Creating a new body of work for personal use

Tracing copyright owners and asking permission.
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Linda Lashford
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Creating a new body of work for personal use

Post by Linda Lashford »

I am a photographer and am in the process of exploring the relationship between the creation of my own photographs and poetry. I am using a small number of poems as a stimulus to create further photographs - essentially this is an exercise in private development and study. However, eventually I would like to bring together the inspirational poem (or more often, the extract) and the photographs into a single portfolio. My intention would be to have the portfolio self-published, but initially only for my personal use and not for general public distribution.

Does this use infringe copyright?

Pushing the boundaries.......

If this use is permissible, is there a limit to the number I can print to distribute to friends?

Can I hold an exhibition of my prints with the quotations alongside and not infringe copyright?
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Post by AndyJ »

Hi Linda,
It is probably easiest to split this into two parts.

Undertaking a project for your own portfolio would be acceptable under s. 29 of the CDPA, Fair Dealing for the Purposes of Research and Private Study. Technically this work should not be published (ie shown to anyone else) but as long as it was restricted to showing your work to close family and friends only, I doubt there would be any problem.

However if you wish to publish your work more widely, for instance in an exhibition as you suggest, then the fair dealing provision would no longer apply.

Whether or not your use of the poetry is then infringement is largely a matter of whether the amount of copying is substantial: this can mean either in terms of quantity or whether the words quoted form the essence of the copyright work. The quantity test is fairly simple to appreciate. But the qualitative test is much more subjective. Take the John Betjeman poem Slough*: say you used the words 'Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough' beside an image of Slough town centre, then it is arguable that the quote, both because of its popularity and the fact that it sums up the expression of Betjeman's point of view, could be seen as the essence of the poem, and thus a substantial part for copyright purposes. Since it seems likely for the purposes of your project that you may want to use more meaningful quotations, this is something you need to be careful about. And don't forget to credit the author as this is their moral right, just as it is yours to be credited as the author of your photographs. If in doubt try contacting the poet or their publisher for permission. If you explain the project, it should not be difficult to obtain permission at no cost.

* John Betjeman 1906 -1984: Slough
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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