Did The AP Claim Copyright On Public Domain NASA Pictures?

from the or-is-it-just-weird-(c)-notices dept

You might recall that we got into a bit of… a “dispute” with Caters News Agency a few weeks back, after we noticed some monkey self-portraits in UK papers with a big “copyright” notice — despite the fact that the images were almost certainly in the public domain.

However, I’m beginning to wonder if some UK papers just stamp a totally bogus copyright notice on batches of images. That’s because ken points us to another article at the Daily Mail (where we also saw the monkey photos) and worries that it looks like the Associated Press is claiming copyright on images taken from the International Space Station, over which it holds no copyright:

Now, I’m hardly one to shy away from knocking the AP for questionable behavior, but I do wonder if the AP really is claiming copyright on this image, or if it’s just that the Daily Mail doesn’t understand copyright. That’s because above the image stamped with © AP are two images stamped with © YouTube. Here’s one:
And yet… the article even admits (directly) that these images came from Videographer Noe Castillo, who uploaded the clips to YouTube. But, of course, that doesn’t mean YouTube gets the copyright. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if the photo editors at the Daily Mail are just clueless, and think that a copyright symbol like that is the way you acknowledge where you found something. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for the images tagged © YouTube. So let’s give the AP the benefit of the doubt (for the moment, at least), and assume that it wasn’t claiming copyright over an image for which it doesn’t hold the rights, but rather that the Daily Mail is a bit excessive in putting copyright notices on things where they don’t belong.

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Comments on “Did The AP Claim Copyright On Public Domain NASA Pictures?”

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63 Comments
tebee (profile) says:

Is it just Legal paranoia ?

It may just be they are scared s*itless about being sued for missing out a copyright attribution. I don’t think anyone’s going to get into legal trouble for falsely putting a copyright notice on a public domain photo, but do it the other way round and you could be in deep and expensive trouble.

Any legal types out there can say if is this actually illegal and who is likely to sue them if so?

Or it might just be creeping IP-itis – It’s a photograph and therefore it’s IP so must belong to someone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Is it just Legal paranoia ?


Not to nitpick, but there is no such thing as a “copyright attribution.”

Whether you put a notice on something or not, it is still infringing if you don’t have a license. And once you have a license, you have no obligation to put any sort of copyright notice on that content. (unless, of course, the license specifically demands it, like many CC licenses do).

At least in the U.S., attribution is a normative concept; infringement is a legal one. Communities (e.g., scholastic, academic, journalistic) punish mis/non-attribution. That’s plagiarism. The law punishes infringement. Attribution doesn’t solve your infringement problems. (In Europe, you’ve got these flaky moral rights, which make everything messy. I can’t help you guys over there.)

I think Mike is right that some bonehead just thinks the copyright notice is the same as a source attribution. Newsies, take note: “source: xyz” isn’t the same as “(c)”.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Is it just Legal paranoia ?

I don’t think anyone’s going to get into legal trouble for falsely putting a copyright notice on a public domain photo, but do it the other way round and you could be in deep and expensive trouble.

Any person who, with fraudulent intent, places on any article a notice of copyright or words of the same purport that such person knows to be false, or who, with fraudulent intent, publicly distributes or imports for public distribution any article bearing such notice or words that such person knows to be false, shall be fined not more than $2,500. 17 USC ? 506(c).

The problem is proving that the person had intent to defraud.

Butcherer79 (profile) says:

Copyright on an image

Not that I’m to ‘up’ on this (as the unfortunates who have read my previous post will be all to painfully aware)
But if you have an image that’s copyrighted, and you change the aspect ratio (or indeed crop the image) by 10%, then the copyright (as far as I think I know) does not apply anymore?

Of course I could be COMPLETELY wrong, and I probably am…
I know sound bites of 10 seconds or less cannot be copyrighted but that’s an entirely different, yet just as painful, post…

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Copyright on an image

Not that I’m to ‘up’ on this (as the unfortunates who have read my previous post will be all to painfully aware)
But if you have an image that’s copyrighted, and you change the aspect ratio (or indeed crop the image) by 10%, then the copyright (as far as I think I know) does not apply anymore?

No – you are wrong.

You have created a derivative work – but the original copyright still applies because your modifications are not sufficiently transformative.

