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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
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Experience:  Qualified Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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I have several old pictures from the 1950s. I don.t know if

Customer Question

I have several old pictures from the 1950s. I don.t know if they are copyright protected. How do I find out?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.

Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is Ben and it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today.

Ben Jones :

There is unfortunately no easy way to find out whether the pictures are copyright protected or who owns the copyright. Unless there are clues on the photos themselves, such as a copyright notice, then the law would provide an automatic copyright to their creator, who would be the person that took the photos in the first place. The copyright would continue to exist until a specific date which would depend on the circumstances and whether the photographer was known and also when the photographs were actually taken. This can be somewhat complex to work out so I will summarise it below.

If the photographer is known:

  • Copyright expires 70 years after the end of the year of the author’s death, whether the photograph was published or not, except in the case of photographs taken between 1 June 1957 & 31 July 1989.
  • The copyright in photographs taken between 1 June 1957 & 31 July 1989 expires on 31 December 2039, if the photograph was not published before 1 August 1989 and the author died before 1 January 1969.
  • If the photograph was published before 1 August 1989, and the author died more than 20 years before publication, the copyright expires 50 years after the end of the year in which the work was published.

If the photographer is unknown:

  • Copyright expires 70 years after the end of the year in which the photograph was taken or was made available to the public. If the identity of the author becomes known before the copyright expires, the rules above would apply.
  • Copyright in photographs created between 1 June 1957 and 1 January 1969 expires on 31 December 2039, if the photograph was not published before 1 August 1989 and if it is not made available to the public before 1 January 2040.
  • However, if such photographs have been published before 1 August 1989, the copyright expires 70 years after the end of the year in which the work was published.

As you can see there are a number of factors that would affect the copyright duration and you would need to work out which ones apply, depending on the information known about the photographs in question.

Ben Jones :

Hope this clarifies your position? If you could please let me know that would be great, thank you

JACUSTOMER-vu9hl2pa- :

Last Saturday, 21st June 2014, I received an ‘Unauthorised Use Notification’ from Getty Images saying we have used one of their images on our blog.

To celebrate Pancake Day 2013 (12 February 2013) we wrote a few lines on our blog and randomly selected a very small picture of pancakes from a mass of pictures available online. There was no indication that the image was copyright protected when we added the picture to our blog.

Getty Images claim that the pancake image is one of their images and we should now pay them £670 within 14 days from the date of their letter (17th June 2014)

We find this very unfair.

Could you advise me if there is anything that I can do about this?

JACUSTOMER-vu9hl2pa- :

Last Saturday, 21st June 2014, I received an ‘Unauthorised Use Notification’ from Getty Images saying we have used one of their images on our blog.

To celebrate Pancake Day 2013 (12 February 2013) we wrote a few lines on our blog and randomly selected a very small picture of pancakes from a mass of pictures available online. There was no indication that the image was copyright protected when we added the picture to our blog.

Getty Images claim that the pancake image is one of their images and we should now pay them £670 within 14 days from the date of their letter (17th June 2014)

We find this very unfair.

Could you advise me if there is anything that I can do about this?

Ben Jones :

Apologies for that, there is a bug in the system which we sometimes get and it prevents you from posting your rating. Instead, you can just type your selection on here (e.g. OK, Good, Excellent) then we will process it manually later. Thank you

Ben Jones :

Sorry ignore above post, it was done in error...back to your follow up query - it is not necessary for there to be any copyright notice in order for the image to be protected - copyright is automatically granted. In this case the likelihood is that Getty has purchased the copyright of the image in question and they are now its legal owner. In terms of the request letter, they are widely known for adopting such hardline tactics. Often the value of the demand will not be reasonable or reflective of the losses they have suffered. Whilst you may have breached their copyright, you should only be expected to pay them for any losses they have incurred as a result of this breach, for example the licence fee you would have paid had you gone and legally purchased the image from them. However, it is probably unlikely to be as high as £670. So you can refute their claim by arguing it is unreasonably high and ask them to prove how it was arrived at and for them to prove their losses. A good example of past letters written by someone who was met with the same request can be found here:

http://www.scribd.com/collections/3367532/Matthew-Chan-Correspondence-with-Getty-Images

Hope this clarifies your query? Look forward to hearing from you

Ben Jones :

Hello, I see you have accessed and read my answer to your query. Please let me know if this has answered your original question or if you need me to clarify anything else for you in relation to this? I just need to know whether to close the question or not? Thanks

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 2 years ago.
Hello Robert, could you please let me know if I have answered your original question or if you need me to clarify anything else for you in relation to this – this is needed so I can either keep the question open or close it if no further advice is required? Thank you

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