Book People Archive

Re: NY Public Library charging for use of public domain images

On Mon, 28 Oct 2002, richard seltzer <seltzer@[redacted]> wrote:
> I believe that the NY Public Library's policy is counter to the intent of
> the Copyright Law. I also believe that, left unchallenged, it sets a
> dangerous precedent.

Their restriction on the usage of the public domain works hardly
establishes a precedent.  We already covered it in the past discussion
about the license as imposed by Choral Public Domain Library.

If you read the terms and conditions at:

You will notice that the uses of the web pages at
are limited to scholarship and research purposes only even though
some web pages are in the public domain.  (Brewster Kahle, in a
private e-mail, told me that the terms and conditions were not
intended to restrict the uses of the pubic domain works but it is
very expensive to hire a lawyer to rewrite terms and conditions.)

Another example is:

This is not to disparage Eric Eldred but the terms and conditions
as mentioned in his web page are not clear enough to protect the
status of public domain in the public domain portions.

Finally, Attorney Stephen Fishman explained the problem with
restrictions that are imposed on the public domain works in his
book _The Public Domain: How to Find & Use Copyright-Free
Writings, Music, Art & More_.

The bottom line is that New York Public Library does not set
up any precedent.  It does do what others have done.  (There
are some exceptions such as Project Gutenberg and The Naked
Word which don't impose any terms and conditions on the uses
of the public domain works.)

>                 ... Can/should anything be done about it?

That is a good question.  What should we do?  What can we do?

Joseph Pietro Riolo

Public domain notice:  I put all of my expressions in this
post in the public domain.