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Reproducing old photographs + a moral rights question.

Posted: Wed Oct 07, 2020 1:22 pm
by forky4
Hi there

I have bought several UK black and white photos and postcards dating from the Edwardian Era.
I'm exploring the idea of rephotographing some select images, cleaning them up in photoshop and selling them as greetings cards / prints.

Some of the images may have been personal and unpublished photos(photographer unknown) and some are photographic postcards (RPP) that have been published and can be dated accurately with the postmark. Due to the style of clothes and where I bought them from (sold as Edwardian) I am confident they are authentic in terms of age. To err on the side of caution I'm not looking to source any images that are post 1920s.

From reading other posts on this forum, because the images were taken pre 1945, am I correct in assuming they will no longer be under copyright and I will be free to clean them up and republish them and sell them as new prints in the form of greetings cards. If the original photographer / publisher was known I would look to attribute it (if known) - would that be a sensible course of action?

I was considering offering a bespoke service whereby a customer can submit an image of their own face digitally and I can replace the persons face on the old photo (using digital software), so for example it could be an image of that person in Edwardian clothes looking dandy. It would still retain the rest of the original image, it's solely the facial features I am switching. These would be done to look like they are original and sold as bespoke greetings cards / prints. It may also involve adding additional text to the image. e.g 'You are invited to my party'. These altered images may be used to advertise the service on the world wide web.

Moral rights
I'm not looking to do this in a derogatory way, but the relatives/decendants of the original photographer and people in the photo may not see it the same way. Am I correct in thinking with the age of the photos they will be out of copyright, and the moral rights expire with copyright for UK images that are pre 1945?
You seemed to indicate this at the very end of this post, but that may have been as an artist as opposed to a photograph. ... last#p7629

I wanted to check if this was correct or if I am heading into a pile of banana skins, or if there were other moral rights/issues I am not aware of that may come into play that I should be aware of.

On a separate note, I am conscious the valuable feedback you give here is free and without any warranty. Do you offer a paid service option on a commercial basis.

Re: Reproducing old photographs + a moral rights question.

Posted: Wed Oct 07, 2020 7:17 pm
by AndyJ
Hi forky4,

Given their age, these photographs, whether published or not, will now be out of copyright for the reasons you have already uncovered in other threads here. They will all have been subject to the 1911 Copyright Act which made a clear distinction between photographs (with copyright term of 50 years from when they were made) and other types of artistic works (where the term of copyright was the lifetime of the author or artist plus 50 years after their death).

Neither the 1911 nor 1956 Copyright Acts dealt with moral rights, and copyright in these the particular photographic works would have ceased to apply by the time of the 1988 Copyright Designs and Patents Act, which first introduced the concept into UK law. So you need have no worries about moral rights, or about your idea for modifying the original photographs.

I can't think of any other issues which you need to be aware of. Although theoretically a person shown in the photographs, if they were very young at the time, might still be alive today, but I think it is highly unlikely that anything you propose to do with the images could raise any kind of privacy issue concerning those portrayed.

And, no, I don't offer any separate paid-for advice service.

Re: Reproducing old photographs + a moral rights question.

Posted: Thu Oct 08, 2020 10:33 pm
by forky4
Hi Andy

Thankyou so much for your quick and detailed reply, that's really useful, as is the entire forum, full of fascinating stuff. Thanks.