You will hold a copyright on the modifications if they are deemed to have sufficient creative input.

Cropping might be enough to do it if the composition is changed sufficiently.

Sadly this mechanism can allow people to put a new copyright on things that are in the public domain (not that I agree with this but it does seem to be the legal position.)

DogBreath says:

Re: Re: Copyright on an image

You have created a derivative work – but the original copyright still applies because your modifications are not sufficiently transformative.

I’m sure that in AP convoluted logic, they think that by taking a public domain photo, applying their copyright symbol on it, and licensing it to make a profit or suing anyone who tries to use it, is sufficiently transformative in their legal playbook. Now all they need to do is buy… I mean “find” a judge to agree with them in court. Based on many of the rulings handed down surrounding copyright these days, it shouldn’t be too hard for them to find such a judge.

Cloksin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

OMG, that list is a riot, it was way too long for me to go through the whole thing, but this one pretty much puts everything in perspective when talking about the Daily Mail, from this article claiming oral sex causes cancer.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-453843/Oral-sex-cause-throat-cancer.html

And they claim oral sex is an even bigger killer than smoking or drinking.

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Re: The "I do wonder if" blog, no news, just speculation.

The “nothing to contribute” troll post.

In other news, troll has nothing to contribute: I do wonder if the troll will post?

How about Ken brings something to Mike?s attention and Mike posts it on his DISCUSSION BLOG to spark DISCUSSION among people who read it? And since when was Mike a ‘news source’? He takes news stories from the web that fit within certain categories and comments on them and opens discussion of it.

True, I get a lot of news here as a first-source, but I don?t see Mike out there with a fedora, NEWS badge and a flip notepad at press conferences.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: The "I do wonder if" blog, no news, just speculation.

You do realise this is a blog, right, and not a primary news source?

blog 
[blawg, blog] Show IPA
noun, verb, blogged, blog?ging.
?noun
1.
a web site containing the writer’s or group of writers’ own experiences, observations, opinions, etc., and often having images and links to other Web sites.

Duke (profile) says:

In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if the … editors at the Daily Mail are just clueless,

Having read far too many Daily Mail articles, this wouldn’t surprise me at all.

I’m not even sure how they could think there is a legal basis on that – while “sufficient acknowledgement” is required in some of the fair dealing copyright defences including for reporting of current events, that defence doesn’t even apply to photographs…

Sadly, I don’t think it’s just the Daily Mail that is confused about even the basics of copyright law…

Anonymous Coward says:

Knows to be false

17 U.S.C. ? 506 Criminal offenses.

(c) Fraudulent Copyright Notice.? Any person who, with fraudulent intent, places on any article a notice of copyright or words of the same purport that such person knows to be false, or who, with fraudulent intent, publicly distributes or imports for public distribution any article bearing such notice or words that such person knows to be false, shall be fined not more than $2,500.

“Notice of copyright” … “that such person knows to be false”.

Suppose the Associated Press has a policy of placing copyright notices on all pictures, without exception. Does that rise to a level of constructively “knows” ?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Knows to be false

Associated Press is U.S.

Followup:

From the AP’s website, ?About AP?:

Headquartered in New York…

… Neither privately owned nor government-funded, the AP is a not-for-profit news cooperative, owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members….

So, United States domicile, and ownership by United States persons.

Anonymous Coward says:

Who actually took the Atlantis picture?

NASA Johnson Space Center STS-135 Image Gallery (photo #20) (full size) captions this image as:

Image Credit: NASA

Does that indicate that the photo was actually taken by an employee of the United States Government, in the course of his employment?

Or, supposing the picture was taken by a non-American crew-member, does it matter? After all, the United States Government is a partner in the ISS.

chris says:

I’m beginning to wonder if the photo editors at the Daily Mail are just clueless, and think that a copyright symbol like that is the way you acknowledge where you found something.

I think you’re onto something here and I see this as a consequence of so many people taking a nuanced concept like copyright and conflating it with ownership. It doesn’t help that we are being taught to believe that all forms of knowledge and information must be owned by someone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Images available for sale from AP in US

A quick search of AP Images (?Buy Essential Images from The Associated Press?) website shows that the Associated Press appears to be selling the Shuttle images, from a United States website. It doesn’t appear to be simple to link to the image search results, however, here are thumbnails from the three results found:

$ whois apimages.com

Registrant:
The Associated Press
450 West 33rd St
New York, NY 10001
US

Domain Name: APIMAGES.COM

Ron Rezendes (profile) says:

Re: Re: Images available for sale from AP in US

Are NASA pictures automatically put into the Public Domain?

