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Thread: Reproducing Old Ads?

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    Default Reproducing Old Ads?

    I'm not sure which section of the site this would go in so I'm putting it here.

    If I wanted to take an old ad like from a 1940's magazine and have it printed as a poster for resale what would I need to do? Do I need to ask the magazine or the products manufacturer for permission? What if the magazine is out of business? Is there a certain age where this no longer becomes an issue and I just have it reprinted?

    Thanks in advance,

    Aaron

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    Hi Aaron,

    I'm so glad you asked this question. Assuming the people and/or companies who originally published these magazine ads still have some breathing life left in them, how long would their copyrights last (assuming they had copyrights to begin with)?

    This might be also good question to ask one of our other members, David Staub (Business Attorney) in the HR & Legal Forum.

    I am also eagerly looking forward to the answer to this one!
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    I do not actually know the answer to this, but i was under the impression that just by creating something there was an implied copyright, to the person or company who created it. In this example you would have a hard time proving that it was not created by the magazine that published it so they would hold a implied copyright because they created it.

    If the company is out of business i would say that it depends on how they went out of business and how it was finalized. For example just because a business ends, does not absolve people from paying what they owe that company, just like when a singer dies, for example Elvis, it doesn't mean that royalties don't still need to be paid for using their music, which in this case would go to his estate.

    You should be able to find some good information on this page U.S. Copyright Office - Information Circular, however it could still be quite unclear. Assuming that the piece was copyrighted in 1940, which would mean the copyright was current for 28years, if they successively did renew that copyright in line with the copyright law, it is potentially still copyright through until 2035. So i would suggest that legal advice be your best course of action before reproducing. To try and determine if the pieces in question are protected or not.
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    I don't know who you would need to track down to reproduce the ad, but there would still be a valid copyright on the material. I don't remember the exact year without looking it up, but valid copyrights go back to the 1920's, so the 40's would definitely be copyrighted. Anything before that magic date in the 20's would be fair game as long as no special arrangements were made, but not material from the 40's.

    Hopefully David Staub, whose name has already been mentioned, will show up and provide more insights.
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    1940's would be a problem. You contact the copyright office in DC and they'll do a search for you on the particular "magazine" or book. The books and print from the year including 1922 are public domain and you're free to use. Most of the 1923 stuff is free to use as well.

    Go to copyright.gov and you can research the bono act and get a feel of what you need to do, but your best off having the Copyright office do the search and get it cleared by them...it's around 75.00 per search (don't quote me on that, but it's in this area.
    Always listen to the experts. They'll tell you what can't be done and why. Then do it. Robert Heinlein

  6. #6

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    Thanks everyone for your input. Looks like I'll have some work to do before moving forward on this so it'll have to wait until after the holiday rush.

    Thanks.

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    You may also want to investigate the copyright for the manufacturer. A) they might hold the copyright on the ad. B) They certainly own the likeness/design/image rights of the hat advertised and or any photographs that the ad is composed of.
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    Remember that trademarks and copyrights may both be involved.

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    There is no easy answer on the copyright question. Anything published before 1923 is in the public domain. Anything published without a copyright notice between 1923 and 1977 is in the public domain. Anything published with a copyright notice between 1923 and 1963 is in the public domain if the copyright was not renewed.

    Even if the magazine itself contained a copyright notice, if the ad is one that was prepared by the company or an advertising agency and simply printed in the magazine, it is unlikely that the magazine's copyright notice is relevant. If the creator of the advertisement did not put a copyright notice on the ad itself, then there was no copyright notice.

    In other words, most advertisements published before 1977 are probably in the public domain.

    However, as Paul mentioned, you also have to be careful of trademarks. The fact that a Coca Cola ad was printed in 1910 and fell into the public domain does not give someone the right to use the trademark in violation of the trademark rights of the Coca Cola Company.

    The application of trademark law can get very complicated. Trademarks are basically used to identify the source of goods and avoid a likelihood of confusion. Arguably, that would not be the case if you were selling no goods or services except the reproduction posters. However, particularly in the case of "famous" marks there are additional legal concepts, such as the concept of "dilution," which can create liability to the trademark owner.

    If the poster depicts a product under a trademark that is no longer in use, you are probably OK. If the poster uses a trademark that is in use, I would recommend that you get permission of the owner of the mark.

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    A personal experience . . . .

    Several years ago I was working with a client who had a trademark and copyright that was infringed by another small company. They used the name and trademark without permission and then advised my client that they had a cause against us.

    We demonstrated that we had filed all the necessary paperwork for both copyright and trademark. Our attorney researched the situation and advised that the only practical remedy we had was to issue a letter for them to "cease and desist." We did. They ceased and desisted and remained ceased and desisted.

    I guess they were operating on the principle of it being better to ask forgiveness than permission.

    Paul

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