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Google To Host 10M Images From Life Magazine's Archive 79

Posted by kdawson
from the that's-life-what's-life dept.
CWmike and other readers alerted us to Google's announcement that it was making available 10 million images from Life magazine's archives dating back to the 1750s. (Most of the news accounts covering this announcement refer to Life's "photos," and none mention that photography wasn't invented until early in the 19th century.) Only a small percentage of the images — including newly digitized images from photos and etchings — have even been published. The rest have been "sitting in dusty archives in the form of negatives, slides, glass plates, etchings, and prints." At this point about 20% of Life's archive is online; the rest is promised within months.
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Google To Host 10M Images From Life Magazine's Archive

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  • Obligatory:

    It's lifelike pictures Jim, but not as we've known them.

    • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @08:34PM (#25810827) Journal

      Life-like indeed. It's magnificent.

      I grew up learning about the world from Life and National Geographic. We were poor - pre-transistor days, couldn't even afford a radio -- but we had the media at our fingertips. I remember my father's part in WWII from pictures he showed me of places he'd been, in old copies of Life. I watched as the first seven astronauts were chosen. I watched the last moments of JFK, RFK and Martin Luther King and watched an immense culture change from the pages of Life. The ability of Life photographers to capture the eyes of people and stories and places has never been equalled to my mind.

      The fact that Google has arranged with the owners of all this Life Magazine material to put the archive online for the rest of you makes me feel a good bit better about Google's place in the Internet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rudeboy1 (516023)

      Lifelike... you betcha. I've been dying to get my hands on some Margaret Bourke-White images without having to pay Getty Images a few grand per print. Her pictures give a lifelike experience of what it was like to be in so many historical places back in the 40's. It's good that I can finally view these images without having to deall with GI's rediculous pricing policies.

      Getty Images has long been the world's largest intellectual property holder. While the general public can get a hold of some of their

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by rudeboy1 (516023)

        Arrgghhh... Scratch what I said before. New master, same slavery. The medium-view images are nice to look at but I tried blowing one up to a decent size and it's pretty heavy on artifacts. The high rez version has a nice big TIME watermark on it. However, the option to fram any print at a somewhat reasonable price ($80-$110 depending on size) is definitely a plus, and I think I may still act on it. It's still about a tenth of the price I was getitng from GI to get a full res print.

  • Public domain? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Yvan256 (722131) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @06:55PM (#25809773) Homepage Journal

    I wonder was the copyright is for these. Are they all public domain?

    • by Yvan256 (722131) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @06:56PM (#25809787) Homepage Journal

      I wonder what the copyright is...

      damn non-editable Slashdpt

    • Copyrights vary (Score:5, Informative)

      by davidwr (791652) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @07:06PM (#25809889) Homepage Journal

      The copyrights for previously-unpublished works vary, Project Gutenberg and Wikipedia probably have the answers you are looking for.

      In general, anything created more than 120 years ago in the United States is in the public domain. Works that weren't "work for hire" live various-numbers-of-years after the death of the photographer but there is a presumption of public domain after 120 years unless it can be shown the photographer was alive "recently enough" that the copyright hasn't lapsed. There's also a "presumption of death on or before insert-date-here" under certain other circumstances.

      I don't have the rules for previously-unpublished works-for-hire handy, but I think that for stuff not published before now, anything before 1923 is in the public domain in the USA. There were special rules in place a few years ago to "encourage" publishing previously unpublished works but I think that is over with.

      If Life had done this during that special window, a lot of stuff that would have had only the remaining copyright would have enjoyed extended protection.

      • by thermian (1267986)

        The copyrights for previously-unpublished works vary, Project Gutenberg and Wikipedia probably have the answers you are looking for.

        No, they do not have the answers you are looking for, you can be on your way, move along...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by game kid (805301)

      This image [google.com], among others, claims "© Time Inc." despite its 1860 date, so I wouldn't be quick to call the new archive a gift. They clearly want to (re)assert copyright on the pics.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by superdave80 (1226592)

        I also noticed that when you click on the picture, you get the 'real' full res picture. However, the full res picture has a big ugly 'LIFE' logo stamped in the lower corner. Gee, thanks for screwing up the picture for me!

