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Publishing newspaper photos

Posted: Thu Jun 24, 2021 12:25 am
by copycat
Hi all,

I'm very sorry in advance as I can imagine you get posted these questions often! But I don't know where else to ask in regards to a copyright question I have.

I am currently in the process of researching for an academic book published in the US and I hope to use 3 photos that I took directly from a newspaper sketchbook at a museum archive. They are as follows:
Figure 1 is from The Sketch (October 13, 1926)
Figure 2 is from The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News (March 5, 1927)
Figure 3 is from The Sketch (November, 1927)

These were all published in UK and I took photos of them in the UK too. I am wondering whether I am able to freely use these photos, please? I have contacted the museum, and they said that any third-party material is my own responsibility. I understand that it has been over 75 years since the photos were published, but I just wanted to double-check!

Thank you!

Re: Publishing newspaper photos

Posted: Thu Jun 24, 2021 8:07 am
by AndyJ
Hi copycat,

When you say sketch I assume you are talking about what we might refer to as a graphic or line drawing, which would be treated as an artistic work for copyright purposes. Or you may be referring to a prose pen-picture type of sketch. This would be a literary work. Fortunately the law which applied to both is much the same and is to be found in the 1911 Copyright Act. This provided for a period of protection consisting of the lifetime of the author or artist plus 50 years from the end of the year in which he or she died. So if you know the name of the author or artist in each case, you have a reasonable chance of either discovering when they died or making a reasonable assumption about their date of death. However if the author or artist was not named, the period of protection simply becomes 50 years from the date of publication*. I think it is reasonable to assume that the sketches were either commissioned by the newspapers or magazines, or were done by an employee of the publisher. This means that the owner of any copyright would have been the publisher in each case.

From this you can see that if the name of the author/artist was provided at the time of publication, then the copyright term may well have expired, but there is a small possibility that if the author/artist was comparatively young when he/she made their sketch (say in their mid-twenties), and they lived to be at least 75, the post mortem period could have some years still to run. What's more, in 1995 the copyright term was increased by a further 20 years and this change would have applied to any work which was still in copyright on 1 July 1995. If this is the case for one or more of the sketches, you would need to get permission to use copies of the sketches from the present day successors to the publishers. In the case of the Sketch articles, this will probably be the Daily Mail and General Trust plc as the Sketch was owned by Assocoated Newspapers (the previous name of DMTG) at the time it was discontinued. The publisher of the Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News was the Illustrated London News, and their successor company is ILN. Unfortunately the link for licensing enquiries on the ILN website isn't working. As a side note the picture agency Alamy are offering a number of images from the Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News for around £50 for a book publication licence, even for images which are obviously out of copyright (from the 1880s for example)**.

However if the author or artist was not named, you can assume that the sketches are now out of copyright, and since you have your own photographs, you can freely use the works as you wish. Clearly in this case, the copyright term would have ended, at the latest, on 31 December 1976 and so would not have been affected by the new rules which came into force in 1995.

The fact that the book is to be published in the USA doesn't really alter the situation. The law which applies is that of the country of origin, namely the UK. However the US publishers will probably insist on some documentary evidence that either the sketches are in the public domain or that you have the necessary clearances to use each of the images.

I hope this helps.

*This is not specifically set out in the 1911 Act, but the later 1956 Copyright Act which came into force while the copyright would still have been running, made this provision in Schedule 2 of that Act

** for clarity, I don't think Alamy are claiming copyright; they are offering digital images of the illustrations and charging a usage fee. Since you already have your own digital images you would not require their services anyway.

Re: Publishing newspaper photos

Posted: Thu Jun 24, 2021 10:41 am
by copycat
Thank you so much for your detailed response, AndyJ! This has been very helpful to know.