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Britt Griswold <[log in to unmask]>
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SciArt-L Discussion List-for Natural Science Illustration- <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 13 Aug 2008 11:02:46 -0400
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Most Federal government material is free of copyright concerns, if it 
was paid for by the US taxpayer.  However not all material handed out by 
Government is Government produced/paid, so one must be careful about 
sourcing the material.

If you have images of NASA installations and machines, pulled from 
government sources, with no other credits than NASA attached, then you 
are on pretty Solid Ground.  However, even NASA asks for a photo 
credit.  If you have done an image that is not an exact copy of a NASA 
photo, you can tell the editor to not worry.  If you have done an exact 
copy of the view in the photo, then there may be some concern about 
crediting the source material, but not a copyright issue.  It might be a 
bit of a gray area on what is appropriate. After all, some other 
textbook company could use the same source material and produce an 
identical image without impinging on your textbook company's copyright.

You might point out that textbooks reproduce images from NASA all the 
time for publication. They do give credit however.  But if you are 
combining these images into a new picture, and there are no copyrights, 
then the concern about credits becomes less and less. At some point it 
becomes fair use. And at some point if you create an image that as a 
whole is unique new creation, it has enforceable copyright.

It could be your editor wants a satellite and dish that is realistic 
looking but in the details is not something that exists. But that opens 
the possibility of creating something that could not exist and will not 
work, then it is sci-fi.  Another grey area to worry about.


Cindy Shaw wrote:
> Hi all, 
> I'm doing some Earth science textbook work, and have to do an illustration that incorporates a space satellite and a satellite dish on the ground. For both, I used NASA photos as reference. The client seems to be very picky about having things appear "realistic" - so I even took pains to make sure the satellite itself was appropriate for the content. 
> The comments from the editor came back asking if I had "traced" photos for the satellite and dish (I did not) - but they do look realistic, which is what the client wants. She said that "tracing photos" is not allowed due to copyright issues.
> My understanding is that government stuff, like NASA, NOAA, etc. - is in the public domain - so even if I HAD traced them, I would have been OK in doing so, as long as the finished product does not duplicate the photo. But even if I did want the object to look like the photo, I would be OK in making it look like the photographed object. 
> Is my understanding correct on this? What IS the policy on using govt photos as reference. Are they indeed public domain? What if I did want to use an element that was part of a govt. photo in an illustration? Could I do so?
> Thanks much, 
> Cindy

Britt Griswold/WMAP Project
TRAX/Maslow Media Group
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Code 665 Bldg. 21 Rm 063
Greenbelt, MD 20771-0001
(301) 286-3381
(301) 286-1617 FAX
(301) 286-7230 FAX
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