        • by Yvan256 (722131)

          I don't know if they're all like this, but the few I've seen seem to be the LIFE logo stamped as an alpha difference. Shouldn't be too hard to reverse the process, not taking the JPEG compression artifacts into account.

        • by laejoh (648921)

          I knew it, definitively photoshopped!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by LordSnooty (853791)
        Most interestingly, they even try to exert copyright on pictures taken on the moon [google.com]... so are these reproductions from the magazine and thus copyrightable in some way?
    • Re:Public domain? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Artraze (600366) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @07:17PM (#25809995)

      Yes and no.

      They are public domain in so far as the originals are long out of copyright. Any magazine you had dated prior to about 1920 (I forget the exact year) has fallen into the public domain and you'd be free to post articles. However, derivative works, namely the scans/data in this case, are probably recent enough to still be under copyright. Yes, they would probably be considered to be insufficiently distinct to be true "derivative works" with a separate copyright, but proving that would require a costly legal battle.

      • Re:Public domain? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Eric in SF (1030856) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @08:33PM (#25810807) Homepage

        From

        http://englishhistory.net/tudor/art.html [englishhistory.net]

        The Bridgeman Art Library, Ltd., Plaintiff, - versus - Corel Corporation, et ano., Defendants.
        97 Civ. 6232 (LAK)

        Their decision was one of the most important copyright decision affecting museums ever filed. The decision was based on both US and UK copyright law.

        WHO WAS INVOLVED IN THE CASE & WHAT WAS IT ABOUT?
        The Bridgeman Art Library had made photographic reproductions of famous works of art from museums around the world (works already in the public domain.) The Corel Corporation used those reproductions for an educational CD-ROM without paying Bridgeman. Bridgeman claimed copyright infringement.

        WHAT DID THE COURT DECIDE?
        The Court ruled that reproductions of images in the public domain are not protected by copyright if the reproductions are slavish or lacking in originality.

        • Re:Public domain? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by bcrowell (177657) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @09:00PM (#25811107) Homepage

          The decision was based on both US and UK copyright law.

          Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp. [wikipedia.org] was a U.S. court decision. It's not a precedent affecting the U.K. I have a web site with my free physics textbooks, and I've received nastygrams from a U.K. museum about a contemporary portrait of Isaac Newton that's reproduced on my site. I didn't worry much about it, because I'm in the U.S., but they and their lawyers did seem to believe that the law was on their side in the U.K. (or maybe they were just bluffing). The WP article has some specific discussion of this at the end.

      • by xant (99438)

        This is not how copyright works. If they are in the public domain, the reproduction doesn't matter. In fact, reproduction never changes copyright status, otherwise your copy of Civilization 2008 is illegal but your copy of your copy of Civilization 2008 is legal, which makes no fucking sense, I think you'll agree.

        • Unfortunately the Museum Industry in the US feels differently and it took a Supreme Court Case to get them to stop suing people who have photographic reproductions of public-domain items from their collections. It all goes back to money and control.

  • Life Magazine... (Score:1, Redundant)

    by Jonah Bomber (535788)
    ...was around in the 1750's?
  • Damn (Score:5, Funny)

    by Yvan256 (722131) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @07:01PM (#25809843) Homepage Journal

    Digital photography really sucked [google.com] back then!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by pitchpipe (708843)
      "I thought it would be droll if we all sat down and looked at etchings! Would you like to join me, Peter?" -Buzz Killington
    • No, that those were just really awesome ANSI graphics.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I've failed to find a link to detail this (maybe someone else can because I'd like to know more) but in a history class we told that during WWI images were transmitted to newspapers around the world digitally via telegraph.

      I believe this was done manually with some type of grid overlay and a person assigning a grey value to each grid location. At the receiving end these values would correspond to a dot sizes that could represent various levels of grey.

      I'd like to see some practical example if anyone knows m

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by CopaceticOpus (965603)

      Actually, I think their digital photography was quite [google.com] good [google.com]!

