Victorian images - copyright free publications & website

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
Post Reply
MrsTwosheds
Regular Member
Regular Member
Posts: 43
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2016 2:55 pm
Location: Ramsgate

Victorian images - copyright free publications & website

Post by MrsTwosheds » Thu Mar 31, 2016 8:43 am

Hi Andy

I have another query, if I may please, relating to the use of Victorian images. On a recent post, I blithely mentioned the fact that I usually 'played safe' by using Dover Publications or Graphics Fairy clip art for my needlework.

A ghastly thought has now struck! Are these sources - both based, as they are, in the US - as safe as I (and most of the UK crafting community) believe them to be? Dover Publications have been sold worldwide for decades, and it has never crossed my mind that the images may be unavailable for use in the UK (they even have a UK bookshop). I have looked at the Dover website and examined all the standard information on one of their more recent publications to no avail - I can find no reference to copyright other than in a general sense. I am now very worried that I may have been trampling over copyright laws for very many years! The only consolation seems to be that Dover sometimes state their sources, so I can check the artist out myself.

On closer examination, the Graphics Fairy seems to be (quite truthfully and reasonably) abdicating responsibility for any use of her images as she has issued a disclaimer stating quite clearly that she is using the US copyright laws as she understands them and that, although she checks her work thoroughly and is personally confident of its legality, there is no legal redress in the event of subsequent law suits, loss of earnings, etc. Her images are free, widely copied and used by craftspeople and liberally sprinkled throughout the internet craft sites. She doesn't disclose her sources (which is, I guess, understandable) but images are accompanied by remarks, such as 'scanned from an antique design book'. She will not publish anything which she does not herself own a hard copy of, so is reliable in the sense that images are not just gaily taken from the web at large. I see that US based sellers on Etsy are selling downloads of her images for copyright free usage without any mention of limitations with regards to country of use.

I am now eyeing my work based on these sources with a very jaundiced eye! Does this mean that I could be heavily fined (or even imprisoned!) for using a Victorian image in the UK, of which there are a literally thousands of copies and interpretations swilling around in the US and on the net? Has this ever happened to your knowledge?

Many thanks and very best regards

Sally

User avatar
AndyJ
Oracle
Oracle
Posts: 1938
Joined: Fri Jan 29, 2010 12:43 am

Post by AndyJ » Thu Mar 31, 2016 6:53 pm

Hi Sally,

I don't think you need to prepare for a hefty fine or a long spell in prison!

I feel sure that, as you have found with the Graphics Fairy, Dover will be operating within its understanding of US law and it is possible that, occasionally, problems may occur where the artist or photographer concerned is/was a non-US citizen. An extreme example would be a work by a Spanish artist living in Spain, which was published in the USA (before 1976) without the adequate 'formalities', such as a copyright notice. Under US law at the time, the work would not be entitled to copyright there at all. However back in Spain the artist would have been entitled to a term of copyright covering his lifetime plus 80 years.

On that basis the works you need to pay particular attention to are those where you believe the artist etc may not have been a US citizen or someone resident there when the work was created. Should the artist be anonymous, then you only have to satisfy yourself that first publication took place more than 70 years ago, and section 12(3) will apply.

But even if inadvertently you have previously used a work where the copyright issue is unclear, the fact that you have produced your embroideries for exhibition locally in your town (possibly for a limited time?) means that the chances of the legal owner of the copyright in the original work becoming aware of your copy is very slight indeed, and secondly given that you only produce one copy and do not appear to be offering it for sale, there could be no question of a criminal charge. Yes, technically, as a matter of civil law you would be liable for infringement under section 17 but I very much doubt if you are likely to be sued since there so little, financially speaking, at stake for the copyright owner. Realistically, at most you may be asked to pay a retrospective usage fee, which I would expect to be in the tens, rather than hundreds, of pounds.

But I should stress that the chances of you being liable are very slim. I note that Doverbooks.co.uk is clearly selling these source books as copyright free, and as a business subject to UK jurisdiction, one has to assume that they have satisfied themselves that their products are compliant with UK law. Assuming they have not been sued so far, neither should you be! A disgruntled copyright owner is far more likely to go after a profitable business, rather than an artist who is not making a profit from her work.
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

MrsTwosheds
Regular Member
Regular Member
Posts: 43
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2016 2:55 pm
Location: Ramsgate

Post by MrsTwosheds » Thu Mar 31, 2016 7:08 pm

Hi Andy

Thank you so much for your speedy and helpful reply.

Phew! At least I won't be spending the near future behind bars, which is good to know. I was beginning to think that embroidery was becoming a very dangerous pastime indeed!

Very many thanks again for your kind and sensible response.

Best regards

Sally

Post Reply