Copyright of artistic works

I have been looking into copyright in relation to archived old photographs online. I’m just quoting some key facts for my own use here to be able to find them. Main source of information

You can look at a photograph and you can own a photograph but you cannot profit from copying or publishing a photograph without permission from the copyright holder” ( viewed 17/3/17)

The Berne Convention 1886 is “an agreement to honour the rights of authors who were nationals of every country which had signed the convention.” (More info:

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 ( is the current legislation that includes artistic work, which in the act means:

  1. a graphic work, photograph, sculpture or collage, irrespective of artistic quality,
  2. a work of architecture being a building or a model for a building, or
  3. a work of artistic craftsmanship.

Duration of copyright is given in more detail here:

“For photographs taken after 1 August 1989, copyright expires seventy years after the death of the photographer, whether published or not.”

“Publication right applies only from 1 December 1996 but affects everything which is out of copyright and unpublished, however old. The owner of publication right is whoever publishes for the first time a previously unpublished photograph in which rights may have expired many years ago, although this can only be done with the consent of the owner of the physical photograph. This includes everything from the earliest nineteenth century photographs onwards. This particular right expires at the end of twenty five years from the end of the year in which the work is first published.” (from viewed 17/3/17)

“A photograph is published if it appears in a book, catalogue, magazine, on TV, a website, a t-shirt, a poster, coasters, jigsaws, anything like that. It is not published if it appears in an exhibition as a photographic print but it is if it appears in the exhibition catalogue. A photographer who prints and stores lots of his pictures in order to supply clients has not published them but the instant he prints one as a publicity card, it’s published. If a print is sold to a collector who intends to hang it on the wall and enjoy it, it is not published.” (from viewed 17/3/17)

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