I've learned that the Museum of Hoaxes got mentioned in the Wall Street Journal
last week. The title of the article was "Photo Firms Hunt Copyright Violators" (October 19, 2005) by Vauhini Vara. I got included because of my brief fight
with the Science & Society Picture Library over my use of the Cottingley Fairy images
. Unfortunately the reporter didn't fully represent my side of the argument. Here are the relevant sections from the article:
Bloggers, beware: That photo of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes on your Web site could be fodder for a lawsuit. Stock-photography companies like Getty Images Inc. and Corbis Corp. are using high-tech tools to crack down on Web site owners who try to use their photographs without paying for them...
Earlier this year, the Science & Society Picture Library in London, which manages copyrights on more than one million images, sent letters to several Web sites asking them to take down copies of the "Cottingley Fairies" -- photos that appeared to show two young girls playing with ghosts, and later turned out to be a hoax. One site, the Museum of Hoaxes, left the photos up, arguing in a message on the site that fair use should apply since it displayed the photos alongside an article critiquing them. Chris Rowlin, acquisitions executive at the Picture Library, said it didn't pursue the issue further, partly because the Museum of Hoaxes isn't trying to sell the photos for profit.
Yes, I do feel that my use of the images would qualify as "fair use" since I directly comment on them. However, I argued to the SSPL that I didn't need to make a claim of fair use, because the Cottingley Fairy images are in the public domain. The law in America is that anything published before 1923 is automatically in the public domain. As far as I'm aware, there are no exceptions to this. The Cottingley Fairy images were published in America in 1922. Therefore, they're now public domain. Anyone can use them without having to seek permission from anyone else. In fact, I noted to the SSPL that they were probably making an illegal claim of copyright by sending me a cease and desist letter in regards to the images. Apparently they never mentioned any of this to the Wall Street Journal reporter. And somehow the reporter mistook my argument about the images being in the public domain for an argument of fair use, even though I thought my statement was pretty clear.