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LIFE Photo Archive on Google Image Search  (View post)

Colin Colehour [PersonRank 10]

Tuesday, November 18, 2008
10 years ago11,068 views

<< We're excited to announce the availability of never-before-seen images from the LIFE photo archive. This effort to bring offline images online was inspired by our mission to organize all the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. This collection of newly-digitized images includes photos and etchings produced and owned by LIFE dating all the way back to the 1750s.

Only a very small percentage of these images have ever been published. The rest have been sitting in dusty archives in the form of negatives, slides, glass plates, etchings, and prints. We're digitizing them so that everyone can easily experience these fascinating moments in time. Today about 20 percent of the collection is online; during the next few months, we will be adding the entire LIFE archive — about 10 million photos.>>

Google Post:
googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/1 ...

LIFE Photo Archive is located here:
images.google.com/hosted/life

This is pretty cool to be able to browse through each decade of pictures. Right now they say about 2 million photographs are online but your limited to 200 results per search. Once you click on any photo result, it will load a landing page giving you more details about that photo and the chance to rate the photo with up to a 5 star rating. You can then click on the photo to view an even larger version. I hope over time they remove the 200 result limit. Otherwise you have to constantly tweak your search query to see any other photographs similar to your query. Besides photographs, they also scanned in TIME magazine covers.

You can browse TIME covers:
images.google.com/images?hl=en ...

James Xuan [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

Cool, nice to see Google images becoming more than search, and more of a service. :)

Above 2 comments were made in the forum before this was blogged,

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

[Edit: A minute or two into the posting, clarified that Wikipedia also lists exceptions to the public domain copyright rule mentioned, i.e. that it might depend.]

TOMHTML [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

Pictures might be in the public domain now, but Google's work for scanning them is not.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

Tom, I'm not a lawyer, but you don't get to own the copyright to a photo just because you scanned it – it is still in the public domain for anyone else to use too. "What Is Not Protected by Copyright? (...) Works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship" (copyright.gov/circs/circ1.html ...) – Google did not add any original authorship to a picture itself. However, Google may well have the rights to the keywords and e.g. by German law they might have rights to the collection database information itself, not sure.

If there's a copyright lawyer in the house I'd appreciate to learn more from an expert on this!

Colin Colehour [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

I wonder what other companies Google might work with to get their images hosted on Google Image Search. Would love to see National Geographic as a future partner. Their collection of images are fantastic!

Also, Would Google ever offer their hard drive space/bandwidth for other lesser known photography collections?

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

Colin, I'd prefer if sites would just make their archives available on their own domain... this way, any search engine could take a fair shot at indexing and displaying them in the best way possible, giving more options to searchers. Right now, Google publishes these images but doesn't allow search engine crawlers to index them, it seems:

Google's robots.txt:
Disallow: /hosted/images/
Disallow: /hosted/life/

TOMHTML [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

If they are no longer in private hands, why do there is a "© Time Inc." on all pics? [LIFE is owned by Time]

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

It could be that this is just a template they're printing on all pages, and the new photos from recent years are (C) by Time Inc. However, if the old ones are indeed in the public domain, then I guess they can print anything below it wouldn't change that (neither does the LIFE watermark appearing in full-zoom)...

But again, I'd like to hear a copyright lawyer speak on this...

Colin Colehour [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

[put at-character here]Philipp, yeah I wish it wasn't blocked by robots.txt too. But if you think of the time/money that has gone into digitizing this collection, maybe they want to make sure its only in one spot.

Maybe someday they will release a sitemap for images.... We can only hope right :)

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

Colin, their image search generally relies on other websites – which also often have put lots of time or money into their work – to specifically allow their content to be in more places than just one. It's the basis of why Google's search engine can spider the web. So that why it may look odd that Google won't grant the same right to others for their own content.

Well, as opposed to other sites, they don't care about search engine optimization as much of course – because they are the main search engine in many countries anyway! That's the nice thing about covering many different areas...

I've asked Google about why they disallow these images from being spidered by competing search engines. I wonder if it was LIFE's stated condition (Life potentially makes money from Google's site through merchandising links by the way), or if it was Google's original idea, or if there's perhaps some altogether different reason and explanation.

Mike Perry [PersonRank 0]

10 years ago #

Keep in mind that the copyright clock starts ticking when a document or picture is published not when it is created. Google notes that many of these pictures have never been published, so the 'before 1923 is always public domain' rule doesn't apply to them.

