Postcard Copyright- Museum, or the Artist?

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Helenoran462
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Postcard Copyright- Museum, or the Artist?

Post by Helenoran462 » Tue Nov 06, 2018 3:40 pm

Hello, Andy-

I am hoping to include photo collages as illustrations in with the novel I'm working on.

A vintage postcard I'd like to use was published in 1943 by the Museum of Natural History in Belgium. They printed a series of postcards of prints in their collection... birds, painted by Hubert Dubond (born in 1901, he died in Antwerp in 1981.) The card is listed on Ebay, but this is a similar one:

http://static.akpool.de/images/cards/194/1944782.jpg

I tried reading through the information in this article... The Public Domain vs. the Museum: The Limits of Copyright and Reproductions of Two-dimensional Works of Ar but it's left me more confused than ever!
https://www.jcms-journal.com/articles/1 ... s.1021217/

I can't make out if it's the museum that owns the copyright, (since they published the postcard) or the artist? If it's the artist, I don't see how I could go about optaining copyright permission, since I can't find out much about him online at all.
I am considering using some different cards if this one proves to be too difficult, but I'm still trying to track down their publishers- they are photos images, not artwork.

Thanks for any help you're able to give!

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Re: Postcard Copyright- Museum, or the Artist?

Post by AndyJ » Tue Nov 06, 2018 6:00 pm

Hi helen,

First of all thank you for the link to that paper on copyright in reproductions of two dimensional art etc. I hadn't seen it before.

As you have assumed, the original illustration is still in copyright as the artist only died in 1981, and copyright in European Union member states lasts for 70 years after the death of the author.

At a guess, the copyright in this case is probably owned by Hubert Dubond's heir, rather than, say, the postcard's publishers. If you are having difficulty in locating that person, I think it might be worth contacting the Belgian copyright collecting society for visual artists, SOFAM to see if they have a record of an heir. That said I have just entered Hubert Dubond's name in the search facility of their site and got no results. So assuming that avenue proves fruitless, then the Museum would be the next appropriate institution to contact, especially as it is their reproduction of the postcard which you would like to reproduce and it seems possble that they actually hold the original painting in their collection. However the question you need to ask of the Museum is whether or not they know who currently owns the copyright in the original artwork, and failing that, if the Museum has the authority to permit you to publish the image. Because the original image is still in copyright, the issue of whether the Museum owns a second copyright in their digital reporduction isn't really relevant in this instance.

Good luck with your venture.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

Helenoran462
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Re: Postcard Copyright- Museum, or the Artist?

Post by Helenoran462 » Fri Nov 16, 2018 9:30 am

Thanks for your help, Andy. :)

It proved to be too complicated, so I've gone with a simpler option- an Edwardian postcard with a photo on it of a stage actress in costume.

I did find this information on a similar postcard of around the same date, (same actress) saying it's believed to now be in the public domain. I cannot find the date of her death, despite numerous searches.

https://collections.nlm.nih.gov/catalog ... 611413-img

Would that be a factor, or is it simply down to the publisher of the card? The publisher was G.W. Faulkner.

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Re: Postcard Copyright- Museum, or the Artist?

Post by AndyJ » Fri Nov 16, 2018 11:39 am

Hi Helen,

As that is a US museum website they will be applying different legal criteria in coming to the conclusion that the image is probably in the public domain. The main provision of their law is that pretty much anything* published prior to 1923 is now in the public domain.

Under UK law because the picture was produced around 1908 we need to apply the 1911 Copyright Act, which said that all photographs had a copyright term of 50 years from the date they were made.

The date of death of the subject of the photograph is not relevant.

* there are a few special categories of works such as some unpublished works, which attract different terms of protection in the USA (full details here)
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

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