Be Good, for Goodness Sake
It’s never a good idea to tempt fate at Christmas-time.
This news clipping, printed about 1976 when Mr. Curator and I lived in Moscow, Idaho, recently sparked an interesting online discussion between genealogists and journalists about reprinting old newspaper articles and photos on blogs and websites.
I’ve had the clipping stashed in my blog “Drafts” folder for a few years, but each time I get ready to hit the “Publish” button, I stop and remind myself that this clipping is certainly protected by U.S. Copyright. That means unless I claim fair use or am a scofflaw, I need to seek permission to publish. In past years I just moved on to another subject, but this year we have grand-boys about the age and size of the toddler perched on Santa’s knee and I thought it would be fun to share the photo with our family.
Even in his early 20s, Mr. Curator was a “jolly old soul” who willingly played the part of Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Great Pumpkin at various club parties and community events. The only trick was tucking his massive 1970s hairdo under the wig or a hat.
But, back to news clippings and copyrights…
When I posed a query online about republishing an old newspaper photo, The Legal Genealogist and others responded with reminders of copyright protection and personal experience in asking permission to reprint. A veteran newspaperman shared another perspective — that handling such requests was time consuming and perhaps unnecessary if the newspaper was given credit as the source. A lively discussion followed. What if the photographer retained copyright, and not protected by the newspaper? What if the paper was unknown? What if, what if??? (You can read more on copyright issues for old newspaper articles at The Legal Genealogist.)
In the end, of course, all the what-ifs and time-saving ideas don’t really matter. A photo published in a community newspaper about 1976 would most certainly be protected by the copyright notice published in the paper (you could check to make sure one was actually printed, if you wanted to). But, since I don’t have the exact date of the article, I can’t even check the copyright info. I decided that the safest course of action would be to contact the Moscow Daily News, now the Moscow-Pullman Daily News and ASK! A quick phone call put me through to the Managing Editor who politely listened to my very brief request, and asked me to send an email stating the same thing. Being mindful of the genealogist-journalist’s time crunch, I wrote a very brief and direct email, sent it off, and within a few hours received a short notice granting permission with a three word phrase that left no doubt I had taken the best course of action:
Thanks for asking.”
Photo reprinted with kind permission of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Idaho).