Important: Using copyright material on SABRE

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Important: Using copyright material on SABRE

Post by FosseWay »

Using copyright material on SABRE

Any work someone produces is copyrighted to them, or their organisation, for a period of time. At SABRE we need to be careful how we use this work. Infringing copyright can lead to direct legal consequences for the Society and its elected officers, and more generally can lead to organisations refusing to work with us, for example by providing maps for SABRE Maps.

Removing copyrighted images from the forums and Wiki is a recurrent task for the SMT, along with explaining why we’ve done it. This guide aims to explain the basics, but if you don’t want to read any further, please take on board the basic message:

Don’t post third-party material on SABRE unless you’re certain it’s copyright-free or you have permission. If it’s online, link to its URL. If it’s on paper, give references so others can find it for themselves. If in doubt – leave it out.

What does copyright cover?
Copyright covers any creative work, including text, drawing, painting, photography, music and others, unless the author explicitly withdraws their copyright by making it free to use (for example, by using a Creative Commons licence) or assigning some other restriction (free to use for non-commercial purposes, for instance). Normally, the person who created the work owns the copyright, but if they created it as an employee or contractor, the copyright may be owned by the employer or customer.

Remember that if someone makes a copy of a photograph or map by photographing it again or scanning it, that copy or scan is also “work”, and is subject to its own copyright. Here’s an example: an author may use a photograph from the 1860s in a book they’ve written. The photograph itself is almost certainly out of copyright, but the reproduction made for the book is much more recent, and so is its copyright. If you can find the original photo and reproduce it yourself, you can go ahead and use it, but you mustn’t reuse the author’s reproduction of it without their permission.

By the same token, any photographs or scans that you find on the internet are covered by copyright. The technology we use to digitise analogue information is not yet old enough to escape Crown/Government copyright, never mind 70 years after the death of the creator. Everything online is therefore someone’s property and must not be reproduced without their permission, whether explicitly granted on the page where it appears, or sought specially.

You may find that people are freely posting copyrighted material to other sites on the internet. Don't be misled: this doesn't mean it's free of copyright or OK to post on SABRE. It just means other websites don't take this as seriously as we do.

How long does copyright apply for?
Standard UK copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the creator. If the creator is unknown, or the work is copyrighted to an organisation, copyright lasts for 70 years after the work’s creation.

Crown copyright lasts for 50 years after creation. This is particularly relevant to us, as it covers Ordnance Survey maps and documents produced by government departments.

Irish copyright rules are similar. Government copyright - the equivalent of the UK’s Crown copyright - is also subject to a reduced term of 50 years.

How do I know if a work is in copyright?
If the work is old enough to clearly be outside the timescales described above, and you have the original work and not a reproduction made later, then you’re probably safe to use it. Otherwise, always assume that copyright applies unless you have explicit evidence that it doesn’t. Many images on Wikipedia, for example, may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes if the creator is acknowledged.

Always remember that it's not just the content of the document that's copyright, but also the work done to present it to you on the page or screen. See "What does copyright cover?" above.

What about “fair use” and "fair dealing"?
Forget it. The concept of “fair use” as applied to copyright work stems from US law. There is a statutory defence of "fair dealing" in UK law, but this does not apply to SABRE's work. Some copyright owners allow you to reproduce (parts of) their property for your own personal study. That does not include putting them on the SABRE Wiki or forums! To avoid any potential comeback, it is SABRE's policy not to host copyright material on our site without the express permission of the copyright holder, even if you think that an exception applies in your case (it probably doesn't).

How can I present copyrighted documents legally?
If the target work – a photo, for example – is published online somewhere, add a link to the image or to the page where it appears.

If the target work is not available online, then there is no easy way of legally displaying it on SABRE. The best option is usually to provide as comprehensive references as possible, so that someone else can find the book, periodical or archive it’s published in.

If the target work is a map, and it is available on SABRE Maps, it’s always best to link to the relevant layer, location and magnification. This is true even if the map is out of copyright and you’ve scanned it yourself, since it allows your readers to explore the editions before and after. You do this by using the “Generate link” button in the Maps interface and pasting the resulting link into your Wiki article or forum post:
If you want to post a map that isn’t on SABRE Maps, remember two things:

Firstly, not all maps are subject to Crown (UK) or Government (Ireland) copyright, which is 50 years. Commercial mapping has the same term as any other work, namely 70 years after the death of the creator. A particularly extreme example of this is A-Z mapping that was created by Phyllis Pearsall herself. She did much of her work when young, and died at an advanced age in 1996. This work may therefore be very old, but it’s still in copyright until 1 January 2067.

Secondly, unless you scanned it yourself, you need to assume that the scan is in copyright, even if the original clearly isn’t.

If you have original maps in your possession that aren’t in copyright and aren’t on SABRE Maps, you can of course scan bits of them and post them. But it may be even better to get them added to SABRE Maps! If you have any maps that you think may be useful for SABRE, please contact us.

Still have questions?
The information on this page is an overview only. As SABRE Maps and the Wiki have grown, some Sabristi have gathered extensive knowledge of the ins and outs of copyright law. While we’re not lawyers and nothing we say should be taken as legal advice, if you have more questions we’ll be happy to try to answer them as best we can.