If so, how does this mechanism work because IIRC other artists were having issues trying to do this (put their works in the PD) themselves in any manner whatsoever.

Selling PD images is perfectly legal and therefore not subject to ICE seizures.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Images available for sale from AP in US

Are NASA pictures automatically put into the Public Domain?

17 U.S.C. ? 105Subject matter of copyright: United States Government works

Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government,…

Selling copies of United States Government works is fine. Falsely marking United States Government works as copyrighted, with fraudulent intent, that is with intent to obtain something of value…

… well, if prosecutors won’t enforce it, then so what.

md1500 (profile) says:

The Daily Mail (like most of the UK establishment) is a bit behind the curve when it comes to tech issues.

I mean, look at this article, published this year, where they wax lyrical about pictures that move. Yes, they’ve only just discovered the Animated GIF.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1380795/Cinemagraphs-Artists-develop-pictures-movement-stills-level.html

Oculatus Rotunda says:

trolls, trolls, trolls

Reminds me of patent trolls, one of the latest in (authorized by law) criminal scams where anyone can be sued by one of the plethora of patent scam artists operating out dummy/front/empty offices in east Texas, mostly – where selected targets are told to pay up front for copyright infringement, but refuse to reveal specifics as to which patent is being infringed upon (not required by law). Even if innocent (which is almost all of the time), it costs a million to mount a defense, so most just settle (it other times and places this was called extortion). Copyrights are just a variation on a theme. Just make an allegation and the odds are in your favor no one will contest. A society of predators are we.

Anonymous Coward says:

Mike, I think you have to remember a few things here:

1 – in posting on Youtube, you haven’t made anything public domain. Rather, the rights holder has granted youtube a license to use the content on their site. The copyright remains with the original creator, even if it appears on youtube.

2 – AP may have contacted the copyright holder (or his reps on earth) and obtained “exclusive” images, such as an original HD image rather than just a clip from a you tube video, and been granted resale rights. It would potentially allow them to claim copyright on that image, as “reps” for the original image copyright holder. Perhaps AP has the exclusive rights to that particular image as a still rather than as a video.

3 – video rights and still image rights are not the same rights. Youtube could have the rights to the video, but not to the still images.

I could go on. For someone who makes their living jamming it to the copyright world, you seem often to miss the truly obvious stuff.

Posting on YouTube doesn’t make something public domain. How hard is that to understand?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The point is, YouTube does not own the rights to that video or image; Noe Castillo owns the copyrights. Therefore, the correct copyright statement is “? Noe Castillo”, not “? Youtube”. You are correct is saying that the image is not public domain, but that is not the point here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

No, but the point is that Noe Castillo, or (his/her) reps can resell the rights to the AP. The can cede all print rights to the AP, and give them copyright control over the still images.

Mike is making assumptions, and those assumptions are not true.

Putting an imagine in public view does not place it in the public domain. I am shocked that he made such an obvious error.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

No, but the point is that Noe Castillo, or (his/her) reps can resell the rights to the AP. The can cede all print rights to the AP, and give them copyright control over the still images.

You appear to be confusing the two separate images. One is from the space station. One is from Noe.

We are saying the one from the space station is public domain. Not the other one.

Mike is making assumptions, and those assumptions are not true.

Putting an imagine in public view does not place it in the public domain. I am shocked that he made such an obvious error

You are making the error, not me. I never said, implied, suggested, hinted at, or anything that Castillo’s images were in the public domain. Merely that the ones from the space station, which come from NASA are in the public domain.

The sole purpose, as clearly explained in the article, for showing the Castillo images were to show the incorrect (c) notice on those too, to suggest that the problem was with the Daily Mail’s labeling, not with the AP.

I am at a loss as to how one could be so confused over what is clearly stated in the article, but you never cease to amaze me on a daily basis.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

1 – in posting on Youtube, you haven’t made anything public domain. Rather, the rights holder has granted youtube a license to use the content on their site. The copyright remains with the original creator, even if it appears on youtube.

