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Who Owns Apollo Imagery?

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posted on Jul, 29 2009 @ 04:07 PM
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The fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, combined with the official disappearance (doesn’t this sound familiar?) of the original telemetry tapes containing the first-step and moonwalk images, has prompted some friends of mine in Houston to take a fresh look at Apollo 11 videos. Of course there is a lot of controversy about those moonwalk images, and I have to admit that they’ve always looked pretty unlikely to me. My friends are employing a new approach and I’m hoping to see worthwhile results.

Around Houston there are always stories of people who stumbled across a large Hollywood-like film studio near the Johnson Space Center that was all rigged up to produce very realistic moon-walk movies. Likewise for the infamous air-brushing operations. I actually met one of these people two years ago, and enjoyed hearing the lunar movie set story first hand. Of course, proving the truth of anecdotal accounts is not easy.

One thing that has puzzled my friends is the fact that virtually all “official” Apollo 11 moonwalk films, as well as a number of still images from the program, are copyrighted (i.e. owned) by a private individual. Most of those currently available via the web are owned by a man named GARY NEFF.

NASA claims that imagery they produce is in the public domain. Obviously, there is something different about images transmitted from the lunar surface.

If you go to a professional photographer to have an image made, even a portrait of yourself, you’ll find that you don’t get the negative, and the photographer retains ownership of the photographs he took. Of course, with Apollo 11, it was supposedly the astronauts themselves who actually “took” the videos, still photos, and 16mm movies depicting their lunar adventure. Perhaps someone else owned the cameras? The more you think about it, the stranger it gets.

Deepening the mystery, NASA’s website includes a short bio of GARY NEFF as a contributor to their historical collection of lunar surface images. Yet the man is too young to have been personally involved with the Apollo program and, worse yet, he’s a commercial pilot with no mention of any involvement in film making, etc. Still, he’s given the credit for producing the current crop of “inhanced” videos that were offered up for the 40th Anniversary.

See the Gary Neff bio here:
history.nasa.gov...

Due to Gary Neff’s age, one possibility is that his ownership of the images may have come by inheritance. A Houston oldtimer told me he had wondered about the copyright notice on moonwalk video years ago. However, he felt that the first name was not Gary. His recollection now is that the name was James Neff, but he hasn’t thought about it in years and admits it might have been something else.

Although we think of NASA as a U.S. government program, it is actually a consortium made up of the U.S. military and a sizeable group of public and private corporations, much like the government itself. One consequence of this arrangement is that sensitive NASA operations can be shielded from prying eyes because they are owned and operated by private contractors. Being private, they are virtually immune to any public pressure regarding disclosure.

As an example, you may recall the exquisitely painful return visit to the famous Face On Mars. Day after day went by with no decent image of The Face, and a variety of thin excuses were offered. An uproar of protest finally prompted JPL to state that they had no control over the operation. Why? It was all in the hands of a private contractor who in fact owned all the imagery and could pretty much do whatever he wanted with it. It wasn’t until enough days had gone by to do a lot of image manipulation, or experimentation with sun angles, that a “good” picture of the face was released, and of course you’ll recall that it actually showed nothing at all.

My assumption is that the Apollo 11 moonwalk video was produced by a man named Neff, perhaps the J. E. Neff who authored this 1964 report in the NASA database. Whoever it was, he was undoubtedly a private contractor, and literally owned the original moonwalk video when all was said and done.

If you try a search through NASA’s website, you’ll find that there is a whole tribe of Neffs involved in aerospace science. Presumably, the one we want is no longer with us, and his ownership of the video depicting Armstrong and Aldrin on the lunar surface has passed into the hands of Gary.

To help pin this down, if you have an old tape relating to Apollo11 produced 15 or more years ago: I’d sure like to see an image of the copyright notice that will show up at the end of it. If you can't get the image, I'd still appreciate your posting the name.

I think it’s worthwhile to track this fellow down and learn as much as possible about his arrangement with NASA because, if the Apollo 11 lunar surface videos are indeed fakes, this is the man who faked them. Knowing something about him would put us just that much closer to the truth.

I’ve not had much success in learning this myself, so I offer the whole question to the members of this forum. Who actually produced the original videos of the Apollo 11 moon landing and ended up owning them?




posted on Jul, 29 2009 @ 04:37 PM
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Originally posted by Strider
Most of those currently available via the web are owned by a man named GARY NEFF.

All NASA images are in the public domain


NASA claims that imagery they produce is in the public domain. Obviously, there is something different about images transmitted from the lunar surface.

Wrong. The actual images are public domain. If someone digitally transfers, scans, or enhances an image or film, then that copy of it may not be in the public domain. If you want any prints from any NASA photo from the original negatives you can request those here:
images.jsc.nasa.gov...
If you want the original public domain videos from various apollo missions, check with the national archives. For instance, ARC Identifier 72134 will bring up Apollo 15. Have fun.
www.archives.gov...


If you go to a professional photographer to have an image made, even a portrait of yourself, you’ll find that you don’t get the negative, and the photographer retains ownership of the photographs he took. Of course, with Apollo 11, it was supposedly the astronauts themselves who actually “took” the videos, still photos, and 16mm movies depicting their lunar adventure.

