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A discussion on another thread had "Shorpy" photos removed because of copyright issues.  Not being familiar with Shorpy, I looked at the site and enjoyed browsing through their photo collection - particularly the historical WWII photos as I am trying to find images for a project I'm working on.

One issue that rankles me is websites and posters that apply their own copyright on government and  public domain images.  Copyright law is clear on scanning: the mechanical process of scanning (digitizing, and cropping) an image is not an act of artistic creation and copyright cannot be applied.  Nonetheless, websites and their authors continue to apply their own copyright to digitized images created by combat photographers, the FSA, and other Government entities.

There is a grey area on whether a collection of these images can be copyrighted, but I won't get into that messy discussion.  The websites, like Shorpy, that take time and effort to organize, catalog, and present these photographs earn revenue by producing fine art prints or by collecting license fees for use of the image.  I get that, as it's a convenience for website browsing and ultimate use of the images.  But the bottom line is they do not own (or should not apply?) the copyright for public domain images.

That's why, when I want to incorporate an image in my project, I use Wikimedia Commons, or Government archives as the source.  The Government archives are best source for digital images and the Library of Congress digital image collection website ( has improved dramatically in the past decade.  I can actually find hi-res digital images, created from original negatives, that were previously "findable" only as a "copyrighted" scan of a creased and dirty Army Signal Corps photograph on Pinterest.  There is a treasure trove of war effort railroad photographs in the LOC archives.

The LOC metadata will have the "Rights Advisory" for use of the image.  For my project, it is typically:

Rights Advisory: No known restrictions. For information, see U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black & White Photographs

The OGRForum moderators have a duty to keep their website clear of copyright lawsuits.  Just because a website image does include a copyright notice doesn't mean the website's creator obtained the image copyright-free.  Scraping images from other sites is common (Pinterest) and copied images frequently have the copyright info removed.  If you are the creator of the image (i.e. you pressed the shutter), fine.  If the image came from another website, or you scanned it from a photo you didn't create, don't embed it your post.  Image search spiders will report back to the copyright holder that their image is being used without permission leaving OGRForum on the hook.

The grey area is public domain photos.  The moderators are invited to comment on how to use historical photographs in a post.  Do we provide links to the photographs?  Can we embed actual images with attributions and the Rights Advisory?

Original Post

I will feature this because it illustrates why OGR is very concerned about copyright.  There are too many "gray" areas in the law and we don't want to subject you or OGR to any possible lawsuit.  If you didn't take the picture, then the safest route is to post a link to the website where the picture resides.  OR, if you want to post it, make sure that you state you have permission to do so and be prepared to prove that you in fact have that permission.  If you took the picture, then it is yours to post.  We had a forum member quit his membership when he got mad about his pictures being taken down.  He insisted that the scans he took from the book he purchased gave him the the right to do whatever he wanted with the pictures because he paid for the book!  He also stated that he bought a stack of pictures at a train show and none of the pictures had a copyrighted statement on them so he could post them anywhere he wanted!  This is very uninformed on his part and there was no educating him so his account is closed.

PLEASE ... we are only asking that you follow the simple guidelines we have asked you to do in order for all of us to continue to enjoy this forum.

Thanks for your understanding,


Last edited by OGR CEO-PUBLISHER

OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
800-980-OGRR (6477)

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