Would Publishing rights be transfered to someone that bought a Storage Locker?

I know items found in abandoned storage lockers can be sold. There’s a show on A&E that deals with auctions for the contents of abandoned storage lockers.

But, would that include publishing rights to negatives or photos in that locker? It seems like the right to publish is something agreed upon by the model and the photographer. Would that publishing right automatically transfer just because the negatives or photos were found? This article says some of the original release forms were in the locker. But, those forms would be in the photographers or maybe Penthouse’s name. Do they transfer to this guy that bought a storage locker?

What about private photos? If a man had private photos of his wife in a storage locker. If that locker is abandoned and sold. Could someone publish them somewhere?

IANAL, but I am a publisher and have some experience with IP law.

The relevant law is copyright, which is not conveyed through simple possession of the original work.

From http://www.copyright.com/content/cc3/en/toolbar/education/resources/copyright_basics.html.

So presumably, the copyrights for any images or text found in Giuccione’s locker belong to his heirs or perhaps to Penthouse magazine. I foresee employment for vast numbers of lawyers for years to come.

The publishing rights would still be held by the copyright holder. The question would be if the work was under copyright, but anything since 1977 would be presumed to be copyrighted.

The photography is usually the one who holds copyright, though in the case of Guccione, they were probably sold (if they weren’t already works for hire) to Penthouse. If the copyrights were registered, you could be sued for damages; if they were not, then you could be sued to stop distributing them.

The actual photos and negatives would be yours if you purchased the locker (under the right of first sale). You could legally put them up for auction or do anything else you want with them.

For the photos and negatives, I imagine **commasense **to be correct. But…

Suppose the release forms were NOT lost/abandoned. Can they be sold? If so, then maybe the transfer can apply here too.

They could be sold or assigned, but mere possession of the documents would not convey ownership. If you find a copy of somebody’s deed, it doesn’t mean you own their house.

But it isn’t mere possession. If done properly, one does become the legal owner of the documents, right?

So here’s the question: If there is a release form with the names of the magazine and the model, is the magazine allowed to assign the rights to another publisher, or would a whole new release form be needed? And if a new release form is NOT needed, what’s the procedure for selling the rights to a subsequent publisher? If merely selling the release form is sufficient, then I’m guessing that the sale of the locker accomplishes that.

Maybe. Maybe not. The bank who holds my mortgage IS allowed to sell it to someone else, and then if I default, it does mean that the second bank owns my house. So maybe the same applies where the deed got transferred in some other legal manner, such as when the deed was sold as part of the contents of an abandoned locker. Then again, selling the deed might not be the same as selling the land itself. Which brings me back to my question from before: What is the procedure for transferring a model’s release to a subsequent publisher.

Isn’t the release transferring copyright to the editor/magazine? Having ownership of the signed release doesn’t transfer copyright to you, but to the copyright owner. You cold sell the release, as you own it. But I don’t think that changes who holds the copyright.

You may gain possession of The Deed, but a deed is just a legal document with the name of the property owner, and a description of the property. Physical possession of the deed does not confer ownership of the property, it just means you own a piece of paper that describes the property and who owns it. A model’s release to a publisher would be similar, the release will have the name of the publisher on it somewhere, your possession of the paper doesn’t change that name to yours.

Keeve, the best answer to your assignment question would be in the release itself. The releases might give Madonna and Lauren Hutton some influence over how their images are used.

The answer is no because you found a copy of the photo in the locker - but not a copyRIGHT. Rights are the right to make a copy, not simply to own one.

Then perhaps this storage locker isn’t such a “treasure trove” after all? The Madonna and Lauren Hutton photos would have some auction value. But the old Penthouse Pets photos probably wouldn’t fetch much at all. How much would a yellowed photo of Ms Sept. 1972 be worth? A 100 bucks? If it sold at all? Maybe as a large lot, all the Penthouse Pets photos might be worth something to a serious collector. The article didn’t say if the negatives for the Pets were in the locker.

It seems like the real value would be in publishing rights. Guccione’s estate might want to buy back the Madonna and Lauren Hutton negatives. Then perhaps they could sell the image and rights to another publisher.

I agree, though the rights might not be worth much to anyone, including Guccione’s people. And it’s possible the copyright has expired in some way anyway, which would make publishing rights worthless.

The correct answer has been given several times - no. If you buy the manuscript to, say, Stephen King’s The Shining at a auction, you own that object in every respect… but you do not own the intellectual property rights associated with it. You cannot publish it in any form, and that technically includes placing pages of it on display.

Same for photos; they are owned by the creator or his assignee. Unless ownership of the right has been transferred, you own only the object or instance.

Releases are a legal document between the model and photographer and subject to legal assignment. Buying a box of them is not legal assignment; only the photographer, or Guccione and his heirs, have the right to make such transfer.

Releases are subject to assignment if the release doesn’t specify otherwise. In the case of somebody like Madonna, whose likeness is worth zillions, I would be surprised if her releases were assignable.

If only millions of snot-nosed kids on the Internet who think they own all rights to a song when they download it would understand that principle.

I assumed you could put the pages on display; you simply can’t charge admission. You own the physical expression of the work, and can do with it what you want provided you are not copying.

I suppose putting the pages on display so people could see a historical artifact is one thing; laying it out so they could read the whole book (or substantial portions) is a more interesting issue. A sampling on display would seem to me to be the equivalent of “fair use”, basically the equivalent of quoting for commentary - “look at this historical item”.

As for public displays of photographs - isn’t this what everyone who buys a photo, art print, or whatever to hang in a home or place of business - isn’t this what they do anyway? Isn’t this why copies of works are sold? As long as you don’t charge admission (make money off a show of someone’s work) I would imagine a display on your premises is precisely the purpose of purchasing a copy of an artwork; what else would the sale be for? Try arguing in court, “your honor, they own the physical piece but they cannot hang it where anyone else can see it”.

The “treasure trove” value might also be in owning a pristine, high quality “original” than can be used as a source when copyright expires, in what, another 100 years?

I wonder if Arnold would be interested in buying his photo? Along with the negative for just a bit more.

Of course you could charge admission. They’re your physical properties.

This is called a derivative use and those are restricted by copyright. That is exactly the difference between owning the physical object and owning the publishing rights to their physical object.

Fair use is irrelevant here. It applies only to the copyrighted work, not to the physical objects.

17 USC 106 seems to suggest he doesn’t have the right to publicly display the pictures:
Subject to sections 107 through 122, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:

(5) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and