NASA retains the original negatives, you can get prints made for no charge from NASA, you just have to pay the cost of having it printed. The prints are made by non-government labs approved and authorized to handle the negatives.


Deepening the mystery, NASA’s website includes a short bio of GARY NEFF as a contributor to their historical collection of lunar surface images. Yet the man is too young to have been personally involved with the Apollo program and, worse yet, he’s a commercial pilot with no mention of any involvement in film making, etc. Still, he’s given the credit for producing the current crop of “inhanced” videos that were offered up for the 40th Anniversary.

Anyone can enhance Apollo footage and put their stamp on the enhancement, or rescan digital copies from prints made of the original negatives. You could do the same yourself. It doesn't mean NASA will personally host it, but it has nothing to do with the availability of the original archived copies.

[edit on 29-7-2009 by ngchunter]



posted on Jul, 29 2009 @ 10:40 PM
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Thanks, ngchunter, for your quick response, and taking the time to make your answer so thorough. And extra thanks for that URL for requesting NASA imagery.

But I think you’ve missed what I’m actually looking for. And if I understand your suggestion, then Neff (or his family) probably obtained a copy of the original Apollo moonwalk video for virtually nothing, and then NASA has been licensing it back from them for the last thirty or forty years, rather than using NASA’s own copies of the same original material.

I’m specifically talking about educational and public relations films produced by NASA which nonetheless are forced to carry a Neff copyright in the trailing credits.

If that’s the way it worked, then it sounds to me like someone discovered a gold mine. But that summons up issues of sweetheart deals and official corruption, which is not my focus. I'm looking for historical information that suspect I'll only by asking the experts at ATS to put on their thinking caps - and look in their personal libraries. There is a pattern here that is entirely unexplained.

I could try to reproduce for you all the URL’s I’ve visited, but I think if you will Google on a few variations of Apollo 11 video, perhaps with NEFF included, you’ll develop your own picture of what I’m talking about, and be able to run with it in whatever way suits you.

Personally, I think I will be happy if I could learn two things: First, what is the first name on those older Neff copyright notices (not Gary). Second, if that person had a relationship with NASA then what was it? Was he a private contractor? Employee? Someone working on a grant? Did he own a company that had some business with NASA?



posted on Jul, 30 2009 @ 11:57 AM
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Originally posted by Strider
And if I understand your suggestion, then Neff (or his family) probably obtained a copy of the original Apollo moonwalk video for virtually nothing, and then NASA has been licensing it back from them for the last thirty or forty years, rather than using NASA’s own copies of the same original material.

No, you missed the point. The originals are not in digital form. If you convert them into digital form then you have the right to that converted copy. I highly doubt NASA is paying Neff for the use of his converted copies, but they still have to give him credit for doing the conversion. There's no way the conversion is 40 years old though.


I’m specifically talking about educational and public relations films produced by NASA which nonetheless are forced to carry a Neff copyright in the trailing credits.

If they're from the Apollo era, then they probably still needed to be converted to be shown online.


If that’s the way it worked, then it sounds to me like someone discovered a gold mine.

Again, where's the proof that NASA paid him anything to use the converted videos? I don't see that mentioned anywhere. He probably put the copyright information in there so that no one else could claim credit or try to sell it themselves, but there's no evidence that NASA had to license it from him for the use of it.



posted on Jul, 30 2009 @ 04:00 PM
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The originals are not in digital form.


This is not exactly right. Although I’ve seen still images (presumably from the Hasselblad cameras) carrying a Neff credit, it is the black and white video images transmitted from the lunar surface that are most commonly credited to Neff. Although one assumes the originals were analog rather than digital (in today’s terms) they were supposedly captured in Houston on magnetic tape – the same tapes that eventually disappeared some years later.


Again, where's the proof that NASA paid him anything to use the converted videos?


You began by detailing NASA’s common practices regarding images, so I’ll point out that common practice with copyrights is to pay the owner for the use of his material. That’s the norm. Added to that, where Gary Neff has donated images, such as to a discussion of the Lunar Module’s guidance computers, or to the history project, the credit is worded in such a way as to make it clear that it was a donation. So I think it’s safe to assume in the rest of the cases that some consideration or payment was involved.

NASA must have world class facilities for working with all sorts of imagery so I’m still stumped as to why they kept using someone else’s video of that first moonwalk. I’m sure there must be a simple answer.

Now that I think about it, it seems to me that there is no reason at all to assume that the rules and procedures on imagery that NASA follows today are the same rules and procedures that were being used in 1969. So I’m not sure it is much help to use the current rules as a basic assumption. However your references to conversions have finally sunk in.

As you may recall, there was a storm of protest from the networks because Houston was sending them black and white video from the lunar surface in a non-standard format. This was in contrast to the standard format color video available from the Columbia. (Considering their need for tax dollars, there’s never been a good explanation of why they didn’t go for the best video they could get.)

