First ever photo of Phineas Gage is discovered


General Culture, General Photography

“A pair of photograph collectors in Maryland, USA, have uncovered what they believe to be the first and only ever photographic record of Phineas Gage - the railway worker who survived an iron tamping rod passing straight through the front of his brain, following an explosives accident in 1848.” (story)

(Updated below)

Do you hate the copyright notice right through the image and think it’s a travesty that a Daguerreotyope, over 100 years old, is even covered by copyright? You’re in good company. The other day, my wife had me look up the (only existing) Daguerreotype of Emily Dickinson, and there’s a copyright on that one, too.

But then it would probably take a legal copyright expert to determine whether these photos are indeed copyrighted. My knowledge of copyright tells me that while in principle they could be covered in reality they are probably not. And it would then be up to us to realize that if these old photographs are indeed protected, copyright has turned into a total travesty (as I have long argued).

Update: Twitterite jeremydmoore told me this is a case of Copyfraud : “These false copyright claims, which are often accompanied by threatened litigation for reproducing a work without the owner’s permission, result in users seeking licenses and paying fees to reproduce works that are free for everyone to use. Copyright law itself creates strong incentives for copyfraud. The Copyright Act provides for no civil penalty for falsely claiming ownership of public domain materials. […] While falsely claiming copyright is technically a criminal offense under the Act, prosecutions are extremely rare. These circumstances have produced fraud on an untold scale, with millions of works in the public domain deemed copyrighted, and countless dollars paid out every year in licensing fees to make copies that could be made for free. Copyfraud stifles valid forms of reproduction and undermines free speech.”