French magazine images

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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Maddy
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French magazine images

Post by Maddy » Tue Dec 08, 2015 3:51 pm

I would like to know if it is legal to reproduce and sell the cover page illustration and internal illustrations from French magazines from the 1920s.

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Tue Dec 08, 2015 5:27 pm

Hi Maddy,

Although there are many differences, especially philosophical ones, between the British and French copyright law, both countries' laws are now subject to a degree of harmonisation due to various EU Directives concerning copyright. One of these areas is the duration of the copyright term, which is currently the lifetime of the author or artist plus 70 years. In both the UK and France, prior to the EU Copyright Term Directive of 1993, the term was lifetime plus 50 years. However due to some rather complicated rules imposed by the Directive which I won't cover here, the artist(s) responsible for the magazine covers would have needed to have died before 1 January 1945 for their work to be in public domain now. So if you are able to identify the name(s) of the artist(s) and can discover their dates of death, this may help you see if their work is in the public domain.

However if the artwork was produced anonymously, then the rule is that the copyright lasts for 70 years from the end of the year it was first published. This would mean any covers from the 1920s where the artist is anonymous are now in the public domain and you could freely re-publish them.

One final point to note is that if the artist(s) are identified by name (but not a pseudonym), and even if they died before 1945, you must credit them as the artists in any reproduction of their work. This is because under French law the droit de paternité is perpetual. This is one of number of moral rights owned by an author or artist, which French law treats far more seriously than we do in the UK (our moral rights only last as long as the copyright itself).
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

Maddy
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Post by Maddy » Tue Dec 08, 2015 6:03 pm

Hi Andy,

Many thanks for this - much appreciated. If the magazine illustration is already signed/initialled by the artist in its printed format and is clearly visible on the reprint, does that count as crediting them?

Also, does this mean that in the UK it is perfectly legal to copy, print and sell - e.g., Tenniel illustrations?

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Tue Dec 08, 2015 9:04 pm

Hi Maddy,

Under UK law I am reasonably sure that having the artist's signature on the artwork would suffice as a credit; however I'm not sure how the French courts would react to that solution.

And yes the same rules apply to English artists. Thus, John Tenniel having died in 1914, all of his published work came into the public domain on 1 January 1965. I know that seems different to the lifetime plus 70 years I mentioned before, but this is a case where the old copyright term (lifetime plus 50 years) would have expired well before the new rules came into effect and so there was no reviving of copyright, as would have been the case for works which ended their 50 year post mortem period between 1975 and 1995. I did mention it was complicated!
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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