Please note that the following notes are for guidance only and do not constitute legal advice.
These notes pertain to paper records upon which writing, photography, maps, music manuscripts or artworks exist. Other copyrights exist, though they rarely pertain to the holdings of the Library and Archive Centre.
The majority of our holdings are still in copyright under British copyright law, which determines the legality of the copies made here. See the full text of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (hereafter 'the Act'). Further copyright information from The National Archives is available to download. You may find the flowchart on page 13 of that advice useful for determining whether an item is in copyright or not.
Physical vs. Intellectual Property
Copyright is an intellectual property right, which is a right over the content of the creation, whoever may own the physical piece of paper upon which it is written, printed, drawn, or (in the case of a photograph) developed. Copyright covers the form of words or an image, and belongs first to the creator, then to whoever he/she assigns it to or whoever inherits it. Whoever owns copyright has certain rights to prohibit or put conditions upon granting permission to reproduce the content (the form of words or the image).
Eventually copyright expires. Page 13 of The National Archives advice document (see above) lists the duration of copyright. Copyright duration is best determined on a case-by-case basis.
Most of the documents at the King's College Library and Archive Centre are owned, as physical objects, by the College. The owner of a physical object can put conditions upon access to that document. For example when you request a copy, as a condition of giving you that copy we require that you agree not to further reproduce it without our permission.
Physical ownership does not expire.
Example: We own the Roger Fry Papers - the physical pieces of paper and the sketchbooks - but not the copyright in Fry's own writings and drawings, nor in the thousands of letters he received during his lifetime that are preserved among his papers held here. Copyright in all these items rests with the writer of the document or his/her heirs (or assignees), whatever the current location or owner of the physical object. Unpublished letters are in copyright until at least 2039.
Reprography and Restrictions
Chapter II of the Act lists the conditions under which copies can be made of copyright material without the permission of the copyright holder. For example under section 43 of the Act, archivists are allowed to make a single copy of a copyright work for someone's non-commercial research purposes or private study, provided certain conditions are met. (Sections 38 and 39 allow Librarians to copy published material in certain circumstances.) To aid scholarly research, the archivists may photocopy unpublished material provided the following criteria are satisfied: the copyright owner has not expressly forbidden it (thus anything unpublished by T.S. Eliot may not be copied without permission of the Eliot estate); you have not already received a copy; we make only one copy for which you pay all costs; the material will withstand the process physically; staff resources allow. See the scale of charges.
See our advice and policy for taking your own photographs in the reading room.
Factors which have no bearing on exemption from copyright restrictions include: the fact that material has been published many times before or is 'in the public domain', the fact that you are not going to make any money out of your publication in which the material is reproduced, or the fact that you have tried to find the copyright holder (this factor only matters when you are applying for an Orphan Works License).
Quoting from Material Held in the Archive Centre and Library
For the bulk of the material we hold the important date is 2039, when the copyright will expire in manuscripts created before 1989, whose author was dead before that date and which remained unpublished during his/her lifetime. In the meantime, you should seek the permission of the copyright owner in a literary work, be it the draft of a novel, a letter or hasty note, before quoting from it in print. A fee may be charged for its use.
The Society of Authors can advise on clearing copyright permission in published writings.
When a work is an orphan work you might be able to acquire an orphan works license.
The Archivist may be able to help in the identification of copyright owners. First please consult the database maintained by WATCH.
Application forms for permission to quote in cases where King's College is the copyright owner (certain writings of J.M. Keynes, Alan Turing, E.M. Forster, Joan Robinson, G. Lowes Dickinson for example) are available from the Archivist.
To publish a document that is still in copyright you should seek permission from both the copyright owner and the owner of the physical object.
If you wish to publish items from our collections, on-line or on paper, whether or not you are charging anything for access to it, whether or not you are showing the original or a transcription, you must obtain copyright permission if the work is still in copyright (for which you might have to pay a fee), unless one of the exemptions under the Act applies. This is an intellectual property right which may or may not belong to the College.
If, in addition, you are publishing it as an image provided by the archivists you must also have our permission, whether or not the item is still in copyright (and if it is, you must obtain the copyright holder's permission first), for which we are likely to charge a 'permission to use' fee in addition to the reprographics fee charged when you order the image, and in addition to any fees the copyright holder imposes. The 'permission to use' fee depends among other things upon the form of publication. Contact the archivist for costs. This is a physical property right which usually belongs to the College.