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Alex J.
Alex J., Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 3840
Experience:  Solicitors 2 years plus PQE
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We have the last pictures and etchings and a book describing

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We have the last pictures and etchings and a book describing a particular form of art, bought from the nephew of said artist in early 1980's. Money changed hands, and I clearly remember we were being given all rights to do what we could with keeping the memory of the artist alive. The nephew wanted us to produce the book as he had no knowledge or money to do it himself. Because we owned a picture gallery he thought we were better able. Although time has passed and my husband who purchased all the contents is now dead, my son, who now owns the gallery, and I, have decided we can go ahead with the publishing. The publisher says we should have written rights. I cannot find anything in my late husband's effects that refers to the buy. However my son can produce a letter from me which refers to details of the buy as my husband paid cash at the time. But there is no doubt in my mind that permission was given from the nephew. The artist died in 1955. I am talking about events early 1980. The nephew inherited from artist's will, but did not pass anything onto his wife who is now 90 and cannot remember details. I am also being plagued by someone who wants to reproduce prints from artist's pictures he owns after buying them in auction. He either wants permission from me for that or to see definite proof we have the rights.
How do I/we proceed?
Thank you for your question and welcome.
Without the written proof it is very difficult to proceed however I can give you the following guidance:
- I presume you intend to create your own adapted work from this artists books and writing therefore, you have opportunity to create your own copyrighted material. If you have the only copy, you are not at risk of anyone copying your idea (I say this to frame my following comments);
- Under the Copyright Design and Patent Act 1988 - Copyrights last for the life of the their creator plus 70 years. If the artist died then feesible in 10 years time you actually wont need any proof anyway;
- Secondly if you are certain you have all the rights to exploit this work, all I can suggest you do to give the publisher is offer the publisher an indemnity against any claims it might suffer from any third parties (i.e the artist relatives). If you frame this with the fact that the copyright will only last another ten years, and you are producing a new unique and derivative work from the material the risk of claim should actually be relatively minor.
In relation to the person who is asking you for the rights, if their is any chance that the artists wife might sue you in the next ten years, bare in mind that you might have to account to her for any profit you make.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Kind regards
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you for the advice to date, I have to go out now.

I intend to pass your information to my son this evening. I will return tomorrow at this time to ask further questions.

Is this permissible?

June Kelly

No problem.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Kind regards
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Sorry AJ I got a bit confused with getting back to you. I am actually 84 and though reasonably computer-literate, I am engaged in writing my 12th novel, see Amazon and Kindle - Isobel Kelly - sometimes...well you know, the brain cells don't connect.

Anyway, I could certainly manage to put a non-fiction book together and include all the writings of the artist plus the copies of some of the paintings he produced. Can I take it that if it were published like that under my name then it is counted as my original work and there is no come-back from anyone else? I presume that reproductions of pictures owned by people who have bought them via auctions or retail shops have to wait until the 'rights' become void?

Thank you for your reply, it has been helpful. I will still have to talk to son, Patrick ,but you have confirmed that having written evidence of Rights is essential. Will report back when I can.

Regards ***** *****

Thank you.
If you reproduce pictures and drawings you believe you have the right to reproduce, because you have purchased these rights from the deceased artist, then yes the only person that could potentially claim infringement would be the artist (and his successor in title) by denying you original agreement with the artist.
You have to consider the following:
(i) Did the artists potentially license or sell any of these work for commercial exploitation to any one else (simply buying a picture is not enough, it would have to be an assignment of the rights);
(ii) Really you have a legitimate and reasonable grounds for reproducing these works - you believe you have acquired their rights. Therefore this would preclude any likelihood of criminal copyright infringement - the worst that may happen to you is you receive a cease a desist letter and have to pay a licence fee. Conceptually for anyone to bring a claim against you they would likely have the same evidence issues you are having.
I look forward to hearing from you,
Kind regards
Alex J. and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi Alex,

Sorry for the delay, I was waiting on my son coming back to me to confirm he had spoken to the man who was bugging us for definite 'proof' of having full rights. He thought he could bully us into doing what he wanted, ie use what we have to enhance his own plans. My son has now found enough evidence in a search through the shop papers to convince this man or anyone that we have sufficient proof in official and private correspondence that indicates our purchase of the images and book constitute a contract. The artist is dead. The nephew who sold us his last effects is dead. The nephew's wife is ninety and was no part of any agreement or contract, therefore I would say there is no one to bring any charges. Your suggestion that I can use the artist's work in writing a biography under my own name is ***** ***** It will please the publisher I have been in touch with. Thank you Alex for your kind help in pointing us hopefully to a final ending of concern. I shall feel more comfortable once we are satisfied that the 'bully' knows he is powerless and leaves us alone.

It might be an idea to write a court room novel - in which case I'll come to you for ideas. Meanwhile my best wishes - from Over the Pond as you know by now I'm from the UK.

Sincerely ***** *****