Postcard image copyright

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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JFPpostcardauthor
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Postcard image copyright

Post by JFPpostcardauthor » Thu Nov 09, 2017 11:11 am

I'm looking to write a book on the art postcards of a WW2 cartoon artist. He died in 1983; I have been trying to contact surviving members of his family for permission to reproduce the postcard pictures, but have had no success. The postcard images were also used by a national newspaper of the period (now defunct), so I cannot contact them for any image copyright issues. What is my next step?

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AndyJ
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Re: Postcard image copyright

Post by AndyJ » Thu Nov 09, 2017 4:26 pm

Hi JFP,

As the artist died relatively recently (in copyright terms!), his work will remain protected by copyright until 1 January 2054. However the fact that you have not been able to track down his heirs or the publishers of his work does not entirely rule out being able to exploit his work.
Provided that you have carried out a really dilligent search for the putative owners of the copyright, you may be able to get an orphan works licence from the IPO which would indemnify you against any claim which arose in the future should an heir came forward later.

You can find full details of the system here.

A word of caution, though. It may be that the artist was commissioned to produce the artwork under contract to, or even as an employee of, a postcard publishing company. If this is the case then the company or its successors (rather than the newspaper) will own the copyright today. It may require a certain amount of research at Companies House and any trade associations to discover who might be the successors to the original publishers. It is fairly rare, even when a company goes into administration or bankruptcy, for there to be no successor in title for the more valuable assets of a business. Either another publisher or a picture library may own the rights to this artist's work today. If a picture library is involved, you may be able to discover which one by using a search tool set up by the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies.
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

JFPpostcardauthor
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Re: Postcard image copyright

Post by JFPpostcardauthor » Fri Nov 10, 2017 12:08 pm

Many thanks for this.

The publisher's copyrights are impossible to track down: it was Tuck's Postcards, who then were dissolved into various companies, before being absorbed by Maxwell's, this before they closed down as well!!

I have followed your advice.

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