Historic Photos and Press Agencies

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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andyb
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Historic Photos and Press Agencies

Post by andyb » Wed Nov 11, 2009 11:09 am

Hello all - hope you can assist/advise with this

I'm a volunteer for a UK organisation, and am helping with a project to digitize their collection of original (pre WW2) photographs.

Many of the photographs have no identification stamp on them, they were taken by miscellaneous people within the organisation that can no longer be traced etc, and the organisation are happy for these to eventually be made available online (through the Flickr Commons)

Many of the photographs bear a stamp that mentions the photographer's name. I understand that the copyright expires 70 years after the person's death, and it is up to us to determine this before we do anything further?

However, many of the photographs only bear a stamp of a press agency. Some are recognisable as still being in existence, but many seem to now be untraceable either by their name, address details etc.

Can anyone advise on the correct procedure here? Should these agencies be classified as 'unknown author', thereby meaning that copyright expires after 70 years of creation or publication?

Many thanks in advance

AB

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CopyrightAid
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Post by CopyrightAid » Thu Nov 12, 2009 8:57 am

Yes. It is up to you to determine if copyright has expired and obtain the consent of the current copyright owner if it has not. By definition if you cannot trace the current owner, you have not obtained permission.

As you say, when the Act talks about 'unknown authorship' it is in relation to the duration of copyright in the work - as dealt with in section 12 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act - if you have not done so, I recommend that you read the whole section (and surrounding sections) via an 'up to date' copy of the Act, but the important bit is
(3) If the work is of unknown authorship, copyright expires-
(a) at the end of the period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was made, or
(b) if during that period the work is made available to the public, at the end of the period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which it is first so made available,
This is qualified in section 10 as:
For the purposes of this Part the identity of an author is regarded as unknown if it is not possible for a person to ascertain his identity by reasonable inquiry; but if his identity is once known it shall not subsequently be regarded as unknown.
So if you are basing your defense on the fact that you thought authorship was unknown, I would advise you to keep records of your efforts to trace the copyright owner so you can demonstrate that you have tried to 'ascertain his identity by reasonable inquiry' - this should help your case if the copyright owner later appears and complains.

andyb
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Post by andyb » Fri Nov 13, 2009 9:24 am

many thanks for your advice!

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:50 pm

Just to add to CopyrightAid's very full answer, it is also worth bearing in mind that prior to the 1988 Act the holder of the copyright was very often not the photographer, but the person who commissioned the photograph. And even today, an employee who takes photographs for his employer does not own the copyright - his employer does. So if you have a number of what appear to be 'official' or commercial photographs (as opposed to Joe Bloggs's old snaps) finding the photographer may not be necessary; you need to find the company or organisation which employed him. Also, bear in mind that any photographs produced for or by government departments will be subject to Crown Copyright which generally speaking lasts for 125 years from the date the image was taken or if it was published, 50 years from the end of the year of publication. See Section 163 of the CDPA 1988 for more details.

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