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Public domain/terms of service

     
1:28 am on Mar 29, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Hello! As an amateur genealogist and a subscriber to Ancestry and Newspapers.com I have became interested in reproducing some of the old newspaper items in a book form. Because these items are pre 1920, they are considered "public domain". However, the terms and service agreement seems to forbid any commercial use from it's collections without their written permission. Without giving away my idea, I'm gonna describe something that is very close to what I have planned. Let's say I want to publish a book with editorials submitted by readers published in these old newspapers. Perhaps during one month out of the year, hundreds of readers would write editorials about a common issue. Since I find these letters interesting because they were problems that were of grave importance way back in the early 20th century, i'm thinking other will as well. Anyway, the terms of service require me to ask permission from Ancestry who owns Newspapers.com. Incidentally, I do not plan on using the actual images but to re-type the letters and indicate the newspaper the were originally published in. My plan is to do many books from lots of newspapers. My question is: Can they legally deny me the right to do this since they are in the public domain?
2:28 am on Mar 29, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Can they prove that you got the newspapers from their site rather than, say, the microfilms room of a public library? Do they claim that their copies are now the only copies in existence?

If not, Id say screw em.
3:30 am on Mar 29, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Public Domain is just that. Public.

If, however, your "source" has embedded any EXIF info claiming a "copyright" for them having visited the newspaper morgue and creating their own copies of that PD material, then they might have a secondary work produced copyright.

Meanwhile, there's nothing wrong with writing and asking to learn what terms they would require for you to make use of these items.

Else, go to the originals and make your own digital copies (camera, scan, video) and go from there. That supposes that these sources are still available to the public.
3:41 am on Mar 29, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Hi BadTuna and Welcome to WebmasterWorld [webmasterworld.com]

An interesting idea, creating derivative works from previously published material. As for:
Can they legally deny me the right to do this since they are in the public domain?
We do not offer legal advice, you would need to consult a lawyer for valid advice. All we can offer are opinions. For your own research, the US Copyright site [copyright.gov] offers useful information.

In general, if the owners of these old published accounts request that you get permission to use it, it might be worthwhile to at least ask. If you were to produce these works and wish to publish and copyright your work, you might find it easier if you can show that you complied with their request in case of a challenge. You mention their Terms of Service - these are separate from Copyright limitations.

This source material you would like to use - Is it widely available or paid/limited access? If it is available from multiple sources they may not be able to prevent your use of it so asking might be a waste of time. To know with certainty, consult a specialist. Or move ahead and see what happens. Do you find other works using this type of source material? If no one else is doing it I'd think twice about putting a lot of time and effort.

6:32 am on Mar 29, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@BadTuna, welcome to the forum!

What not2easy said ... but I will add there is nothing to prevent you from capturing the info for your own research purposes. As to whether you use those images... or ocr the data into content you then annotate (and thus can copyright) is up to you. The WORDS in those images are public domain no matter what. :)

And yes, we are all opinions, no lawyers, so keep that in mind ...

That said, anything from 1923 and earlier (USA) is in public domain. Meanwhile, for any of this to make sense to your future readers, you will be best served by providing all pertinent information regarding source, which will certainly look like a copyright statement FOR EACH INSTANCE.
11:35 am on Mar 29, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I think what they are trying to do is place copyright in their work. Taking the article from its original form and digitizing it? If this is the case then the original material will be public domain, but their work may have some copyright claim. You would need to consult with someone who understands the complexity of the relevant laws, but you may need to create your own version of the works.

Mack.
3:05 pm on Mar 29, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for all the advice! I met with an attorney and explained what I wanted to do and his research amounted to him printing the terms and service which I already was familiar with and cautioning me on proceeding without getting their permission. So I've invested about $300 for legal advice and I'm no closer to finding an answer. He did advise me to contact them and see what they say. My worry is they will want to know exactly what I want and then I can see it becoming a new feature of there collection.I'm sure these old papers are available at county libraries and I could identify the exact publication and page # on the microfilm and the library may be able to send me a copy of those pages. A lot of leg work but a paper trail to dismiss any allegation from Ancestry that I obtained the material from them.