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socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 38910
Experience:  Retired (mostly)
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I am writing a book about a woman who lived in N.Y. 100

Customer Question

I am writing a book about a woman who lived in N.Y. 100 years ago.I am learning about her from newspaper articles only. No one has written about her other than that.
There are photos of her and many articles.
May I use a photo or make a sketch from the photo?
May I quote the newspaper articles?
Of course I would give attribution in every instance.
Thank you,
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Expert:  socrateaser replied 2 years ago.


If the photos were published before 1923, then they are public domain, and you can do what you wish with them. You can make a sketch from the photo, regardless of the age of the photo, as long as your sketch is not an attempt to copy the photo. It must be a separate creative work, or you would be liable for copyright infringement (again, assuming the photo was published more recently than 1922.

However, if the woman has an estate which is continuing manage her celebrity after death (such as the estates of Elvis Presley, ***** *****, Winston Churchill, etc.), then you would have to obtain permission to use the woman's likeness, or you could be liable for "commercial appropriation of likeness."

There is a way around the above issues -- termed, the fair use doctrine. However, unless your book is an editorial or a parody of the woman, the fair use doctrine is unlikely to be a viable option. So, it depends on the nature of the manuscript.

I hope I've answered your question. Please let me know if you require further clarification. And, please provide a positive feedback rating for my answer -- otherwise, I receive nothing for my efforts in your behalf.

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