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History project

Posted: Fri Sep 10, 2021 5:25 pm
by JonBol
I am pulling together a history research project which I want to make available on a non-commercial basis as follows:
- hard copy at the local museum
- as a download from an online history group forum on Facebook
- by email on request
There are various copyright implications but here for now I would like advice on newspaper articles and newspaper photos dating from 1946-1981. Let's assume all the articles are unnamed and all from local newspapers. What can I include without specific permission from the copyright holder, which I would take to be the newspaper or its successor if it was taken over?
By making available online by download, would it still be classed as publishing?
Are the rules less strict if sharing is on a non-commercial basis?

Re: History project

Posted: Sat Sep 11, 2021 9:39 am
by AndyJ
Hi JonBol,

I think you already know that due to their age, the articles and photographs etc you are interested in will all still be in copyright, so you are right to be cautious. And yes, assume that the newspaper's publisher is the copyright owner.

You should be able to copy a fair proportion of the articles and photographs under the exception of private study and research (see section 29 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988), provided that you name the source and only use as much as is absolutely necessary for your purpose. Since you say this is a history project, clearly you won't be interested in every item on a particular page, so quoting specific items relevant to your topic would fall within this exception. Obvously when it comes to photographs, you would need to use the whole photograph in each case, but this would be permissible provided it was strictly relevant to your project. However, where you can summarise the contents of an article in your own words without losing any of the accuracy or historical value, you should do so. If you are particularly interested in reported speech, say of a politician or significant figure of the day, then you can also rely on section 30(1ZA) for this purpose. In such cases it may be essential to use the actual words spoken (as reported in the press) to give the necessary authenticity to your research.

If you find you need to quote considerably more than the section 29 fair dealing rules would allow, then you should try to get permission from the publisher or its successor. Since the majority of the numerous old local titles are now owned by a handfull of publishers such as Archant and JPI, it shouldn't be too difficult to track down the current owner. If you need to make multiple requests you would probably be better off getting a licence for this from the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA). It may sound cynical to say, but these organisations are businesses and they will tend to stress the need to pay for a licence in all cases, rather than pointing out that the fair dealing exceptions can give you a lot of latitude without a licence, so only get a licence or seek permission if you feel this is essential.

Making your research available online is classed as a form of publishing. Indeed the right of communication to the public is divided into two parts, the second of which is expressly defined as "the making available to the public of [...] works in such a way that members of the public may access them from a place and at a time individually chosen by them."* Since this is a right which belongs to the copyright owner, you need to permission to do this unless one of the exceptions outlined above applies. As you can see, the exception in section 29 relies on the research not being of a commercial nature.

And lastly a quick word on your sources. You don't mention how you want to access these old newspapers and how you will present the copies you make. I assume you don't have a big pile of old newspapers in your loft and so you will be relying on either the archives held in your local library or an online resource such as British Newspapers Online. If it's the former then you will probably be dealing with microfilmed copies of the papers and you will need to convert these images to digital format. The librarians/archivists should be able to advise you about this. They will probably insist that you sign a copyright declaration to say that you require the copies for your own private study. That is fine as you are claiming the section 29 exception for this purpose.

However when it comes to using websites like the British Newspaper Archive linked to above, you need to comply with the terms and conditions of that website. At first glance the statement "You can use the website for personal, academic or non-commercial purposes, subject to these Terms & conditions" sounds great, but it only covers your access to the website. Once you start digging into the details, you find a much more restrictive policy with regard to copyright (see this page for instance). However when it comes to the actual newspaper content, the law is as I have explained it above and you won't need to get extra permission if you are only using small and relevant snippets under the fair dealing exceptions (section 29 and 30). If you break the terms and conditions of the BNA website, that would be a matter of contract law, not copyright. An alternative to using the BNA website is to physically visit the British Library Newspaper reading rooms at St Pancras in London, or at Boston Spa in Lincolnshire. You would need to check what if any Covid restrictions are in place.

*The piece quoted is from Article 3 of the EU Information Society Directive ( 2001/29) which forms part of UK copyright law.

Re: History project

Posted: Sat Sep 11, 2021 2:04 pm
by JonBol
Thank you for this detailed explanation. It really is a minefield - interpretation of fair dealing and exceptions.
So I take it best avoid downloading from websites that may involve agreeing to terms and conditions, copy direct from originals.
As it will be a non-commercial project I can claim section 29 and I can share with others including by being able to download from a website.
The project will be in pdf format for download or sending by email or hard copy available at our local museum.
I suppose what concerns me is the "private study and research" being made available to others?

Re: History project

Posted: Sat Sep 11, 2021 2:36 pm
by AndyJ
Hi again JonBol,

Don't worry about sharing your work with others. Research which is kept private doesn't add to the richness of society's culture; it's rather like an archeologist who undercovers a Roman ruin, says to himself, 'that's interesting' and then covers it up again without telling anyone. The distinction is between those who release such research for its own sake, and those who only do so with a commercial motive in mind - rather like FindMyPast who own the BNA website.
Just make sure that you make it clear that you are relying on the section 29 and 30 exceptions so that others who read your work know its provenance, and that you are not in any way authorising your readers to use the material you have amassed for purposes that fall outside the rules. By sticking to pdfs it is much less likely that readers will casually take individual images or text and use* them in a way which is commercial or falls foul of the fair dealing rules in some other way.
Good luck with your project.

*And even if they do use your work inappropriately, that's not your problem.