Reproducing Book Dust jackets

Advice for those new to the concepts of copyright
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lamprhey
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Reproducing Book Dust jackets

Post by lamprhey » Tue Jul 09, 2013 7:11 pm

(First post to this forum -- hello everyone)

I am making a repository of information about book dust jackets, and I use software to restore each to its original condition. The repository is an excellent resource for bibliophiles who wish to know how jackets for different printings of a title can be identified and distinguished. This repository is available on the web and the site offers reproduction jackets for sale to help offset the cost of developing and maintaining the repository and website.

The dust jackets are mainly UK ones, issued earlier than 1979. With very few exceptions they bear no copyright markings. Publishers seem to treat them as ephemera, their purpose merely to stimulate book sales and to add promotional material. The publishers don't offer any kind of replacement service to book collectors whose original jackets are missing or damaged. They consequently bear no loss, it seems to me, when I sell a reproduction jacket.

Should I be concerned about copyright in this endeavour?

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Tue Jul 09, 2013 8:49 pm

Hi Lamprhey,
Unfortunately, yes, you do need to consider copyright here.
As most dust jackets will feature illustrations of some sort, they will be classed as artistic works, irrespective their actual artistic merit, and as such the artist will be entitled to copyright in his/her work. In most cases I would expect that the publishers will have taken ownership of the copyright as part of their commissioning process, but the duration of the copyright will be based on the artist's lifetime plus 70 years for more modern jackets - say anything published after about 1900.
The reason there is no specific copyright notice on a jacket is because it is not a legal requirement, and in any case the publishers will be relying on the copyright notice inside the book which may well include something to the effect that "no part of this publication may be reproduced [..] without permission."
However I think you are right that most people, including publishers, will tend to treat such things as ephemeral, and so I suggest that you should seek permission to continue recording these articles in the reasonable expectation that this will be granted. To save time, I suggest you ask publishers for blanket permission to include any of their titles for a given period, so that you will not need to keep bothering them each time you acquire another jacket you wish to include. This permission could also be given for former publishing companies whose lists have been passed on as a result of mergers and acquisitions with the publishing industry.
Although this will be fairly onerous initially, I suggest you do it this way, by contacting individual publishing houses where you have their details, because if you approach their licensing body - the PLS - you are far more likely to be asked to pay for a licence. However where you are unable to locate a publisher or its successor, you may need to consult either the PLS or the Publishers Association for more information.
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

lamprhey
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Post by lamprhey » Tue Jul 09, 2013 9:06 pm

Thanks Andy -- very helpful. I googled up a comment from a US copyright attorney to the effect that [in the US] copyright protection would not automatically extend to a book's dustjacket unless it bore its own copyright declaration, because the jacket was not physically part of the book. I wondered whether that situation had also obtained in the UK prior to the 1988 Act, in which case perhaps jackets issued before the Act would be public domain without explicit copyright declaration. Maybe wishful thinking, though!

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Post by AndyJ » Tue Jul 09, 2013 9:32 pm

lamprhey wrote: I googled up a comment from a US copyright attorney to the effect that [in the US] copyright protection would not automatically extend to a book's dustjacket unless it bore its own copyright declaration, because the jacket was not physically part of the book.
That would only apply to books published in the US prior to their 1988 Berne Convention Copyright Act. The current law (section 401 of USC Title 17) says a copyright notice may be placed on a work.
lamprhey wrote: I wondered whether that situation had also obtained in the UK prior to the 1988 Act, in which case perhaps jackets issued before the Act would be public domain without explicit copyright declaration. Maybe wishful thinking, though!
UK law has never required a copyright notice, because the Berne Convention (Article 5) to which the UK acceded in 1887 stipulates that there shall be no formalities to obtaining copyright. It was because the USA joined the Berne Convention in 1989 that it had to change its law.
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

lamprhey
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Post by lamprhey » Tue Jul 09, 2013 9:35 pm

Understood, thanks again!

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