Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Wants to Digitize Yearbooks and Student Newspapers
Your question raises lots of copyright issues (e.g., how the works made for hire law affected older works versus post-1978 works, whether photographers may own the copyright in old yearbook photos, etc.) but perhaps we can just cut to the chase and say that we don't imagine you'll face legal challenges over your digitization efforts. We say this partially based on copyright law. First, it is possible that the college may own some of the copyrights, or alternatively, that some of the copyrights are public domain (for example, due to a failure to renew). Second, the trend in fair use law is to permit the digitization of works for research and archival purposes. More importantly, it is highly unlikely that anyone who contributed to this content (yearbook photographers, student newspaper writers, researchers) will believe they have a copyright, will see the work, and will go to all the effort to bring an infringement action for such an archival use. In any case, with this set of facts, if someone does rise up to challenge your digitization, your prompt takedown of the offending work will probably eliminate any financial liability.