Last year I started collecting vintage photographs again and had it in my head that I could sell downloads of the images on Etsy.
Lots of shops are doing it, they sell the images for scrapbooks, artwork, and for customers to download and put on canvas etc. I always see the same kind of disclaimer on the listings. “Not for resale” and “copyright remains with me”. Now I understand that a lot of these photographs are “orphan works” ~ a term which means no-one owns the copyright. So it’s a kind of “finders keepers” scenario and I certainly don’t want to criticise these shops. They are popular and have a lot of sales ~ so demand is out there. But something about it doesn’t sit right with me.
I don’t feel I can seize the copyright to the people in the photographs. I’m lucky enough to have found them but I don’t own them. I’m just their current caretaker. Some of the more recent pictures I have from the 40’s and 50’s feature kids that may still be alive. That makes me feel weird about selling their images. Although it may seem odd that I don’t want to sell them but will happily use them in my Photoshop images ~ I can’t explain that one!
Many of the images for sale on Etsy and e-bay are so old it’s obvious the subjects are long gone and many are of models and actresses who knew the pictures would have commercial value. However you do come across some very personal images – couples on dates, people about to go places, kids under Christmas trees, and holiday photos. I love looking at these pictures and the websites that generously share them. I can’t justify enjoying other peoples generosity and selling/watermarking mine.
So I will start posting some of mine from time to time and hope others get the same enjoyment from these as I have.