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November 15, 2004


Happily, since WPA posters were works made for hire for the United States government, they hit the public domain immediately. Even if this wasn't a work for hire for the government, it looks like there's no copyright notice; since it was published before 1976 without notice, it hit the public domain upon publication.

Incidentally, some of my research this past summer (for the Kahle case) showed that the vast majority (85% or so) of posters published before 1976 lacked notice and are in the public domain.

Joe Gratz beat me to it.... and the lack of copyright protection explains, in large part, why rainfall.com (KJA Consulting) is able to offer a catalog of over 11,000 vintage posters on its website.

Following the link yields another interesting factor. The link allows you to buy a reproduction of the poster.

At the bottom, though, you'll find the following:

Title: Enjoy ice roller skating / J.P.

Description: Enjoy ice roller skating / J.P. Poster promoting "ice roller skating" at the New York City Building, Flushing Meadow Park, New York.

© 2002 KJA Consulting - All Rights Reserved

Nice try there, KJA Consulting! Assuming KJA scans and retouches the original file, does that qualify for protection as a derivative work (perhaps as an "art reproduction")?

Depends on how much retouching, and how creative the retouching is. I'm guessing in this case, they just downloaded TIFs from the American Memory Project at the Library of Congress, which has thousands of WPA posters scanned and online.

Even if they had scanned them themselves, Bridgeman">http://www.law.cornell.edu/copyright/cases/36_FSupp2d_191.htm&e=7620">Bridgeman Art Library would apply, and their scan probably wouldn't be copyrightable.

To clarify the matter KJA Consulting copyrights the HTML content of the web page, collection, or new content, not re-scanned PD art although many people assume we're claiming copyright of the image becuase they see the © KJA Consulting. We do, however, own many copyrights to images that were sourced from public domain but have been re-colored and/or colorized and/or modified by us. Bridgeman doesn't apply to colorized or derivative works. You'll see © KJA Consulting on all of our content. Hope this helps.

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