Messages on old postcards

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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ipixio
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Messages on old postcards

Post by ipixio » Mon Feb 04, 2013 3:33 pm

Hi, I've been reading all the old posts about reproducing old postcards, which is really interesting and helpful so thanks :) but I have a related and slightly different question. I'm less interested in reproducing the images on postcards than I am in reproducing the messages on the back, for sharing for the purpose of family history research. Are the messages themselves copyright? If so would the 70 year rule apply to them as well?

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Mon Feb 04, 2013 4:29 pm

Hi ipixio,
Yes the text on a postcard will usually be copyright as well, if it can be described as a creative work. Possibly something very short and banal such as 'wish you were here' wouldn't qualify, but I assume that equally that sort of message would be of less interest to you.
Copyright would be owned by the writer or their heir, and of course in many cases all you will have to go on is the signature which could be just a first name. The addressee might be more fruitful especially if they appear to be related to the sender, but even so, the chances of you tracking down the author are pretty slim. Which is a shame because it is highly likely that you would be able to get permission to use the text if you were able to track down the author or their heir. This leaves you with a moral dilemma: technically, copying the text would be infringement but the chances of the actual author identifying themselves from the text alone after all this time is very slim, and even if they did, it is unlikely they would be too bothered about it.
Works like this are known as orphans, and a bill currently going through Parliament contains provisions for orphan works to be licensed for use, providing a diligent search has been undertaken to find the author. It is not guaranteed that this will become law, but if it does, we should know by around October 2013 what the exact procedure and costs will be.
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

ipixio
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Post by ipixio » Tue Feb 05, 2013 12:26 pm

Thanks for this, interesting - I shall keep an eye on the bill! Most messages on postcards are bone-achingly banal to anyone unconnected with the writer, and that's kind of part of the charm ... but I guess the safest thing is not to reproduce either the pic or the text for searching/browsing purposes.
Thanks :)

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