Dorothea, I'm pretty sure that James is referring to British law, which seems to be diverging from Bridgeman v. Corel.
I've had a couple of experiences recently scrutinizing US-based digitized public-domain documents from different organizations. While I can't really say what might constitute best-practices, I certainly have opinions one what I liked and disliked about each of them:
Footnote.com does not claim a copyright to images already in the public domain that it has then converted into a digital format. However, through agreements we have obtained, and may continue to obtain, certain images or documents that are protected by copyrights or that, even if in the public domain, are subject to restrictions on reuse. Unless such specific restrictions apply, we encourage Members to reproduce public domain images from the Website for their own personal use. By agreeing to these Terms of Service, however, you agree to limit your reuse and republication of such public domain images to small portions of the Footnote collection. For purposes of this paragraph, a "small portion" means a limit of no more than 200 images per year. If you republish public domain images, you agree to credit Footnote.com as the source of the digital image, unless additional specific restrictions apply. If you wish to republish more than a small portion of the Footnote.com collection, you agree to obtain prior written permission from us.
While I might wish that the terms for republication were more generous, there are some very specific things that they're doing right:
- No copyfraud -- they explicitly deny possessing copyright over PD documents.
- The attribution clause is clear-cut.
- There's a bail-out clause in the "prior written permission" section.
- Best of all, they provide a specific number-per-year to let the user know whether their republication will comply with the agreement or not. As a result, I was able to figure out whether republishing a Civil War-era letter was allowed, with no ambiguity.
My other recent experience was in paying the University of Virginia library to scan a 19th-century manuscript in their special collections. Since I was planning to put the diary images online for transcription and since I was paying $300 out of my own pocket for the scanning work, I really wanted to make sure that I wouldn't be bound by any agreements not to re-publish the images.
This was a more frustrating experience, I'm afraid. The library posts a number of its policies online, but they're hard to reconcile with each other. The Digitization Services "Use of Materials" policy states: "Reproductions of materials obtained from Digitization Services (or from its web site) may be made without prior permission only for use in the research, teaching, or private study of the recipient of the reproduction. Reproductions ... may not be further reproduced without permission. The recipient agrees ... to secure permission in advance from Digitization Services to publish or broadcast any item, in whole or in part, from its collections." Is putting the scans online for transcription private study or publishing? The statement also directs users to the Special Collections "Use of Materials Policy" which says "It is not necessary to seek the Library’s permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise distribute portions of texts or individual images (up to 20 from any given work or collection) for educational or scholarly purposes." Other use policies mention a fee of $100 per image for commercial use
All of that seemed a bit high-handed, given that 1) the manuscript was in the public domain as an unpublished work whose author died in 1882, 2) I'm paying to have the thing scanned, and 3) I'm doing so in collaboration with members of the author's family who are already irate about the document being "locked away in a library" in the first place. However, the Digitization Services request form included a bail-out clause: "I understand and agree to the above copyright statement and will only use the digitized resources as I indicate in my online request." I was able to describe exactly how I intended to use the images, and happily the further steps in the web form even allowed me to select "publishing on the web" as an option for use. As a result, I was able to continue with the project feeling that the library had agreed to my planned use (rather than me having to agree to its restrictions), and have been delighted by the scans.
These are just a couple of experiences from the perspective of an amateur local history researcher.