Public Domain Review

I’ve been away for some months.  Two family health crises and two bereavements later, I’m back. Apologies for the gap in transmission!  I think one of the saddest jobs of a family historian is to add a death date for a family member or partner, and I’ve had to do that twice in five months. However, I’ve decided to start to make my own future, by picking up the threads of the life I was living before, and a timely email reminded me that I had been intending to blog about the Public Domain Review, which can be extremely useful for the family historian.

The Public Domain Review produces a newsletter about works of art, books, films and music have entered the Public Domain. These can be very useful for the family historian. For example, there is an article about images from Gallipoli which have entered the public domain, which might be useful for anyone who has an ancestor who served there. There are pictures of the landscape in France following the first world war. This is poignant for anyone like me, as similar broken landscapes would have been the last thing my great grandfather saw before he died.

The work of war artist Paul Nash is in the Public Domain in many countries, but it is necessary here to point out that the rules in Europe and the USA are quite different, and you need to understand the rules for your country in order to follow them.  The rule in general in Europe is that a creator owns copyright for the length of their life plus 70 years.  In the US, however, it is the publication date of the artwork which is important.  In the UK, many of our public institutions, such as the National Portrait Gallery, are able to maintain copyright in works which are in the public domain, because they own the images of the images and are able to claim copyright in those – this isn’t the case in the USA where an image solely consisting of a reproduction of an out-of-copyright work cannot be copyrighted.  Don’t rely on my information, as things are changing all the time, and who knows whether this is an area of law which will be affected by Brexit… check out the current rules for yourself.

It’s useful to be able to quote from books which are out of copyright, and use images which are in the Public Domain, and I have nearly always found something to interest me in every issue of the Review, even if I haven’t always found something useful for family history.  Just having lively or interesting pictures around a subject can be of interest, though.  Something like these illustrations for a book on the Great Barrier Reef might make an interesting picture for someone with an interest in Marine biology, or someone who visited or emigrated to Australia, for example.  These comic illustrations of jobs like town crier in the form of much older woodcuts might be useful too.

If you need help with finding public domain or out of copyright images to illustrate your family history, or help with organizing it, contact me using the contact tab above.

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