyright on photos which were donated to it by members of the public. The Memorial charges a large fee if anybody wants to publish one of these, and yet I'm sure that the original donor's intention was probably that they be available, free of charge (beyond a charge to cover the AWM reproducing the photo), to members of the public. That, after all, is usually why something is donated to a public museum.

If the AWM holds a photo, and that same photo is available elsewhere - for example through a family - then how can the AWM possibly hold copyright on it just because they also happen to have it?

Does anybody know if this claim, that a public body, to whom people make donations of photos for public use, can legally claim copyright on those donated photos, has ever been tested in the courts?

After all, neither the AWM nor the government took, nor commissioned the taking of, those photographs, and yet they can claim that because they now hold them, anyone who would like to make them more freely available to the public must pay them a hefty fee for the privilege.

Note that I'm not including here photos which were officially taken or commissioned, though even in those cases it's scandalous that taxpayers have to pay for the privilege of using old photos held by the government.

Everyone recognises that such bodies must charge for services, but publishing photos not originally their own should not be so expensive.

Last changed: December 04, 2001