Images of Advertisements and Companies used Commercially

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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Dan J Wilson
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Images of Advertisements and Companies used Commercially

Post by Dan J Wilson »

As part of a Rental Business I plan to, along side other variable items, offer a folding sign that can hold different images depending on the customer.

This is part of a nostalgia market and so images may include old advertisements for Yorkshire Tea or old Coca Cola posters. Would this infringe on the law? And if so, would a loop hole be there if the only thing paid for is the fold sign itself and the image placed inside was considered 'free' or a 'gift'?
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Post by AndyJ »

Hi Dan,
Regrettably I think most posters of this sort which were created during the twentieth century will still be in copyright. This is because the duration of copyright is based of the lifetime of the artist who created the work plus 70 years. So the artist would have had to have died before 1943 for the work to be out of copyright. Clearly if you can find out the name of the artist and show that indeed he did die that long ago then you may be OK to use his work, but where the artist is effectively anonymous you can only make reasonable assumptions about his date of death, and I suggest that it would be reasonable to imagine a 25 year old artist creating a poster in 1901 and then also reasonable for him to have lived beyond the age of 66 (ie to have died after 1942), and thus for his work to remain in copyright today.
It doesn't matter what your stated motives are for reproducing a copyright work without permission, it would still amount to infringement, so no loop hole there I'm afraid.
However I think it is highly likely that the current owners of the copyright in this sort of posters will be the companies concerned. Normally with commissions of this nature the company will have insisted on the artist's copyright being transferred to them so that it could not be exploited by anyone else. Therefore if you approach the companies, you may be able to get permission to use the posters, hopefully for no more than a modest fee.
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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