There was immense pressure to get that sub-standard video converted to something the networks could use as quickly as possible. The simplest possibility might be that NASA couldn’t handle the conversion in-house in a timely manner, and rushed the tapes to someone who could get the job done fast. If this was the case, then from what little clues I have, that person would be a James Neff, possibly the father of Gary Neff.


And this is where the mystery deepens, because it looks to me like NASA did not retain ownership of the end product. Perhaps someone didn’t read the fine print?

This is why I’m hoping to jog someone’s memory here, and find out more about the Neff’s. Unfortunately, I may have made a mistake by putting the title of this thread in general terms. It doesn’t seem to be attracting much attention.



posted on Jul, 30 2009 @ 09:26 PM
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Originally posted by Strider

The originals are not in digital form.


This is not exactly right. Although I’ve seen still images (presumably from the Hasselblad cameras) carrying a Neff credit, it is the black and white video images transmitted from the lunar surface that are most commonly credited to Neff.

Images you download online, right? Someone had to convert those images for you to see them. The originals are not digital, they're analog data.


Although one assumes the originals were analog rather than digital (in today’s terms) they were supposedly captured in Houston on magnetic tape – the same tapes that eventually disappeared some years later.

Only the first lunar eva's tapes were lost. Those tapes contained analog data from the radio tracking dish or telescope. Someone had to convert them into a modern digital format for you to see them. Just because something's on a tape doesn't mean it's digital (come on, surely someone here remembers VHS?).


You began by detailing NASA’s common practices regarding images, so I’ll point out that common practice with copyrights is to pay the owner for the use of his material. That’s the norm.

Utter nonsense. A copyright owner has the right to let someone else host their material free of charge. People do that ALL the time on sites like flickr, vimeo, etc. They retain the copyright, but they don't necessarily charge for its use.


So I think it’s safe to assume in the rest of the cases that some consideration or payment was involved.

No, that's a claim not proven just by the existence of a copyright. Where's the proof that payment was made?


NASA must have world class facilities for working with all sorts of imagery so I’m still stumped as to why they kept using someone else’s video of that first moonwalk.

For one thing, they're not paid to spend public money remastering their own videos decades after the fact unless there's a scientific motive, especially when someone else can do it for nothing but the credit. For another thing, it absolves them of any artifacts introduced by the conversion or remastering process.


Now that I think about it, it seems to me that there is no reason at all to assume that the rules and procedures on imagery that NASA follows today are the same rules and procedures that were being used in 1969.

Then prove the rules were different. I'll tell you right now, they weren't. The images have ALWAYS been public domain, that's just how it is.

There was immense pressure to get that sub-standard video converted to something the networks could use as quickly as possible. The simplest possibility might be that NASA couldn’t handle the conversion in-house in a timely manner, and rushed the tapes to someone who could get the job done fast. If this was the case, then from what little clues I have, that person would be a James Neff, possibly the father of Gary Neff.

What are you talking about? NASA did the slow scan conversion in realtime on site for Apollo, which really only applied to Apollo 11 anyway.


And this is where the mystery deepens, because it looks to me like NASA did not retain ownership of the end product.

Yes, they did, I already gave you all the information you need to get a hold of the best original copies of the Apollo 11 EVA that NASA still has - the national archives has it.

This is why I’m hoping to jog someone’s memory here, and find out more about the Neff’s.

Personally I think your fixation on the Neff family is unhealthy and borderline creepy, but that's just my opinion.

[edit on 30-7-2009 by ngchunter]



posted on Jul, 31 2009 @ 07:34 PM
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Thanks again, ngchunter, for spending your time on this. You’ve provided me with a good picture of what I assume is the current thinking on Apollo imagery.

I appreciated the links to the National Archives and NASA, but obtaining copies of the same old videos is simply not what this inquiry was about.

You keep asking that I prove something, though, and that’s a little irritating. Actual proof of anything via the internet is virtually nonexistent. However I really don’t have to prove anything at all. I started the thread because I was looking for information, NOT offering it. I advanced several scenarios to see if they might spark someone’s memory or imagination, no more.

In my experience with forums over the years, repeated demands for proof are simply an attempt to choke off discussion and honest inquiry, and should be viewed with suspicion.

For any other readers trying to make sense of all this, I’ll retrace my steps. I know of a current inquiry into the truth of the Apollo 11 mission that is ongoing. These folks are NOT working with published images or reports and trying to find fault with them. Instead, they are looking in a completely different direction for new information. Yes, they’ve turned up something that looks suspicious and are pursuing it. It might be worthwhile, and it might not.

In looking at what they had so far, I noted that the name NEFF had popped up several times. The indication was that NEFF was at or near the Johnson Space Center in 1968-9, and involved in some way with film production for the Apollo program. I offered to look for him via the web.

Obviously, I didn’t find him. Not too surprising when you consider how far back this was. But I was surprised when it turned out that a younger Neff seemed to be a primary supplier of Apollo images forty years later.

Obviously I’m not having any luck in identifying the 1969 Neff, so I’ll simply report back that I couldn’t find him. No big deal. If he turns out to be important, then I’m sure some record of him can be found by more conventional methods.



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