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The Copyright and the Bug

Aerofiles' copyright of content, better known as a publisher's copyright, is a blanket protection of all material on all pages—for what little actual good that does on the free-wheeling Internet. However, it is not a claim of rights to all material since a majority was donated by viewers or was found in old publications and public archives. Hence the importance of understanding what that little "bug" (©) signifies.

When it is used, say, on a photo, it indicates a rigid copyright of what's known as "creative material" belonging to an original author or an owner of its rights and is not generic. Aerofiles has no claim of ownership there—we are merely permitted by its owner to use it on our pages, and its credit is the top line. First rights always belong to our donors. The second line means only that Aerofiles is the source of its presentation, should the photo appear somewhere else with our and the owner's permission.

There are instances of a "©" used to specify original photos or material from our own files and collections. There are also many instances where there is no copyright bug since the material likely came from public domains, such as military and government files, or from sources with expired copyrights.

There are gray areas, as well, where no authorship was known or found—like who took all those photos for AEA or Laird? They are lost in the fog of time. And a large portion of material donated to Aerofiles from personal collections lacks any clues of original authorship. "Found" material often came from what apparently were unowned or abandoned sources, also without documentation.

While we do respect rights, it is quite infeasible to search out and verify owners of everything that is found or donated to Aerofiles. We like to think that our philosophy of freely presenting pictures and textual matter of historical value is shared by everyone, but there were occasions where we unknowingly stepped on some toes in the process. An emailed apology and explanation of our philosophy, along with an added © and credit line, satisfied them.

In 15 years of service to our viewers and nearly 6,000 photos we've had but four fulfilled requests for removals; three from AOPA (re: photos from a donor who "found them on the Web") and one from an irate author of a photo, one with relatively little historical value, who made cavalier use of "plagiarism" and "lawsuits" in his email threat. Not worthy of a reply, his photo was tossed out.