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Copyright law regarding books

Posted: Fri Jul 18, 2014 12:00 pm
by CrookedCartoon
I'm currently doing a silk screen poster series for a high street bookstore here in the UK using famous scenes out of (my personal) favourite books. Posters are editions of 50 and there are 5 different ones in the series.

I'm wondering where copyright lies with this? The poster will contain the author, possibly the book title and definitely a quote from with the book relevant to the scene, all the imagery is hand drawn by me, so i'm not 'using' anything that's not mine essentially, aside from imagery described by the book.

I know Mondotees sells film posters constantly, reinterpreted by artists, not too sure if they bought the rights to sell posters based on a film or not, or even how well this translates to book related posters.

Half the books are well past copyright, (Count of Monte Cristo: 1840s, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: 1880s, Sherlock Holmes: 1890s+, Master & Margarita: 1920s BUT published in the 60s for the first time, Gormenghast: 1950s)

Does anyone know if I will get in trouble for selling these prints without obtaining the correct copyright? They will be sold out of a high street book store, but more as a point of sale, rather than a deal with the store itself, so it's up to me to get all the legality sorted.

If i do have to obtain any form of copyright, can anyone point me as to where to ask? As all the authors are dead... i'm assuming the publishing house? Although there a few that own the rights to each book.

Thanks to anyone who can shed light on this.

Posted: Fri Jul 18, 2014 12:39 pm
by AndyJ
Hi CrookedCartoon,
Based on what you have told us, I don't see any copyright problems here. Author's names and book titles are not protected by copyright either because they are 'facts' or because they are too short to qualify as literary works. Short quotations should not be an issue either, because it would be extremely unlikely, under the current rules, for a short snippet to be seen as substantial enough to infringe the book as a whole. Furthermore in October 2014 we expect a new exception to copyright to become law, which will specifically allow short quotations. Once that has occurred, you would definitely be in the clear.
Obviously, your own artwork within the posters will attract copyright and this will last for your lifetime plus 70 years, so let's hope your posters prove to be popular.
All of that applies to works which are in copyright today, but obviously where a work is no longer in copyright, you do not even need to rely on the quotation exception to be sure that what you want to do is legal. By the way, the length of the copyright term is determined by when the author died, rather than when the work was published. So in the case of Gormenghast which you mention, the author, Mervyn Peake did not die until 1968 and so all of his books will remain in copyright until 2039. The only time a publication date might be significant is when a previously unpublished work is published long after the author's death, when a new 'publication right' (similar to copyright) is granted to the publisher and lasts for 25 years.

Posted: Fri Jul 18, 2014 12:41 pm
by CrookedCartoon
Thank you very much for your reply, incredibly helpful. Parts of the copyright lecture i did at university is slowly coming back to me now!
All the best,