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Copyright on Promotional Materials

Posted: Wed May 20, 2015 11:08 pm
by darinfan

I was wondering if anyone can comment on the copyright of promotional materials - I'm talking about things like an advert in a magazine for a record or a film, for example. The period would be 1950s to 1970s. I've always assumed that promotional materials such as these, film posters, etc were different to other items - not least because film trailers are often used in documentaries as clips instead of sections of the actual film. Or is the situation different in the UK to the USA for example. I'm looking to use some example of magazine ads for films and records in a self-published book in the UK.

Also, if the magazine itself is out of copyright (as many of the American ones would be), presumably the advert is too?

Any help much appreciated.

Posted: Thu May 21, 2015 6:31 am
by AndyJ
Hi darinfan,
There's no specific difference as far as copyright protection is concerned between posters, adverts and trailers, and the actual works they are used to promote. However there will probably be a different attitude towards them by the film studios, so to that extent, they may not care too much about posters etc being reproduced but they would get very upset if the actual film was pirated.
I say this because the purpose of the posters and trailers is to publicise the film and so the wider the distribution, say through magazines etc, the better as far as the film is concerned. Broadcasters will readily be given permission to use clips from the trailers because this is also a form of promotion for the film.
However, what you want to do is slightly different. It may well be that now, many years later, the studios are still not that bothered about the ephemera which came out when the film was released, but because there is a large market for such things as old film posters, I suspect the studios will want to make sure they are able to share in the profits which may be made from such sales.
So I think there are two possible routes to follow here. The first is to get permission to use the adverts or posters that you want, and that may well involve paying licensing fees, or if your book is intended to be a commentary on the genre of film posters/adverts you may be able to use the exception which permits the quotation of copyright material. If you are based in the UK, then this comes under the heading of fair dealing, and if you are in the US, the exception is known as fair use. The US fair use provisions tend to be much more flexible than the UK exception. But beware, neither of these exceptions is an excuse just to rip off the original work; there must be some different purpose in copying the work, and both the purpose and the amount used must be 'fair'.
I hope this helps.

Posted: Thu May 21, 2015 2:45 pm
by darinfan
Thank you for your reply, which is much appreciated. My book would indeed be a commentary on the products that the adverts were advertising (the film or the LP etc). Do you know how this might be affected if the magazine that the advert is taken from is now out of copyright? For example, an advert for a film that is in a 1960 movie fan magazine which is now in the public domain? Does that mean the advert within that magazine is now in the public domain too as long as I source it from that magazine? Thanks for any further help.

Posted: Thu May 21, 2015 5:11 pm
by AndyJ
Hi again darinfan,
There are two types of copyright at play here. The first, which I think you are referring to, is the copyright in the typographical layout of a published edition, which lasts for 25 years from the date of first publication, and the second is the copyright in the underlying content (articles and photographs etc) which is subject to the normal lifetime of the author plus 70 years term of protection. This is the case in the UK.

In the USA things are slightly different with regard to works created before 1976, when a full registration system was in operation there. There is no separate protection for the typographical layout of a publication, and so the protection of each component part (from the pre 1976 period) is dependent on whether the work was registered and if a correct copyright notice was applied to it. To find out exactly what term may apply, you can use this website to work out the situation. Note that anything published in the US after 1 January 1964 which was correctly registered (this would apply to most magazines) is still in copyright, due to the retrospective provisions of the 1976 Act. Also bear in mind that some American magazines published separate UK editions, which would probably have been printed in the UK, and so UK law would apply to them.

So returning to the situation in the UK, in the case of the magazines where you have found these adverts, the content (including the adverts) remains protected, even though the copyright in the magazine itself (as a typographical layout) is no longer protected by copyright. In the case of most of the content published in the 1960s, it is reasonable to assume that many of the authors/photographers/artists whose work is featured will be alive today and so it will be many years yet before their work comes into the public domain. Even someone who died in, say, 1965 will have his/her work protected for another 20 years.

Posted: Thu May 21, 2015 8:33 pm
by darinfan
Thanks. That helps a great deal. Nearly all the magazines are American, and with no UK equivalent edition, so that really helps to clarify things. Thank you.