Who owns the copyright to a POW id card image?
I'm planning a hub about a man who was held as a POW by the Germans in WW2. When his prison camp was liberated, he went to the office and picked up his ID card, which he shows in his book. My question: does he own the copyright to that card image? I would say he does not, since he didn't produce or authorize the card, and the government that did produce it is defunct and its successor certainly won't claim ownership. I think that places it in the public domain. But I'd like some input on that question.
It seems as though it would fall under public domain since it was government issued via... our tax dollars this is a good question to research though.
Ron, that is a good question. The people who took it are no longer a valid government if any are actually alive. Photographic images usually belong to the person in them or the photographer. He probably did not consent to the image being taken so he would have the rights I assume. The rights would pass according to the terms of any will or as defined by intestate rules of his country of final living.
There could be a statute of limitations, if no one claimed the rights to it, and then it would become public domain. However to be sure you would need to ask a German lawyer and one from his country. I presume as he published it in his book that he did have good title to it at the time of publication, as most reputable publishers would check that out before publishing.
Of course I am making some assumptions based on my knowledge of English, American and Canadian laws, all of which may differ from those of his country of origin, and there may be state or provincial rules too. At least that will get you thinking along the right tracks. To be safe, if he is alive, just request permission to use it then you would be OK I think.
Thanks for responding, Stephen. The former POW is an American, and the id was created by his German captors. My thought is that if someone else had picked up that id card and published it, I don't think our former POW could claim copyright violation.
Nobody owns the copyright to public documents like ID cards. Whoever took the photo of the card for the book owns the copyright for that photo.
Lisa, I seem to remember a Wikipedia explanation that you can't copyright a photo of a public domain image. I'll have to see if I can find one of those statements. Thanks for responding.
I think if the photo is in the 'public domain' like wikipedia then you'd be right. But if it's in a book then the writer of the book (or taker of the photo) has ownership.
This fascinating area of law has many concepts and sources to check and cross check. In this case you would be looking into WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) which is very active in the area of internet publication. This will bring you to the EU applicable binding and non-binding regulations. Of course Germany which in general has a 50 year expiry date on copyright. And you would want to look into the concept and applicability of "Orphaned works" which yours probably falls under. The "Fair Use" doctrines may also be applicable.
That is all interesting stuff for a nerd type like me. But your bottom line probably boils down to "who gives a darn?" This is certainly not stealing someone's creativity or livelihood. No one labored or came up with something special to make the ID. How could anyone claim to be damaged by the free speech use of such an impression? In short it is only an intellectual exercise not really a matter of practical concern.
Thanks, Eric. To argue against myself, our former POW might claim ownership because it's his photo and personal data on the card. But law enforcement frequently publishes the photo and personal data of prisoners with no copyright violation.
Ron, that is frequently misunderstood to be a right to exclusive use of a picture of your face. It ain't so. Oh my, every traffic cam would need a copyright waiver. Publicly taken photos of someone's likeness can be copyrighted, if unique and art.
I have no "legal" knowledge, just my own guess. It would seem at first it would be the government. But then maybe him since he put it in his own book. Or the publishers of said book. But all just total guesses.
Hmm...I have frequently seen (and sometimes used) photos from websites for public places, e.g., national parks. The ones I use are captioned with a notice along these lines:
"This photo is in the public domain because it was taken by a government employee in the discharge of his duties."
Ergo, I would think the ID card photo would fall under the same conditions, and I do not see how anyone using it in a book could obviate that original condition, any more than I (or any of us) can by using a PD image from Pixabay or that government employee in a Hub.
Just because we wrote a piece and used a PD image does not mean we suddenly own the copyright to that image. It's still PD, and free for anyone else to use--just not in conjunction with our original words in the article.
(No, I'm not a lawyer, and have no legal training: that's just my own logical thinking at work.)
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