Document 5: In September  of 1996 I wrote to a Professor of Law at the University of Missouri at Columbia.  I  just wanted  to get confirmation on my  interpretation of  the Copyright Law.   In respect for his privacy I am including the text of his letter but changing his name.


21 October 1996

Dear Ms. Becker:

I received your letter of 10 September promptly and allowed it to get lost before answering it.  I am sorry it has taken this long for me to reply.

I cannot give you a definitive answer without knowing more about your hypothetical situation.  Generally speaking, a photographer owns the copyright to all photographs taken by him/her.  [ No copyright needs to be affixed to the photograph to assure copyright protection; it exists automatically.] When a newspaper publishes a photograph, it does so under a nonexclusive license to publish; the copyright remains in the photographer.  However this legal situation can change if either (1) the photographer was an employee of the newspaper and the photograph was taken as part of the duties of employment, or (2) the photographer executed a copyright assignment to the newspaper. Unless one of those 2 exceptions exists, the newspaper editor has no legal authority to allow a third person to publish the photograph; consent must be obtained from the photographer.  Regardless of whether the photographer or the newspaper owns the copyright, the book publisher does not, since he, too, has published under a nonexclusive license to publish.  Only if the copyright owner has executed a copyright assignment to the book publisher, does the publisher own the copyright.

If I can be of any further assistance, please let me know.

                              Sincerely yours,

                              Howard N. Duncan
                              Isidor Loeb Professor of Law

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