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reproducing greetings cards

Posted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 4:44 pm
by statestudio
I have a number of Victorian, 20s and 30s, wartime etc grretings cards which I am considering reproducing by scanning the originals and using on photographic gifts. Also some images from magazines from the 50s. Is this ok? I have seen many items with old advertising images eg seed packets reproduced. Am I right in assuming from previous posts that if I am not selling the product only a picture of it then this is ok? Or does the art work still remain under copyright for 70 years?

Posted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 6:23 pm
by AndyJ
Hi statestudio,
Copyright is all about the creative work, be it literature, music, drama or artistic (which includes photography, and has very little to do with any products on which the images appear. So on that basis, the images you want to reproduce may well still be in copyright because the authors (the photographers or graphic artists) could still be alive, or more probably, will have only died within the last 70 years. Only where the author died before 1942 can you be reasonably sure that copyright no longer exists and you are free to reproduce the image.
Ths biggest obstacle you face is finding these details about the photographers or artists. And if you are seeking to licence use of images where you are sure the work is still in copyright, the next biggest hurdle is tracking down the current owners of the copyright. In many cases the copyright will have been owned by the company which published the postcard etc, but the term is still based on the life + 70 years of the employee who produced the work. Most of these companies will have ceased trading, or been taken over by other companies many years ago.
In either case, using the many websites dedicated to collecting old postcards, and museums such as the V&A and the British Library, may well be of help in your quest.
As the law currently stands, if after exhaustive research, you still cannot establish the identity of the author of a particular work, then Section 12(3) of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 can be applied:
(3) If the work is of unknown authorship, copyright expires—
  • (a) at the end of the period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was made, or
    (b) if during that period the work is made available to the public, at the end of the period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which it is first so made available,
So even with this provision, some of your World War 2 material and the magazines from the 1950s would not yet be in the public domain.

robert opie

Posted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 6:55 pm
by statestudio
Thank you for the information which more or less confirms what i thought to be the case. Presumably all the Robert Opie type material was out of copyright? Also, I have seen calendars of wartime posters. How are they able to be printed?
If I altered the images by cropping or altering the colour would that be unlawful? I don't want to breach any artist's copyright being a photographer myself.

Posted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 8:32 pm
by AndyJ
Hi again SS,
I can't speak for Robert Opie, but my guess would be that where some of the memorabilia they sell is still in copyright, they have negotiated licences with the copyright owners, or in the case of newspapers, the Newspaper Licensing Agency.
Altering a copyright work (or making an adaptation of it) may only be done with permission from the copyright owner. Altering the colour would almost certainly be considered an infringement because a substantial part of the underlying work would be used. For cropping not to be infringement, the amount of the original which was retained would have to be insubstantial. Substantiality is determined on quality rather than quantity, so in other words, only if you cropped out all the significant part of the original would you be unlikely to infringe the copyright, but this clearly runs counter to your purpose in the first place. There's a useful saying "what is worth copying is worth protecting" which can sometimes be used as a yardstick to determine whether something forms a substantial part of the original.
I hope this clarifies things a bit.