Using 1940's 50's labels / posters in artwork

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Creative Carer
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Using 1940's 50's labels / posters in artwork

Post by Creative Carer » Mon Feb 27, 2017 2:09 pm

Hello
I am completely new to all this and would be grateful for any advice!
I am creating some art work for use with Dementia patients using old food logos / posters etc. As I am not directly copying the images but artistically interpreting them could this still infringe copyright?
If I buy images from Shutterstock will this overcome the copyright worry?
Also in my collage I am wanting to use phrases like "We'll Meet Again" taken from Vera Lynn's famous war song. Is it OK to use those words?
I am hoping to sell my art so want to be 100% above board with what Im doing but I have no idea how to start searching for the owners of the images I wish to use so any suggestions would be welcomed :)

Thank you
Heather

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Post by AndyJ » Mon Feb 27, 2017 3:14 pm

Hi Heather,

As long as your artwork is entirely derivative rather than copied you should be fine. But you need to be constantly on the lookout for unconscious copying. However, you mention logos (and by extension I assume you will also want to use advertising slogans), which in addition to being covered by copyright, may also be registered as trade marks. That said registration of old marks lapses after 10 years if not renewed and in any case lack of use in the course of trade for a continuous period of 5 years is usually sufficient for a current registration to be revoked

Using images under licence from picture agencies such as Shutterstock would be much safer, but make sure that you get the right sort of licence for your proposed usage. You can end up paying far more than you need to for a licence which is too broad, so if in doubt ask the agency for advice.

The words 'We'll meet again' are not protected by copyright even though they form part of a famous song, the lyrics of which are still in copyright (and will be until 2066). This is because this short phrase falls into the de minimis category - too trivial for the courts to be bothered with. Also there is only one registered trade mark containing these words, but unless you intend to use the words in connection with clothing, that will not present any problems. Similar constraints may apply to other song titles and advertising slogans, although if only a few words are involved (especially if they are the title of the song), the problem of copyright infringement can usually be ignored.

Since I assume that you will be dealing mainly with well-known and iconic images etc from the past, the task of finding current owners of any copyright in them should be somewhat easier as these will tend to be among the better documented items. Specialist museums (such as the Museum of Brands, the V&A and so on) may be able to help, and you will find that there are many collectors groups (eg Poster Collectors) with a wealth of knowledge on extremely esoteric subjects - you just need to google the right phrases to find them. If you can track down the current owners of the assets of a long defunct company, getting permission to use their old material for this purpose shouldn't be too difficult.
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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Reply - 1940's 50's labels / posters in artwork

Post by Creative Carer » Mon Feb 27, 2017 7:31 pm

Hi Andy
thank you so much for your most helpful reply. Im very nervous of doing anything wrong so really want to get permission from the companies / owners ... Im currently waiting to hear back from Nestle who have an actual form Ive filled out called APPLICATION FOR PERMISSION TO USE
NESTLÉ BRANDS AND REGISTERED TRADE MARKS ... so I guess if Im granted permission that will cover copyright & Trademark ...I hadnt realised Trade Mark was a concern too!
Have you any suggestions who to contact for war poster permission - would it be the Imperial War Museum? I believe they charge £79 for one image :(
Also do you know if the Museum of Brands owns the copyright to all the images in Mr Opie's scrap books?
Thank you again for all your help and apologies for the many questions
Kind Regards
Heather

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Post by AndyJ » Mon Feb 27, 2017 8:49 pm

Hi Heather,

I hope you have luck with the Nestle request.

As for war posters, it may be necessary to distinguish between the original posters themselves which being Crown Copyright are now out of copyright protection, and any modern day digital versions over which someone may claim copyright. If you have found the ones you want at the IWM, then this might be a sensible place to start. However if they want to charge you £79, it is worth finding alternative sources, preferably of the real thing which you can photograph yourself. Try local museums which are staging WW1 or WW2 exhibitions. The IWM does not have a monopoly over such things.

And as for the Museum of Brands, I think it is unlikely that either the museum or Robert Opie himself will own any copyright in the items there. I know he has had extensive co-operation from the advertising industry as well as many companies, but I doubt if that extends to the transfer of copyright itself. Items in the gift shop will no doubt have been produced under licence where this is necessary.
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Reply to 1940's 50's labels / posters in artwork

Post by Creative Carer » Wed Mar 01, 2017 12:45 pm

Hi Andy
Thank you so much for your reply and most useful suggestions.
I think the easiest way forward with this project would be to paint all the adverts myself being careful not to exactly copy. I assume its OK to perhaps change up the colours ... maybe using black & white / sepia which would give an older feel anyway.
Can I ask another couple of questions please Andy ... firstly if I was to paint a bookshelf full of books could I put titles & authors from 1940s on the books? Or would that not be acceptable? I just don't know if thats permitted but I see that as a way of evoking memories of this era without actually copying any art / trade mark.
Also how could I find out which war posters were Crown Copyright so now out of copyright protection? If I could identify which ones were ok to use, Im sure I could find images on the internet that I could safely put in to my art.

Thank you once again Andy & look forward to hearing from you when you get a minute :)

Kind Regards
Heather

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Post by AndyJ » Wed Mar 01, 2017 7:14 pm

Hi Heather,

I can't see any problem with the shelf full of books idea. Book titles don't qualify for copyright.

I think it is safe to assume that any poster which has a general war-related public information message - 'Dig for Victory', 'Walls Have Ears' and so on - will have been produced under Crown Copyright. If you come across a poster you are not sure about, you can check with the National Archives. That is the same place to go for permission to use Crown Copyright material not released under the Open Government Licence. Incidentally, if you live anywhere near Kew in South West London, a visit to the National Archives might provide you the opportunity to see some of the actual posters and photograph them for yourself, thus circumventing the IWM's exorbitant prices. That said TNA also have their own line of money-making images!

Remember that several organisations which we now regard as 'government owned', such as the railways, were of course in private ownership prior to nationalisation in 1948, therefore pre-war or wartime posters from such companies etc will not be covered by Crown Copyright.
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Post by Creative Carer » Wed Mar 01, 2017 9:04 pm

Andy
Thank you so much! You really are incredibly helpful and Im very grateful for your ideas and suggestions :)
Kindest Regards
Heather

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Post by Creative Carer » Thu Mar 02, 2017 7:13 pm

Hi again Andy
Ive been trying to understand the Crown Copyright thing you mentioned and the Open Government licence. Can you suggest where the best place to find 1940s images that fall into this free to use category would be? I have emailed the national archieves but havent had a reply. You know so much ... I was hoping you maybe able to point me in the direction of a website where I can find some useful images that are out of copyright :)
Thanks again
Heather

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Post by AndyJ » Thu Mar 02, 2017 9:51 pm

Hi Heather,

I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I don't know of any particular site where you can find lots of out-of-copyright images of the type you are seeking. Your best bet may be amateur collectors who have already hunted down and photographed some original items, and who aren't interested in making money from their research, in the way that the IWM and TNA, regrettably, are motivated.

The only other thing I can suggest is that if you not already affiliated with a charity which is working in the area of dementia, having such an organisation behind your project might open a few more doors, especially with archives such as TNA who might then be more amenable to licensing some of their stock of images either for free, or at much reduced rates.

I assume you have already done a google image search using something like "world war 2 posters public domain"
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Post by Creative Carer » Fri Mar 03, 2017 6:37 am

Hi Andy!
You have been helpful as always with some great ideas. I was thinking of approaching the Alzheimer's Society so I think that will be my next stop!
Kindest Regards and Many many thanks once again :)
Heather

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