Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Does Arizona own the past?

The Arizona Memory Project has online images from the Arizona Archives Historic Photographs. The photo above is dated from 1910 and the "creator" (photographer or printer) is unknown. Prominently displayed over the photo is a watermark which says, "Providing access, Preserving Arizona, Arizona State Archives." The watermark is so obvious that the photo, as it is online, is entirely worthless for any purpose other than as to act as a sales agent for the State of Arizona. The Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, a division of the Secretary of State charges $12 for the print and the same for digital files at 150 dpi with a title bar. For digital files on CD, the State charges $17 for the first image and $12 for each additional image. The question is, how did the State of Arizona acquire ownership of a postcard from 1910? In case you are wondering, the image is older than any possible protection by the U.S. Copyright Act and is technically in the public domain.

Here are some interesting observations about the postcard. Online, postcards from the same era sell for about $2 or $3 each. In other words, I can buy an original postcard online for 1/4 of the cost of a print from the Arizona State Library. Here are some other online photos showing the Grand Canyon and other sites:

T. L. Brown, Former Trail Guide, Suspended between 2 Vertical Limestone Walls, Circa 1915

Here is the Canyon side patio and fireplace of the Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim, just after reconstruction with chairs in place and some visitors, taken 15 July 1937 by the National Park Service.  Notice the similarity between the above photo and the one for sale by the State of Arizona. However, the original lodge was destroyed in a fire in 1932. 

The question is simple, how can the State of Arizona claim ownership of a public domain postcard print from 1910? If you can answer that question, you can also answer how any number of people and entities claim ownership to their ancestors' history in writing or in pictures.

1 comment:

  1. While the state of Arizona doesn't own a copyright on the original postcard, can't they claim a copyright on the digital copy they made?