Google LIFE archive: where’s the usage rights?

I’m impressed by the new LIFE photo archive at Google Images–it’s a truly significant work of digital content. But it’s missing one important thing: a usage policy. The images are marked (c) Time Inc., so it’s clear they aren’t public domain. But is there any way to purchase usage rights? The only reuse provision seems to be a framed print purchase.

Compare it to what Flickr does with the images in its commons, or anywhere else for that matter–a clear licensing agreement, selectable by the poster, that explains how images can be used. The LIFE archive may be visually striking, but it would be much more valuable if the images could have a life beyond Google’s servers.

3 thoughts on “Google LIFE archive: where’s the usage rights?”

  1. I too wish to purchase up to 30 pics for a biography I am researching—how or who would I approach for this inquiry?
    Do we need to contact Time,inc legal department? And what is the penalty for usage without offering to pay–anyone know?

  2. I just wrote a post on this topic. The main conclusion is that the issue is a bit unclear.

    But rpw: images for a commercial biography will not be covered under fair use or personal use. So you probably need to contact Time Inc.

  3. Thanks, Johan, for the research.

    The interesting question to me is how Time Inc. can claim copyright on photos from the 1860s and 1870s, well outside the bounds of copyright:

    http://www.copyright.cornell.edu/public_domain/

    By the best understanding I have of US copyright, at a minimum anything created before 1888 is unambiguously in the public domain, and many works from that date to 1938 may be as well depending on their publication status, knowledge of their authorship, and the death date of the author. So the bald (c) TIME amounts to a land grab for the early part of the archive.

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