Google Hosts Life Photos

Google is in the process of hosting the archive of photographs owned by Life magazine, making them available via Google Images search. At the moment about 2 million photos are online, with another 8 million to come, some dating back to the 1860s and the birth of photography.

This has no direct relevance to law, of course, and so is off-topic for Slaw. But the publication of 10 million images from America’s past might be of general interest to our readers. As well, this move has Google entering the publishing field in a big way.

There’s a ton of stuff here for Canadians: e.g. 50 images tagged “Lester Pearson”, 200 tagged “Canada”, 131 tagged “Vancouver” etc.

Copyright is held by Time Inc., and there will be the opportunity to purchase printed copies of photographs. But I have to wonder how sanguine Google and Time are about the likelihood that copyright in these objects will be respected in any serious way: this is a giant, enticing display of eye candy placed on your doorstep, and the store security personnel are either absent or on an extended lunch break. It’s true that there’s a great big LIFE watermark marring each online large version, but that can easily be excised in most cases without destroying the value of the work.

You can search the Life archive either by using the special purpose search page or by introducing source:life into a regular Images search. Have some mid-week fun and treat yourself to fifteen minutes of visual history.

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