Museum of Hoaxes Mentioned in the Wall Street Journal

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.


Posted on Wed Oct 26, 2005


Alex said:

"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."

There's your problem right there, Alex. You said something clearly and expected the American press to report it. Duh.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Thu Oct 27, 2005  at  01:56 AM
Of all the times that I and others I know have been quoted on scientific issues, the reporter ALWAYS gets it wrong. Like above, they miss the point of what you are trying to say and interpret/remember what they want/understand.

It must be hard to write an article on a topic that you arent an expert on, especially with tight deadlines, but if it's not their thing perhaps they shouldnt be printing it as a factual investigation, and more an opinion piece.
Posted by AussieBruce  on  Thu Oct 27, 2005  at  06:23 AM
No such thing as bad publicity Alex.....!!!
Posted by X  in  McKinney, TX  on  Thu Oct 27, 2005  at  07:48 AM
I probably shouldn't complain too much, since in fairness to the reporter, she was using my site as an example of a site that might have a legitimate claim to fair use of an image. I was more annoyed at those snakes at the picture library who in their quote seemed to imply that they were magnanimously deciding not to pursue a case against me, even though (in my opinion) they're the ones who are falsely claiming to have ownership of something that's public domain.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Thu Oct 27, 2005  at  08:00 AM
Surely both fair use AND the public domain apply here. Either way, you had the Limey rascals dead to rights. They didn't pursue it because they were magnanimous ... oh yes, and also because they had absolutely no case whatever to make against you.
Posted by Big Gary in Dallas  in  Dallas, Texas  on  Thu Oct 27, 2005  at  04:56 PM
I used to be friends with Ben Hamper. He's a nobody now, but back in the 90s he got a lot of press from his book Rivethead. He said that EVERY TIME he spoke to the press he was misquoted. EVERY TIME! The press doesn't really care about the real story. It wants an interesting story.
Posted by Ima Fish  on  Fri Oct 28, 2005  at  08:02 AM
I wonder if the copyright rules about before 1923 apply to images as well as text.
Whatever, trying to chase museum of hoaxes is ridiculous as the pictures have been put for "educational" purposes.

Posted by Prasanna  in  london  on  Sat Nov 05, 2005  at  12:33 PM
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