Frequently Asked Questions
am not qualified to give any formal legal opinion on
However, here are a few brief notes on my understanding
of the general situation in the UK. If you have a different interpretation of the copyright
rules, or if you can add anything to my comments below, please
These notes are based on my discussions
with librarians, galleries and other holders of collections and on reading
the book below and other reference books. However, I have been reluctant to quote directly from
these books for fear of infringing copyright!
'Copyright - Interpreting the Law for
Archives and Information Services'
[Graham P Cornish]
It is not practical to attempt to
summarise the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988, its subsequent
Statutory Instruments and other legislation in a few brief paragraphs.
However, I hope the comments below are of some assistance.
What is subject
All 'Original works' includes writings,
music, web sites, art, photographs, engravings, etc. are copyright. They
are protected by copyright whether or not they have been exhibited or
However, below I have looked only at the types of
work most relevant to this web site - writings, engravings and
When work is published, in addition to the copyright of
the original work, there is also copyright on the published document, e.g.
covering the layout and typescript used and the way an image is presented in a book or web site.
Copyright does not need to be registered
Copyright as described above applies
automatically. There is no need to register copyright with anybody (as is
necessary in the case of protecting a trademark or patent).
copyright on a photograph?
The answer to this question depends on whether:
photographer was acting as an individual or
(b) had been commissioned to take the photo for
another person or company.
If acting personally, the photographer would normally
own the copyright himself.
In the case of photographs or other commissioned work:
- for work commissioned before 1
August 1989, the person commissioning the photograph will normally own the
copyright on the work.
- for work commissioned from 1 August
1989 onwards, the photographer will normally own the copyright.
Transfer of Copyright
No matter who originally owns the copyright (as above)
it is possible to sell or transfer copyright ownership to another person.
e.g. a publisher.
Stubbs own copyright to all the photos on the edinphoto site?
These will normally be my own photos.
I own copyright for the original images and for the images on the web site.
If you wish to use any of them please ask me.
e.g. Underwood & Underwood views, albumen prints, cartes de
The originals will often have been
taken from my own collection. The copyright on the original images
will normally have been owned by somebody else and will normally have
However, I own the copyright on the web image that I have
created from these originals. So, for these images the position is:
- If you wish to copy one
of the images on the web site, please ask me
- If you have your own copy
of one of these 'out of copyright' images, or permission to reproduce it
from somebody else's copy, then, of course, you are free to reproduce it and
can disregard the copyright note below it on the EdinPhoto web site.
If I can help ...
I will always consider requests for use of images, and hope to be able to
help, whether it is by agreeing to your use of one of the images for which I
hold copyright, or by suggesting who you should contact for permission.
For both recent images and old images, in some cases I may be able to
provide a higher resolution scan than appears on the web site.
How long does
The general rules appear to be that:
(a) Copyright belonging to an individual lasts
until 70 years after
the end of the year in which the photographer or author died
(b) Copyright belonging to a company normally
lasts until 70 years after the end of the year in which the item was
published. (in practice, companies that publishe books of images taken
from old postcards seem to assume that this is the rule that applies to the
postcards. i.e. now, in 2011, they seem happy to reproduce old post cards
published up to 1940 without seeking copyright approval.
(c) If the author/photographer is anonymous,
copyright will expire 70 years after the date of publication.
or 50 years
Crown Copyright, including Ordnance Survey maps and other documents,
normally expires 50 years after the end of the year of publication.
Also, in the case of writings and
engravings, but not photos, published before 1969. If the
author was dead at the time of publication (as may well be the case for
books of old engravings) copyright will extend only until 50 years after the end of the
year of publication.
Also 25 years [typographical rights]
In addition to observing the photographer's or author's
copyright rights, it is necessary to observe the rights of the publisher's
rights. These rights, or typographical rights last for 25 years from the end
of the year of publication.
There are exemptions for 'Fair Dealing', which permit
small extracts from copyright works to be copied for research and private
Small extracts may also be taken for writing a review.
Copyright Owner Cannot be Traced
If all all reasonable steps*
have been taken to try to trace a copyright holder, without success, the the
Law permits the item to be reproduced provided a note is added to the
reproduction saying that attempts to trace the copyright holder have failed,
and inviting the copyright holder to make themself known to the publisher.
* The Law does not define
'all reasonable steps'.
Whether or not a photograph or other item is still in
copyright, if the item is owned by another person, then reproduction rights
have to be considered. See 5. below.
What are reproduction
The owner of an original photograph or
book or other items that is no longer subject to copyright, may reproduce
it - eg. as a single copy, or for inclusion in a book or on a web site.
Other People's Copies
However if the photograph or book is
owned by somebody else - perhaps it is a single item owned by an
individual, or a book, photograph, engraving, etc. forming part of a
collection in a library or gallery - then permission must be sought to
reproduce the item, either for individual use or publication.
The Right to Charge
The owner of the photo (or other item)
can decide whether or not to permit reproduction for a particular purpose.
Where they permit reproduction, they may impose conditions and it may make a
In practice I have found that libraries
and others have (in almost all
cases) been willing to allow me to use material
from their collections without making a charge, provided that I have given
appropriate acknowledgement. This may
well have been helped by the fact that my web site is entirely
copyright for Valentine Postcards?
St Andrews University
postcards that are still subject to copyright, I
believe that copyright may well be
held by St Andrews University Library. They
acquired most of the Valentine images when Valentine ceased trading. Their
St Andrews University Library
I believe that, in theory at least, whatever the
age of the postcard, there is also a "trademark" question to be considered.
i.e. The "JV" symbol is a trademark that should not be reproduced without
I don't know whether anybody would actually have
concern over this, bearing in mind that Valentines ceased trading many years
However, in many cases,
the 'JV' symbol appears outside the
picture area or on the extreme edge of the picture, so excluding it by
cropping or cloning would not normally be difficult, and
would not detract from the final image.
copyright for Underwood & Underwood?
Underwood & Underwood Stereo Views
Most or all of the images that I have seen by this company are stereo views
taken around the period 1890 to 1910 So:
a) I suspect that the company ceased to exist a long time ago.
made enquiries but not been able to trace what has happened to the company.)
b) My interpretation of the copyright law for the UK (though I am no
expert) is that these images will no longer be subject to the original
If my interpretation is correct, that
means that you should be able to reproduce copies of any of their images
from this period that you have, BUT if it is other people who have the
images, either as originals in their books or web sites, then you will have
to seek their permission before reproduce the images