Permission to Publish a Depression Era Newspaper Photo


This photo was published in The Des Moines Tribune, Sports section, January 10, 1933.

“Dexter High Girls Seek First Cage Victory of Season. Although beaten in every game so far this season, Dexter has a scrappy team which has displayed good teamwork, but they are handicapped because of size. Verna Maulsby and Doris Wilson will start as forwards, Ethel Schoonover and Mildred McMullen at centers, and I. G. Hoy and Mary McMenamin at the guard. Wilson, although a freshman, is showing promise and is expected to develop into a fine forward.”

I wanted to use this photo of mother in Leora’s Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression, so I went through the red tape to obtain permission. The Des Moines Tribune is no longer published but was owned by The Des Moines Register. In 1985, the newspaper was sold to Gannett. They directed me to use the copyright ©USA TODAY NETWORK with the photo every time I publish the photo.

And as long as I don’t sell more than 1000 copies of the book, the charge to reprint the 1933 photo was $150.

I dearly wanted to publish the photo of this left-handed girl in the too-big shoes and baggy socks, with a rough and tumble scab or two from shooting baskets with her older brothers, at the time playing old-fashioned three-court girls’ basketball.

I paid the $150.

Doris’s basketball story.



  1. The cost and trouble involved in getting permission for photos like that are a major hindrance to preserving family history. Do you or anyone in your family have an original of that photo? If so, you wouldn’t need the paper’s permission since you (or the family member) own it. Thankfully, all the historic photos I’ve used (or am planning to use) are either my own possession or are in public domain (e.g., made by one of the armed forces, therefore automatically putting it in public domain). I pray you’ll sell more than enough copies of the finished product to recoup that expense.

  2. Here’s praying you have to pay more as you sell over 1,000 copies of your book Ms. Joy. God’s blessings ma’am.

    • Thank you, JD! “Leora’s Letters” has sold more than 1000, so we’ll see what God does with this one. (Actually I gave dozens away, just to make sure the loss of the three brothers during WWII is never forgotten.)

  3. So glad you included that great photo of your mom. $150 for permission to use your own supplied pic is big corporate media price gouging , to use one of the favorite USA Networks headlines.

    • Well, that’s what I thought! Or I would have asked to reprint football ones of her older brothers, and even one of Dad. They sure published a nice spread back then about small-town sports.

  4. What a great picture, Joy! I understand your shock at the cost though. I attempted to add photos from different magazines in my memoir but the fees they wanted were too outrageous. I made do with what I had.

  5. I commend you for doing the right thing to seek permission and pay the fee to use the photo in your book–although somehow it doesn’t seem right to have to get permission and pay for an image of your own family member.

  6. Wow! That really is a steep price. I’m more used to feed along the lines of $25 to use a photo in my blog (only a couple times). I suppose when I get around to publishing books, I’ll have my head completely turned around!

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