Are Tenniel Alice in Wonderland images still under copyright

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woodman-46
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Are Tenniel Alice in Wonderland images still under copyright

Post by woodman-46 » Sun Sep 25, 2011 6:50 pm

Hello,
I sell old prints at shows but would like to sell certain images of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I would like to know if Tenniels illustrations are still under copyright and if not if I am able to copy certain images and sell them framed without infringing any copyrights.
I have done a bit of research and from what I have read it seems they are out of copyright and in the public domain but can anyone give me a definitive answer. Thanks in advance.
James

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Sun Sep 25, 2011 9:47 pm

Hi Woodman,
I think that on basis of the facts I have seen, you would be right in assuming that the original Tenniel illustrations are out of copyright. The Alice books in which the illustrations first appeared were published in 1865 (Wonderland) and 1871 (Looking Glass). The law that applied at the time the drawings were created was the Fine Art Copyright Act of 1862. Assuming that Tenniel or the publisher registered the copyright at Stationers Hall (this was mandatory for protection to exist) then the period of copyright would have been the period of the artist's life plus seven years. This would have taken the term to 1921, Tenniel having died in 1914. However a new Copyright Act was passed in 1911 and this extended the period after death to fifty years. This Act allowed for the term for works created before the Act came into force, but which were still in copyright, to benefit from the term extension. Thus copyright on the drawings lasted until the end of 1964. There were no further changes to copyright law until 1956 but this didn't change the term, so the original Tenniel drawings passed into the public domain in the UK in 1965. The original Alice books are also out of copyright since Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) died in 1898. The concept of rights in a typographical layout of a published edition (as a separate entity to the copyright in the text and illustrations themselves) did not come into being until the 1956 Act by which time the books themselves were long out of copyright.

But a word of warning. Modern copyright is much more complicated. So if for instance you were planning on using Project Gutenberg as the source of digitised versions of the drawings, you would be bound by their licence. If this is what you want to do, you should therefore read their terms carefully to ensure that you can comply with them.

However if you have access to the original editions and can produce your own scans with sufficient quality for your project, there should not be any licensing issues.

The law in the US is vastly more complicated when it comes to working out copyright terms, so if you intend to sell your framed illustrations in the US, you might need to re-check that they are in the public domain there also, based on the date they were first publsihed there. Wikipedia says Wonderland was published in the US in 1865, the same year as in the UK. I am pretty sure they are in the public domain there, because Project Gutenberg normally only work on public domain works.
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Post by bbloke » Wed Oct 26, 2016 5:59 pm

Sorry to dig up this old thread, but I've just spotted that Disney have several registered trademarks for 'Alice In Wonderland' on the IPO website.

Does that mean they have effectively blocked people from using these public domain images commercially?

Can anyone use them and describe them as 'alice in wonderland' pictures, or would that infringe the trademark?

Would you have to say something like 'picture of the mad hatter from that book about alice', which seems ludicrous, imo.

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Post by AndyJ » Wed Oct 26, 2016 7:05 pm

Hi Darren,

What Disney have registered are the words 'Alice in Wonderland' and nothing else as far as I can see, in the various classes listed in the link. So no, that wouldn't stop anyone using the Tenniel illustrations. And it would still be perfectly acceptable to use then words 'Alice in Wonderland' descriptively in respect of the drawings, just as it is for us to use them here to talk about the original book, since there is no practical alternative. Arguably Disney's registration of these words is open to challenge for several reasons, not least of which is that several other entities have over the years registered the words, or words similar to them, in a variety of classes some of which overlap the Disney classes.
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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