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Junk Journalling

Posted: Sun Aug 23, 2020 8:56 am
by MissAntoinette84
I have recently got into junk journalling and have various pieces of vintage ephemera like book plates, fabrics old wallpaper etc that I would like to digitise and sell is that legal? I have seen many other people on Etsy selling them but have no idea if it is right and what the law is on this so any help would be much appreciated thank-you in advance :)

Re: Junk Journalling

Posted: Sun Aug 23, 2020 2:12 pm
by AndyJ
Hi MissAntoinette84,

These items are all likely to have been subject to copyright at one time or another as artistic works, so it very much depends on their age as to whether copyright still applies, and thus if there's any risk of infringement by copying (digitizing) them and then re-selling the prints.

The duration of copyright for artistic works has varied over the past century and a half. Between 1872 and 1912 it was the lifetime of the artist plus 7 years; from 1912 it was the lifetime of the artist plus 50 years after their death, and from July 1995 the post-mortem period became 70 years. In all cases the new period was retro-active on works still in copyright when the new law came into effect. From this we can say fairly confidently that where an artist died before 1 January 1945 his/her work is now out of copyright.

However with the artefacts you are talking about it will almost impossible to discover the identity of the artist concerned, and hence trace their date of death. We can therefore use a separate approach as set out in section 12(3) of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 which says:
(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,
in other words anything where the artist is anonymous published before 1 January 1950 is now in the public domain. It's likely that only the book plates will fall into the first category, ie something which has never been published.

This still poses the problem of how to find out when something was first published. If a book plate is still attached to the book, a possible guide might be the date of publication of the book. Wallpapers are more difficult as there is no central repository like a national museum or online resource which holds a comprehensive collection of old patterns, although you could try here and here. However care is needed as many of the more popular patterns from earlier times often get re-published by contemporary firms (eg here) and these companies will no doubt claim new copyright in their reproduced version. And if wall paper is difficult to date, fabric is almost impossible unless it is a famous design, in which case you may well be able to trace the actual designer (for example here for William Morris).

Does it matter? Probably not in most cases, as unless it is also one of the new reproduction wallpapers, it is unlikely anyone is going to try to enforce a copyright which may possibly still exist but the ownership details are lost. If you wanted to be super-safe, you could obtain an orphan works licence from the Intellectual Property Office, which once you had been through the formalities and paid your fee, would protect you from liability if the copyright owner did turn up and object.

Re: Junk Journalling

Posted: Mon Aug 24, 2020 6:54 am
by MissAntoinette84
Thank you Andy for getting back to me and for all the information I will have to read it a few times to make sure I understand what you have said lol!!
I'm very grateful to you and the website for a helping hand :)