Photos of magazine covers in a blog

Advice for those new to the concepts of copyright
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Photos of magazine covers in a blog

Post by stella »


I've been asked to setup a blog at work. We deal with a lot of magazines and books, mainly from 1920's onwards. We are hoping to use images from/of the various covers. If I take my own photos of these things can I use them in a blog? The blog would be linked to a workplace website to promote the material held and not used to make money (it's a library where money is made through funding rather than sales, etc.).

The title I have looked at first is from 1928. The illustrator died in 1985. I believe that the copyright for using the articles inthe magazine would be valid for 100 years, I just can't seem to work out if I can use the cover image.

Any help you could give me would be much appreciated.

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Post by AndyJ »

Hi Stella,
You have followed the correct method to determine whether something may still be in copyright by finding out the date of death of the author or in this case, the artist. You then need to add 70 years from the end of the year of death, so in the case you quote, copyright in the cover illustration will last until 2056. The articles within the magazine will be similarly protected depending on the life of the respective authors plus 70 years. Where the author is uknown the copyright term is 70 years from the end of the year of publication. Bear in mind that if an article is written by a staff employee of the magazine (eg the editor) than the first copyright owner is the publisher, and not the individual writer.

However the way you wish to use the images of magazine covers may fall within a sort of unofficial fairdealing category, in the same way that Amazon, eBay or other online stores will use an image of a book or magazine to illustrate what they are offering for sale. It is their equivalent of putting books on display in a shop window. The difference is that Waterstones do not need to make a copy of a book to put it in their window, but Amazon obviously do to put it online.

The current UK copyright law was written before the World Wide Web had been invented, so not unreasonably it does not cover this type of use. However there is some caselaw which holds that use of thumbnail images in this way does not infringe copyright. The key is to keep the thumbnails small and low resolution, and not have them linked to higher quality images. On that basis I do not think any publisher is likely to object. Obviously if the publisher still exists, you can strengthen your position by obtaining permission in advance, and if the publisher has gone out of business, then it is less likely that anyone will object. Technically though it has to be said that there is no cast-iron defence you can rely on should the estate of an artist choose to bring a case, although I think the chances of complainant succeeding are very slim.

You do not explain exactly how your blog will operate, but if it is in the nature of a critical review of holdings within the library - perhaps a brief resumé of the articles - then the fairdealing exemption for the purposes of criticism or review is likely to apply, and therefore there will be no infringement.

I hope this helps.
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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