Very old books

Tracing copyright owners and asking permission.
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Lumberjack
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Very old books

Post by Lumberjack » Sun Aug 06, 2017 8:30 pm

I have two very old books, published in London in 1847, full of engravings. It is obvious that everyone concerned with the production of these books are long dead. Whilst searching for information on one of the machines depicted, I found that some of the images are on the Alamy stock images site, available for use for a sum of money!
Do they have any more right than I have to use them? Will I be safe to use some of these images in my own publication, considering that the books in my posession are very obviously original, and 170 years old?
Al

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Mon Aug 07, 2017 8:25 am

Hi Lumberjack,

I think it is reasonable to assume that the illustrations in the books are out of copyright, and therefore you can freely re-use them.
As for Alamy's use of the images, I imagine they are merely exploiting the public domain works because they can. I assume that they or one of their contributors have made digital scans of the original illustrations and are now seeking to re-coup the cost of this exercise. It would be interesting to know if Alamy are claiming that copyright exists in the digital images, as this is a hotly contested area of the law (see page 3 of this IPO Copyright Notice (pdf)). I suspect that they will be claiming that it exists: a) because there is nothing in law to stop them making a false claim, and b) it helps them to protect their business model.
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

Lumberjack
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Post by Lumberjack » Mon Aug 07, 2017 9:10 am

Thank you. That is as I thought. The books are The Pictorial Gallery of Arts, published by Charles Cox, London in 1847 by, and contain literally thousands of engravings, a number of which I have now seen in Shutterstock and Alamy. So it looks like they have got their hands on copies of the books as well. I found mine on a car boot sale for £5 for the pair. ten by fourteen inches in size. I will only be using two or three images to add to my own writings. No doubt as long as I retain my original copies, I will be safe enough, as I can easily prove that I have not copied them off the internet.
Thanks for reply.
Al

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