victorian image

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gillybean
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victorian image

Post by gillybean » Sat Aug 21, 2010 11:56 am

I want to use an image in some art work but don't know how the copyright works on this. It is a line drawing taken from an original victorian toy theatre. I want to make some small wooden engravings based on the original victorian toy theatre kits. These designs are very old but reproductions of them are still available to buy today. If it is not okay to use them can I still do it if I change it in anyway?

Thanks

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Sat Aug 21, 2010 2:09 pm

I'm not entirely clear about the age of the image you are seeking to copy. If the original line drawing was itself made in Victorian times, then in all probability it is out of copyright since original artist is likely to have died prior to 1940 (copyright lasts for 70 years following the death of the artist).

However if the line drawing was created in more recent times, then it is possible it remains in copyright. Does the publication you mention as still being available have a credit for the artist or any other details attached to the image? It is possible it is an anonymous work (that is to say, all details of the original artist have been lost over time). If this is so, the starting point for the 70 year period is the end of the year in which it was first published. In other words the copyright period is generally shorter because if does not include the remainder of the lifetime of the artist following publication.

From your posting I get the impression that the line drawings are older than the more recent publication which you say reproduces the drawing.

Assuming that the original is out of copyright. amd the more recent publications have merely reproduced the older line drawing, then you will not infringe copyright if you copy the drawing, or sustantially base your new engravings on it. Copyright in an artistic work cannot be 'refreshed' by re-publishing it. The publishers of the newer work only have copyright in the typographical layout of their work, plus of course any original material they themselves created.

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Post by gillybean » Sat Aug 21, 2010 3:29 pm

Thank you so much for your quick reply. I went onto the website of the person ( T Griffin) I bought the theatre plan from and the following is from this site;

"Traditional Toy Theatre, reprints of nineteenth century sheets that you can use to make your own replicas"

On the front of the plan it says"Copyright: T Griffin" and it comes with a typed instruction sheet with " Copyright 1978 T Griffin"

These are obviously not his original work as he says they are reprints but he then claims the copyright so not sure where I would stand if I was to use them myself.

Any advice is appreciated here as I am really inspired to do this artwork but am stuck with this one issue!!

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Post by AndyJ » Sat Aug 21, 2010 5:01 pm

Thanks for the additional information. It sounds like you will be fine using the original line drawings as the basis of your engravings. The site may have a copyright notice, but that only applies to the construction of the website (the HTML etc ) and it's similar with the sheets he is offering for sale: it's the layout of the sheets and any additional notes he may have added which attract the copyright, not the original illustrations, which are now out of copyright. Lots of people don't understand all the details of copyright, and I suspect T Griffin may be one of them. If these are truly 'reprints' ie they are facsimiles of the original, then copyright cannot be resurrected for that part and no court would uphold a claim of infringement over that particular material.
Good luck with your project.

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Post by gillybean » Sat Aug 21, 2010 6:37 pm

Thank you so much for your advice, this has been really helpful. I will go ahead with the project with some confidence now!

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Post by AndyJ » Sat Aug 21, 2010 8:42 pm

Glad to have been of help. As postscript, I have just looked at the www.toytheartre.fsnet.co.uk website operated by Trevor Griffin, which I assume is the one you mentioned earlier. His copyright notice reads:
"Our Toy Theatre web pages and the Toy Theatre material which can be downloaded from them are the Copyright property of Trevor Griffin, however it may be freely reproduced subject to the condition that any reproductions are not sold or used for any illegal purpose."
This confirms my earlier opinion that Mr Griffin may not fully understand how copyright works. By giving a general public licence of this sort, he greatly diminshes his ability to enforce his rights in a court. What he has effectively espoused is a Creative Commons licence. http://creativecommons.org/choose/

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Post by gillybean » Sat Aug 21, 2010 8:54 pm

Wow you are good researching this for me! I hadn't seen that part on the site, does this mean that I can't sell the work i make using these images? Or am I still okay as he doesn't understand it himself and the original drawings are out of copyright? As you say it probably wouldn't hold up in a court though but I just want to be sure.

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Post by AndyJ » Sat Aug 21, 2010 9:49 pm

No, my original posting still stands. The line drawings you wish to use are no longer in copyright so you can reproduce them without any problem. Only if you took his sheets of instructions (which I assume are his own work unlike the drawings) or the text of his website and tried to sell them would there be any likelihood of infringement.
You will have complete copyright in the etchings you produce because although they may be derived from the earlier, out-of-copyright work, the etchings will contain your own creative input. As a result you (and your heirs) will have the full right to copy, licence, sell or otherwise exhibit your work for the whole of your lifetime, plus 70 years.
My only reason for writing the postscript was to amplify my thoughts on Mr Griffin's grasp of copyright law.

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Post by gillybean » Sun Aug 22, 2010 8:22 am

Excellent!! Thank you so much for you help

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