Subject: Request: Confirmation of Crown Copyright for IWM website(s) images dated before 1957
Date: 15 Jan 2013 To: Imperial [War Museum]
I have been browsing your website with interest for the forthcoming exhibitions. I have a long term interest as a volunteer in making public domain photographs of historic events and artefacts available on Wikimedia Commons for the benefit of open knowledge.
I am confused by the IWM website declarations of Crown Copyright while at the same time the website terms and conditions appear to be claiming retrospective copyrights by the IWM or "PictureCabinet UK" and stopping reuse by the public. Where these photographs were taken before 1957, my understanding of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 for works, made by officers or servants of the Crown, in the course of their duties would indicate that any such photograph must now be considered public domain and may be freely used and reused by the public. I understand that scanning or other faithful forms of two dimensional reproduction cannot incur new legal rights on the image. Could you confirm my understanding here is correct?
Could you confirm whether images marked as "(c) IWM" should also be considered protected under the same legislation as applies to those declared as Crown Copyright?
Over the next few days, I would like to place some of the internet published photographs on Wikimedia Commons with good context, catalogue references and links back to your IWM website as the source under a Crown Copyright licence, and would appreciate your confirmation that I am not committing any unlawful act by doing so. Should you advise that this would be an unlawful act, I would be happy to raise the matter as a point of clarification for the wider Wikimedia Commons global community so that we can avoid anyone else making a mistake.
Thanks in advance for any help you are able to offer.
Note, this is a personal email request for information, rather than representing the views of any organization I am affiliated with.
[contact details redacted]
Date: 22 January 2013 16:04
Dear [Fae], many thanks for your query.
Crown copyright for published works lasts 50 years and therefore you are correct that the original photograph by Cecil Beaton created under Crown Copyright is now out of copyright. Many apologies for this error and I have alerted our Print Sales site for the copyright line to be amended.
In this case we are still entitled to use the copyright line (c) IWM (CBM 1104) as IWM have created a digital image of the Cecil Beaton work using a high degree of skill and judgement and therefore created a new copyright work. We are also custodians of the original object and plough any profits made from selling prints or licensing out the image back into the museum which help to fund further conservation and digitisation of our collections.
However, IWM also wants to support and encourage public access to our collection by offering low resolution images suitable for online use under a non-commercial licence on our website. We are happy for you to download or embed images from our site for use on Wikimedia Commons under our IWM non-commercial licence. The Cecil Beaton image you have referenced is not yet available to view on our website as it is part of a large collection which is being processed, but another image with similar subject matter by Cecil Beaton is available to share and reuse- see http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205196978. All images where the underlying work is out of copyright will also be available to share and reuse on Wikimedia Commons through our website - http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/search.
All the best
[contact details redacted]
Imperial War Museums
To: [IWM IP Manager]
Date: 27 January 2013 17:50
Thank you for the clarification and replying so promptly.
I have now uploaded some other works by Cecil Beaton that were taken during his time commissioned for the Ministry of Information (1942 to 1945), though the particular image I referred to before I have not uploaded, as it was in a fairly low resolution.
I have also uploaded some works taken by the military during the First World War period (mainly before the IWM existed) and some pre-1914. For all of these images I have referred to the IWM non-commercial licence conditions, linked to that page on your website and made determined efforts to ensure that the data for the image retains the full context of the IWM catalogue entry. I believe these are a conservative choice of images which are more that 90 years old since creation, falling well within the Crown Copyright provisions.
I remain worried by the IWM restrictive website terms and conditions, so please consider my previous email a serious attempt on my part to notify the IWM of my plan to put the scans of a selection of apparent public domain images made by the IWM on Wikimedia Commons for the benefit of public knowledge, and this email a notification that I have done so with the intention of complying with your last email and the IWM website(s) terms. If you believe I am in any way unlawfully misrepresenting any claim of copyright or other rights the IWM may have on these images, chosen based on my understanding of Crown Copyright, I would be only too happy to either adapt the permission text on any image I have uploaded, or immediately raise any problematic image(s) up for deletion review by the Wikimedia Commons community based on your stated requirements.
I have noted your claim that the IWM believes that a retrospective claim of copyright may exist, created by staff using skill and judgement to create a faithful digital reproduction of an existing public domain photograph or negative original, however based on my understanding of US law (where the Wikimedia Foundation servers are located) and of UK law with regard to Crown Copyright, I do not believe there is any existing legal judgement or case law which currently supports such a claim as enforceable. Please see the Wikimedia Commons guidelines for volunteers at , which I am attempting to follow, along with the advice from HMSO that Crown Copyright applies in the same way for photographs taken or published world-wide. Again if you believe the guidelines for volunteers are incorrect under UK law or US law, I would be happy to raise this in our community discussion as a potential amendment.
I did notice some images where the IWM non-commercial terms may appear a strange claim to the general public, and you may wish to consider the potential reputation risk by retrospectively marking restrictive new copyright terms on scans of very old photographs that have been clearly public domain elsewhere for many decades. For example, the IWM print of the world famous Wright Brothers photograph from 1903 is freely available as an unrestricted public domain download from the National Library of Congress (at a higher resolution) as well as a free digitally restored high resolution version on Wikimedia Commons, and yet the IWM appears to be using a claim of copyright to charge for digital copies, including for non-commercial users such as school teachers. I suggest it would be a positive improvement to public perception and fitting to the aims of the IWM if these images that are unambiguously public domain are marked on the website as public domain, or put on a free reuse CC0 or CC-BY licence.