Legal Question(s) about a photo collection

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jrob4267 New Member • Posts: 24
Legal Question(s) about a photo collection

Some background on my issue.

My mother in law (deceased) was an avid historian of our town and amassed a sizable collection of photos (probably in the thousands) of properties, hurricanes and anything to do with landmarks and businesses within our town. She took some of these photos herself (maybe 1% were taken by her) but the majority were either purchased from local photographers or were given to her from homeowners or their relatives to add to her collection. There are only a small amount of photos with a note on the back of the photo that states who they were purchased from and when, the rest have no record of copyright or original owner or photographer.

Since my mother in law passed, the family has been trying to determine what to do with these photos. They take up a large amount of space and none of the children want to store them and maintain them. The copyright or legal owner of the vast majority of these photos cannot be determined without an unreasonable amount of work, if at all.

A side note; my mother in law made it very clear that she did NOT want to donate her collection to the local historical society or museum.

A few questions:

Can these photos be sold outright (ebay, or a website, or at a flea market) with no repercussions? I would imagine since she was the owner of these prints, the family would be able to sell these prints without any problem.

The problem becomes, can the family reproduce (digital or print) these photos for the sole reason of selling the prints/files?

Can these photos be compiled into a book that would then be sold for profit?

Can these photos be digitized and made into a slideshow/video to be shown to the public, possibly for the price of admission?

The family does not want to break any laws and doesn't want to "steal" from the rightful copyright owner but at this point determining the rightful owner of the copyright of these photos would be nearly impossible. They also don't want to trash this wonderful collection of historical photos.

Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

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