The International Boundary Commission is a permanent international organization headed by two commissioners: a Canadian and an American. In 1924 it distributed to the public its Report, which contained many photographs that were its own work. The report contains no copyright notice.

The Commission's web site contains this paragraph:

Permission to reproduce Commission works, in part or in whole, and by any means, for personal or public non-commercial purposes, or for cost-recovery purposes, is not required, unless otherwise specified in the material you wish to reproduce.

I'm wondering about usability of these photographs in Wikipedia articles. As nearly as I understand it, Wikipedia's policy says works uploaded to Wikipedia that are not in the public domain must be subject to a license allowing anyone to use them subject only to the condition that authorship and copyright ownership must be acknowledged. Here is Wikipedia's policy on this.

  • Are any claims to copyright forfeited by public distribution without a copyright notice?
  • Would copyrights have expired?

PS: Here is the 512-page report.


Copyright notices were required in 1923 under US law. Under the Berne Convention simultaneously published works get the shortest protection. Also, the US government specificity does not claim copyright in its works.

The photos are public domain.

  • But might Canadian law also affect the matter? – Michael Hardy Apr 5 '17 at 21:09
  • Where were they first published? – Dale M Apr 6 '17 at 0:18
  • I have a copy from a library that says it was printed at the Government Printing Office in Washington in 1925 and on the next page says it was published "under the authority of the International Boundary Commissioners". I suspect it was published approximately simultaneously in Canada. – Michael Hardy Apr 6 '17 at 3:37
  • @MichaelHardy A printing by the GPO probably also puts it in the public domain as explained by DaleM – ohwilleke Apr 11 '17 at 22:07
  • 2
    @DaleM : You are right that when the U.S. government is the author of a work, there is no copyright. But this is the work of an international organization, not of the U.S. government. That the U.S. government PRINTED it and PUBLISHED it (i.e. distributed it to the public) does not make the government the author, and the International Boundary Commission, as an international organization, is not the same as the U.S. government. And questions about Canadian law may also be involved. – Michael Hardy Apr 12 '17 at 2:07

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