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According to http://americanart.si.edu/research/programs/sos/#aboutsos , the SOS! program defines itself as a group of 7,000 volunteers [who] collected information about the history and condition of their communities' public sculpture. So they are not United States Federal employees and they remain individually the copyright owners of the work they have done. If someone has contacts with them, it would be good to suggest them to licence their work under free licenses. That means that perhaps they should use softwares that help working together in collaborative free licenced projects. That means that perhaps they should use wikis as their software. With a wiki you keep a track of everyone's identity in history tabs, while merging contributions from different people into a single page of text. And you keep an evidence that every individual has agreed to free-licence his own work. Teofilotalk 12:43, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
Quote from the Smithsonian Institution : If we have an image in our study files, the record will include an "Illustration" field containing the phrase "Image on file." If the image has been scanned, the digital image will appear in the database record. To search for records with digital images, select the "Search Images" tab at the top of the database search screen. To see images that are not yet scanned, you can visit our office in Washington or you can request that a photocopy be mailed to you. (We can provide up to 20 photocopied images via the mail). If you wish to obtain a photograph for publication purposes, you need to contact the owner of the artwork. Every museum has its own "rights and reproduction" policies and charges for obtaining photographs.http://sirismm.si.edu/siris/aboutari.htm So it is quite clear that these pictures are not intended for commercial use, and therefore not suitable for Wikimedia Commons (See commons:Commons:Licencing, the policy page defining which pictures are suitable for Wikimedia Commons). Teofilotalk 13:51, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
I'm glad you're interested in SOS! and interested in helping to research this highly complex topic. It was my secret hope that you were not just some person who is completely negative and actively trying to undue the good work of many, but instead a thoughtful and productive collaborator. Too bad you didn't start by putting your energies towards a productive end first, rather than absurdly suggesting to delete this whole project.
SOS! is much different than the art inventory projects related to SIRIS (not only in scope but in fact that all of the artworks in the SOS! database are outside). Referencing that site isn't the definitive statement on the copyright of the SOS! images.
The SOS! project was funded for three years: 92-94 (way, way before wikis, and when we all road the interwebs on stage coaches). Without funding, SOS! is basically dead now. Finding all of those volunteers who took those photos and asking for copyright permission would be a herculean task, but my guess is that somewhere, on the forms that the volunteers submitted, each person signed a copyright release that gave control of their images to the S.I. I hope that you can continue to go down this road as far as it will take you. Having your insight & experience may prove to be helpful. And, finding out the true nature of the copyright of those 32,000 entries that are stored in the SIRIS database would be extremely beneficial to all. Here's hoping you find some good information!
When you're done, though, please put it on the talk page of the WSPA Project page. Many thanks, --Richard McCoy (talk) 14:00, 10 June 2010 (UTC)
Siris lists copyright in their data fields (even pre-1923) and also quotes inscriptions on the artworks. If there is no mention of a copyright on the pre-1978 works, can we assume that a public artwork was published without a copyright, and is therefore in the public domain?