Copyright on UK Magazine Articles

Tracing copyright owners and asking permission.
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bakuman
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Copyright on UK Magazine Articles

Post by bakuman » Wed Jul 30, 2014 8:35 pm

I'm working on a book that republishes articles from a UK magazine from roughly 1880-1930, so I was interested in your discussion from this thread:
But for publications originating in the UK or other European countries, different rules apply. Broadly these rules are the author's lifetime + 50 or 70 years mentioned above. The problem this poses with magazines is that you would need to ascertain the dates of death of all the writers, photographers and artists who contributed to each edition in order to find out whether overall the work could be still in copyright. If you consider a young writer (say in his mid twenties) who contributed an article to an edition published in 1900, who then went on to live until he was 90 (so his year of death was 1965), his work would still be in copyright today and could have another 23 or so years to go. Trying to track down the heirs of such people to obtain permission to re-publish the copyright work is a near impossible task.
Very clear. The question I have is who holds the copyright from articles of that era -- the magazine or the authors? Was the equivalent of first North American serial rights in use then?

And does it make a difference between articles by staff writers, which I assume the magazine owns, and by freelancers?

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Wed Jul 30, 2014 10:56 pm

Hi bakuman,

The rule throughout the period 1911 to the present day is that if the actual author of an article is directly employed as a staff writer then his employer will be the owner of the copyright.
And for any work by a freelance writer, the copyright will be owned by that person, unless he assigns the copyright as part of an agreement with the publisher. It is impossible to generalise about how often assignments would have been made in this way.

Between 1842 and 1911, the rules which applied to all authors were the same as those for freelancers thereafter, that is to say copyright belonged to the author ab initio, but could be assigned at the time the article etc was bought by a publisher.

Separately, from 1862 until the 1988 Act came into force, if an engraving, painting or photograph was specially commissioned from a freelance artist or photographer by a publisher, then the publisher would own the copyright, unless some special agreement to the contrary was agreed.

I don't have any information about the sorts of publication rights which authors and publishers negotiated, such as first rights or serial rights, as these would vary depending on the types of publication involved. I think the best place to find out that sort of detail would be the Worshipful Company of Stationers*, or possibly the St Bride Museum of Printing. It is possible that the British Library would also hold that kind of information.

*Copies of some of the archives of the Company of Stationers are held on microfiche by various libraries around the UK, North America, Australia and New Zealand. More details can be found under the 'heritage' tab of the menu on their website.
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

bakuman
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Post by bakuman » Thu Jul 31, 2014 10:49 pm

Thank you! That helps me moving forward as I contact the various potential rights holders.

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