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Mounting / Framing greetings cards to resell

Posted: Sun Jun 06, 2021 1:22 pm
by Sparkly
Hello everyone,

I’ve received great advice from this site before so I’m hoping to again.

I’ve tried to research this but have come across conflicting views.

Basically I wanted to know if it were legal to frame or mount a greetings card and then re-sell as a picture on Etsy or eBay or wherever and whether there would be any copyright infringement?

I wouldn’t be adding anything to the design or copying it or cutting bits off, just mounting or framing it.

Many thanks for your help in advance.

Re: Mounting / Framing greetings cards to resell

Posted: Sun Jun 06, 2021 4:08 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Sparkly,

In theory this should be fine and is covered by something called the doctrine of exhaustion of rights. Basically this says that once a right holder has legally sold an item consisting of a physical copyright work (a book, CD, DVD etc) his rights over any further distribution of that item are exhausted, ie ended. So as I say, in theory and probably in practice, what you do with a greetings card after you have purchased it, should be up to you.

There is one big 'but'. And that is the outcome (some might say, bizarre outcome) of a case before the Court of Justice of the European Union in 2014, called Art&Allposters v Stitching Pictoright. Very briefly the Art&Allposters Company took paper-based posters which they were licensed to print and sell, and using a chemical transfer process, transferred the image from the poster onto a canvas backing, which gave the resulting product the look and texture of an oil painting. Now most people would have said this fell well within the doctrine of exhaustion. But the CJEU disagreed and said that as the paper backing of the poster formed part of the copyright work, removing it (which happened as part of the chemical process) meant that a new copyright work was created and this had to be subject to a separate licence as it was not something the original licence to print the posters covered. In other words, the doctrine of exhaustion only applies to the complete work which is subject to the first sale. Even though the UK is no longer a member of the EU, our judicial system is required to take into account decisions of the CJEU which were made before Brexit.

While I don't think the result in this case applies to what you want to do, since you would not be separating the image from the card, it may leave the door open (well, slightly ajar) for a card manufacturer to try and make a case that you were somehow dealing in something other than the product you were sold. However I don't think this is a realistic argument and so you shouldn't have any issues.

Re: Mounting / Framing greetings cards to resell

Posted: Mon Jun 07, 2021 1:42 pm
by Draven
Great question and really interesting reply.

I make picture frames for people all the time and the thought of whether the item being framed changed the copyright had never crossed my mind.

Re: Mounting / Framing greetings cards to resell

Posted: Sun Jun 27, 2021 4:51 pm
by AndyRoss
Hi AndyJ

I'm in a similar position to Sparkly in that I want to cut travel advertisements out of old magazines, frame them and sell them. Would the act of cutting the adverts out constitute a change in the nature of the original product sold (the magazine) and therefore weaken the 'exhaustion of rights' principle? And do you think the fact that the items I'd be framing are advertisements placed (40 years ago) by individuals/companies who were not the magazine publishers makes any difference?

Thanks for your views.

Andrew Ross

Re: Mounting / Framing greetings cards to resell

Posted: Sun Jun 27, 2021 10:50 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Andy,

I think that everything I said in reply to Sparkly also applies to your situation, although arguably given the age of the material you want to use, I think it would be very unlikely anyone would challenge what you want to do. You will probably find that the travel companies or airlines which first placed the adverts no longer exist (or at least not using the same branding today) and so today's employees probably wouldn't even recognise the adverts as theirs.