On Copyright and Permissions. “I feel a bit like Sherlock Holmes…”

I’m currently working on a short piece (as part of the AHRC Pets and Family Life Project) about the way horses and soldiers were portrayed in the illustrated press during The First World War. I am particularly interested in The War Illustrated, as this was an extremely popular publication 1914-1918, was affordable to all, and would have been widely read by the British masses. For those who had never witnessed warfare first-hand, this was the nearest they would ever come to ‘seeing’ war. It was also the only means they had of forming the scant information they were given in the letters home of their loved ones into pictures.

Obviously, when talking about visual images, you really want to be able to include some examples in your work. So, off I went on a mission to try and find out who actually owned rights to The War Illustrated now in 2017. This proved to be no easy task. Albeit an extremely interesting one. I knew, for example, that it was originally owned by The Amalgamated Press. That it had two periods of publication, during the First and Second World Wars, and went out of print (never to return) in the late 1940s. But who owned it now? Rights to The War Illustrated had been bought along with numerous other defunct titles by IPC. However, IPC was no longer in existence either. Time Inc. had bought IPC, but did they still own The War Illustrated? (They had sold rights to an array of Amalgamated Press comics fairly recently.) The search continued…

Image result for sherlock holmes
The Sherlock Holmes Museum, London.

And now we were in New York. (Well, by email and the powers of the internet anyway.) Times Inc. had moved its archive to a special collection curated jointly by The New York Historical Society and Time Inc’s own archivists. Had they got The War Illustrated? No. But … at long last … they did know who I needed to contact. Back to London we go and … problem solved within moments. “Voila!” And how interesting it has been. My faith in the power of random people to be wonderful and helpful has been restored. Everyone I have ‘met’ along the way has been so helpful.

I now know a lot more about copyright and permissions than I ever have before. Well, I’ll know for next time. 🙂



Author: janeflynnsenseandsentimentality

I am an independent researcher and writer affiliated to The University of Derby, UK. I was awarded a PhD in 2016 for my thesis: 'Sense and Sentimentality: The Soldier-Horse Relationship in the Great War'.

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