A quick look at what Stephen Fishman's The Public Domain says on unpublished works suggests we'd have to do a bit of work to figure out the copyright status. If the photographer is known and if the rights belong to him, it depends on when he died. One chart suggests if the photographer died before 1938, his unpublished photos are public domain. A chart for anonymous works or works for hire (which is what Life photos probably are) says a photo has to be before 1888 to be sure of being in the public domain.

Hopefully, Google and Life will come up with reasonable charges for using these photos. Given the number of photos, even a modest charge would earn quite a bit of money.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

[Thanks Mike, I added an update!]

zim [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

>Keep in mind that the copyright clock starts ticking when a document >or picture is published not when it is created.

Um, is this true? So if I were to snap a picture on my digital camera, I would not own the copyright to that picture until I published it somewhere? I thought copyright law states that I immediately have the copyright on original work that I create, the moment I create it.

Otherwise, that allows someone to steal my Compact Flash card right after I snap the picture, copy my picture, publish that picture on Flickr, and then give the CF card back to me.. but then suddenly own the copyright for the image! Right? Because even though that person stole my CF card, they couldn't have "stolen" the image by making a copy, because that image wasn't yet copyrighted. Or at least that is what is being claimed. And I don't think I believe that.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

Zim, I think Mike only said the copyright expiration clock won't start ticking until it's published, but not that you don't own the copyright to unpublished works? The following page has a section covering works that were "Never Published, Never Registered":
copyright.cornell.edu/public_d ...

zim [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

Ok, my misunderstanding. Thank you for clarifying.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

I asked Google why they disallow crawling of LIFE photos by other search engines. Here's their reply (though not really an answer):

<<While Google allows crawling of many of its own properties from Blogger to Knol, the LIFE photo archive is not available for crawling at this time. To learn more about the licensing or merchandising of these images, visit [ timelifepictures.com].>>

Ryan Donahue [PersonRank 0]

10 years ago #

Lots of interesting implications here.. especially considering there are times when a photographer does not own the copyright to images they have taken (for example, a photograph OF another photograph OR of an object for which the photographer does not own a copyright.

Also, a lot of the catalog information appears suspiciously incorrect.. especially when date taken applies.. also.. btw, I believe a work's copyright expires at the latest 120 years after creation, regardless of publication.

Juan de Dios Santander Vela [PersonRank 1]

10 years ago #

Does anyone know if this is the first Google hosted archive, or just the first largely announced?

Juan de Dios Santander Vela [PersonRank 1]

10 years ago #

And by the way, there are interesting photo collections from the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress on Flickr, many of them on the public domain:

flickr.com/photos/smithsonian/
flickr.com/photos/library_of_c ...

Brinke Guthrie [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

Huge display for this on the Images page.

Tony Ruscoe [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

> Huge display for this on the Images page.

Try this link if you're outside the US:

images.google.com/imghp?gl=us

Brinke Guthrie [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

yeah thats it, i dont recall just a display for a new feature.

GolemP [PersonRank 0]

10 years ago #

All of the photos from LIFE Magazine are still under full copyright law since they were taken by employees of Time Inc. All of those photos were taken after 1935 and are still covered by copyright law. There may be some photos in the collection which were published NASA photos (for example) which were public domain and remain public domain. But, it appears the bulk of the LIFE Archive on Google is covered by copyright.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

10 years ago #

Golem, the collection also contains photos from before 1935 though – what about those?

e.g. images.google.com/hosted/life/ ...

"Date taken: June 1871"

"© Time Inc."

l'homard [PersonRank 0]

10 years ago #

i think copyright for corporately held works (ie. life) is different than that of copyright held by 'real' persons. i believe it was 50 years from publication until recently when disney pushed it up to 70 years (the Sonny Bono decision). so that would put most of the work for hire and published LIFE stuff at about 1939 for public domain.

   i feel a bit vague about the details but i do remember learning about this stuff in photography school. if anyone knows better feel free to chime in.

Marcus [PersonRank 0]

10 years ago #

Isnt my pupils in school allowed to use these images in a moviemaker project where they add music and speak – and then uploading it on there channel on youtube ??

If not then I dont care about the images.....why make an archieve when not allowed to use them in projects.

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