Hitler, Copyright And Fair Use

from the historical-lessons-censored-by-copyright dept

Wired News is running a fascinating article about an editor at the Guardian newspaper who, while flipping through old articles of Homes and Gardens magazine (owned by Time Warner) discovered a positively glowing article from 1938 talking about Hitler’s mountain retreat in Bavaria. The guy who found it, Simon Waldman, scanned it and posted it to his blog, pointing out how it’s instructive that “someone who can seem utterly abhorrent with hindsight can appeal to people at the time.” He then contacted the publisher of Homes & Gardens to see if they knew about it – and received a response that they were “concerned” that he had violated their copyright and demanded that he take the scan down. Of course, as with any such demand, the article is now getting passed all over the internet, and is pretty permanently in the public record. This attempt at enforcing copyright protection to cover up a document of historic interest seems particularly absurd. Apparently, not only is history written by the victors, it’s copyrighted as well.

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Comments on “Hitler, Copyright And Fair Use”

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Michael Ward (profile) says:

Homes and Gardens copyright

This is probably getting plenty of anti-copyright coverage, so I’ll play devil’s advocate.

First, this is a British magazine, and their copyright laws are different from US laws.

In the US, the magazine issue copyright would have had to have been renewed after 28 years by the publisher. Even if they didn’t do that, the author could have renewed it (assuming it was not work-for-hire when originally done) as his own copyrighted material.

There is a body of common law that holds that if you don’t object when someone reprints your copyrighted work without your permission (and you find out about it), your rights are weakened; this is happening with some older magazines today that are “owned” by publishing houses that bought older publishing companies and inherited the rights to long-dead titles. If “Homes and Gardens” is still being published then it’s reasonable for the publisher to complain if someone reprints their work without permission.

The advent of the internet hasn’t changed the law, and it hasn’t changed what’s ethically right; but it has changed our perception of what is commonly done, and it has made it easier to do things that at one time required a printing press.

Lots of magazines didn’t bother to renew at the end of 28 years; the Copyright Office at the Library of Congress has thousands of log books you can walk in and examine. Also, anything published before 1923 in this country is in the public domain. [Non-profit ad: see MagazineArt.org for an example of what is in the public domain already.]

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