    • by Muad'Dave (255648)

      Really old "Digital Photography" [port-of-arts.com]

      Digital, as in done with a finger. That's a joke... I say, that's a joke, son. Get it?

  • Good for comparison (Score:4, Interesting)

    by powerlord (28156) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @07:15PM (#25809987) Journal

    Its good to know we can compare [new-york-city-travel.net] what the market looked [google.com] like when the crash finally happens.

    • by Gat0r30y (957941)

      crash finally happens.

      happens? dude, you need to start paying more attention.

      • Oh, you think the crash already happened? As they say, you ain't seen nothin' yet!

        • by Gat0r30y (957941)

          Oh, you think the crash already happened?

          I'm no economist but this [google.com] would seem to be a "crash" to me.

          • Well, it's still only down (the Dow Jones index) about half as much as during the great depression, 41% now vs. 87% then. Of course it took almost 3 years to hit bottom then, and we are only 13 months into this downturn. At this point in the great depression the Dow Jones index was only down 44%, so I guess this is comparable by some standards. But at least nobody is losing their savings because of bank failures. Oh, and unemployment is 6.5% now, but at the end of 1930 it was 8.7%.
          • by rav0 (983195)
            It looks pretty good [google.com] to me.
      • by fm6 (162816)

        The 1929 crash had stocks falling 60% in less than a month. What we have now is more like the initial dive that precedes a crash.

  • by hierophanta (1345511) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @07:42PM (#25810297)
    you can find images from LIFE if you append this to an image search on google 'source:life'
  • Obligatory: Computer stuff. [google.com] Lots of fun/memory-jogging images in there ... including portraits of Richard Stallman and family! [google.com]

    • by cashman73 (855518)
      Yeah,... and you thought touch-screen voting was bad! At least you didn't have to deal with this [google.com]! I think I'd call that a Floridian's nightmare,... ;-)
  • For those that haven't heard of it, shorpy.com has some very cool old high res pictures. I can spend hours looking through them.

    Shorpy [shorpy.com]
  • Although, I swear I only read it in the dentists waiting room for the articles.

  • There's so many wonderful gay 90's [google.com] memories.

    Oh, those 90's? They're making fun of the 90's like we make fun of the 70's now. But there was nothing gay [google.com] about the 90's.

  • I know google is amazing, but how are they going to host photos dating from the 1750s from a magazine started in 1936 that showcased images created using a technology invented in 1826. This makes no sense at all.
    • I know google is amazing, but how are they going to host photos dating from the 1750s from a magazine started in 1936 that showcased images created using a technology invented in 1826. This makes no sense at all.

      LIFE magazine has been around for hundreds of billions of years.
      I still remember fondly poring over pictures the Big Bang in my youth.

      No, not that Big Bang, the other one.

      And publishing was much more difficult back then, because at that time there was no printing press, no camera, and, for that ma

  • ...photography wasn't invented until early in the 19th century...

    One amusing bit in David McCullough's biography of John Adams is the one where the Founding Father gets photographed for the first (and probably last) time. It took something like a 10-second exposure to take the picture, and Adams was astonished that his image could be registered in such a short period of time!

  • They're all from Hawaii (or related to Hawaii), and they were taken all in 1941 or 1945. Like WWII didn't exist.

    The photos are really cool, but I guess they've either held back the WWII archive or it's separated out of the 40's pictures.

    • by Romanito (756170)

      The link on their front page leads to a search for "1940s Hawaii source:life".

      Change it to "1940s source:life" and voilà [google.com].

  • by heroine (1220) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @11:53PM (#25812493) Homepage

    That's 10,000,000 images, not 10 megapixels. Images will be standard 160x120 internet resolution with watermarks & popups.

  • It should read "10 million images dating back to the 1750s from Life magazine's archives" since Life (not the earlier humor magazine of the same name) was first published in 1936.
  • It's a shame that Time seems to want to retain copyright over these images. The only real place meant for showcasing such images is the Flickr Commons [flickr.com], not some hastily-patched together image display format like Google has done. Then again, they could just upload it to flickr and still retain copyrights, but at least they can generate more comments, tag it up to make the search results rich (and describe it well) and show it to a community that actually appreciates photographs such as these.

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