Rights and Access
The Library of Congress is not aware of any copyright in the documents in this collection. As far as is known, the documents were written by U.S. Government employees. Generally speaking, works created by U.S. Government employees are not eligible for copyright protection in the United States, although they may be under copyright in some foreign countries. The persons interviewed or whose words were transcribed were generally not employees of the U.S. Government. Privacy and publicity rights may apply.
Suggested credit line: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, WPA Federal Writers' Project Collection.
The introduction was written by Ann Banks © 1980 and produced by Joanne B. Freeman. The sound recordings were produced by Joan Murphy Stack and engineered by Rob Attinello. The actors who read the manuscripts were Clement Cottingham, Billie Durand, George A. Jackson, Jr., Margaret Root, Edward S. Stout, and Edna Jeweline White.
Privacy and Publication
Issues pertaining to privacy and publicity may arise when a researcher contemplates the use of letters, diary entries, or reportage found in library collections. Because two or more people are often involved (e.g., photographer and subject) and because of the ease with which they can be reused, photographs and motion pictures represent the types of documents in which issues of privacy and publicity emerge with some frequency.
Privacy and publicity rights are, of course, distinct from copyright. For example, an advertiser may have the photographer's permission (as copyright owner) to use a portrait. But in order to avoid invading privacy, the advertiser may also need the sitter's permission to use the photograph. In fact, publishers sometimes ask photographers to submit a copy of a "release form" in order to establish that the subject of a photograph gave his or her consent.
Although the risks for use in a periodical's "editorial" pages may be less than for use in advertising or for other commercial purposes, they can still be high if the person depicted is held up to ridicule or presented in a libelous manner.
While it is true that famous or public figures who seek recognition have thereby surrendered some privacy, they may have the right to control the commercial use of their image (likeness, voice, signature, etc.). This principle recognizes that a celebrity's image can be an asset in trade.
For more on these and related topics, consult the following books:
Chernoff, George and Hershel Sarbin. Photography and the Law, NY: AMPHOTO, 1971. Library of Congress call number: KF2042.P45C44 1971.
Schultz, John and Barbara Schultz. Picture Research: A Practical Guide, NY: Van Nostrand, 1991. Library of Congress call number: TR147.S38 1991.