Um. Nor did I say that it did. I only said that the shots from space — the NASA shots — were public domain. I merely used the (c)Youtube shots to explain what I think the Daily Mail is doing.

2 – AP may have contacted the copyright holder (or his reps on earth) and obtained “exclusive” images, such as an original HD image rather than just a clip from a you tube video, and been granted resale rights. It would potentially allow them to claim copyright on that image, as “reps” for the original image copyright holder. Perhaps AP has the exclusive rights to that particular image as a still rather than as a video.

NASA shots are public domain. Period. You can’t get an exclusive on them.

3 – video rights and still image rights are not the same rights. Youtube could have the rights to the video, but not to the still images.

Meaningless. They said (c). And, wtf are “video rights”? What statute is that in?

I could go on. For someone who makes their living jamming it to the copyright world, you seem often to miss the truly obvious stuff.

Considering all three of your points are 100% wrong, I’d say my track record is better than yours, as usual.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Oh god, do you ever get over your bad self?

3. Video rights / still image rights. When someone creates a work, they can (and often do) split the rights. They can sell all still image rights to one group (giving them legit copyright over the still images) and the rights to the video version of it to another group (giving them legit copyright on the video portion of it). Rights can be sliced almost any way you like, and those rights sold, transferred, or licensed depending on the business arrangement. For a guy who claims to know a lot about copyright, you really seem to be missing in action on this basic concept.

2. NASA’s material may be public domain, but I am not clearly seeing that the images belong to NASA, and not to the individual who shot them. Work for hire? Help us out here.

1. Whatever the Daily Mail is doing is (a) up to them, and (b) potentially the result of a contract or licensing agreement you just aren’t aware of. Did you contact the DM to ask them? Oh no, wait, you aren’t a journalist. You are just expressing opinion like the rest of us.

I shake my head at your personal insults. Can’t you control yourself, or is this the only way you can push your superiority complex out there?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

3. Video rights / still image rights. When someone creates a work, they can (and often do) split the rights. They can sell all still image rights to one group (giving them legit copyright over the still images) and the rights to the video version of it to another group (giving them legit copyright on the video portion of it). Rights can be sliced almost any way you like, and those rights sold, transferred, or licensed depending on the business arrangement. For a guy who claims to know a lot about copyright, you really seem to be missing in action on this basic concept.

I asked you for the specifically for the statute that explains “video rights.” You have not given it. You are making stuff up and your digging a deep hole, demonstrating your ignorance of the subject.

2. NASA’s material may be public domain, but I am not clearly seeing that the images belong to NASA, and not to the individual who shot them. Work for hire? Help us out here.

Hahahahahah. Oh, you make me laugh. The shot is NASA’s. Work for hire has nothing to do with anything here, and if you knew anything about copyright law, you would know that.

1. Whatever the Daily Mail is doing is (a) up to them, and (b) potentially the result of a contract or licensing agreement you just aren’t aware of. Did you contact the DM to ask them? Oh no, wait, you aren’t a journalist. You are just expressing opinion like the rest of us.

If the Daily Mail is making false copyright markings, then, no it is not “up to them.”

I shake my head at your personal insults. Can’t you control yourself, or is this the only way you can push your superiority complex out there

Irony.

pat price (profile) says:

Missmarking of intellectual property

I work in the intellectual property arena where every scam known to man and some that are not know are used by non-practicing entities to transfer wealth from producers to non-producers. One of the current scams is ?miss marking?. This occurs when a company ships a product with patent numbers on a label. If a patent number references a patent that is expired or a patent that is clearly not part of the product then the label has been miss marked. There are several cottage industries where people go out and take pictures of product label that contain patent number. They then research the patents and if they discover that the patent is expired or does not relate to the product, they assume that the company producing the product purposely miss marked the label to keep other companies and individual from competing in the market. This allows the researchers and attorneys to file suit for miss marking and people have been collecting settlements and awards for miss marking.

It would appear to little old me that miss marking of copyrights is the next intellectual property gold field that will be mined and considering the companies slapping copyright notices on images, such as AP and the Daily Mail, someone is going to file suite and most likely collect. Also considering that content owners like news agencies are quick to file suite when people exercise fair use, this might make them a little more aware of what it feels like to be the little guy in a litigation.

Pat Price

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