Publishing old photographs

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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Publishing old photographs

Post by mariner »

I am self-publishing a biography of a clerical magistrate who lived from 1772-1850. I want to use three photographs of buildings associated with this man that were taken in the early twentieth century. A friend obtained them on e-bay and shared them with me. There is no information as to their origin. I don't believe them to be in copyright. Am I right? The book I am publishing will have a print run of just 200 and I will not make any profit (if this is relevant to the answer).

I also wish to use 5 images from a book published in 1899. The author died in 1945 and the book has been reprinted and sold on Amazon as an Nabu Public Domain Reprint. I believe these images will be out of copyright. Am I correct?

Any help or reassurance will be very gratefully received. Thank you.
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Re: Publishing old photographs

Post by AndyJ »

Hi mariner,

I think both these sets of photographs are now in the public domain and you can freely use them for your project.

The three ebay images would have been covered by section 21 of the 1911 Copyright Act, which meant they would have been protected for 50 years from the date they were made. As long as they weren't created later than the end of 1944, this copyright term wouldn't have been extended by any subsequent legislation.

The images from the 1899 book would initially have been protected under an earlier statute (the 1862 Fine Art Copyright Act) but the term of protection would still have been running when the 1911 Act came into force and so we can apply the provisions of the later Act and get the same sort of result, namely that the images would have entered the public domain no later than 1949.
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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