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I have recently acquired a number of old negatives, mostly relating to aviation subjects. They all pre date 1989. Most from 1950s and 60s.

From the research I've done, it would appear that, because the negatives were all produced privately, not for any publication, produced before 1989, and as I now own the ORIGINAL negative, I now own the copyright.

Can anyone clarify this.

Also, many of the aircraft no longer exist. So when it comes to filling in the form, would I need to declare that a property release is needed?



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Unfortunately you don't own it.

The date of 1989, on which the new Act came into force, is only relevant as to the duration of copyright in unpublished images. It still belongs to the photographer, and then his estate, generally for 70 years after his death.


You should do everything you can to establish the photographer's identity and get an assignment from, presumably, his heirs.

Failing that, in your position I would probably not put them on sale, but if they were of genuine historical interest offer them to the Royal Aeronautical Society. There are also various enthusiast websites.

I'm a plane fan myself and would love to see them.

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Thanks Mark.

I used the DACS website for the research I did, and because these images are from private collection, that is, not published, I read it to mean I had the copyright. I'm going to need clarification for this.

It was this paragraph;



'Photographs taken between 1 July 1912 and 31 July 1989

The person who owned the material on which the photograph was taken, for example the negative, also owned the copyright.

In the case of photographs taken under commission for “valuable consideration” (money or any equivalent payment), the commissioner was the copyright owner, unless there was an agreement to the contrary.'


I'm aware of many of the enthusiasts sites. I had 800 images with airliners.net until they recently ruined it and I withdrew all my images.

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Yes but you didn't own the material when the photographs were taken. The photographer did, presumably. That was a provision of the  1911 and 1956 Acts IIRC. You can only acquire it now by assignment.

From the DACS page:

Photographs which remained unpublished as at 1 August 1989

Where the photographer died before 1 January 1969, copyright expires on 31 December
2039. In all other cases, copyright will expire 70 years after the death of the photographer.


Take G3DENN, for example. An old snap of an uncleaned St. Paul's cathedral. The man in the foreground is my late father. Presumably a friend took it using his camera and film, because it was in his possession. The copyright then passed to his next-of-kin, my mother, and she has assigned it to me. It will expire in about 2030.

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