Thursday, December 22, 2011

Can We Use European Poster?

Dear Rich: I am an author in the process of publishing a book about modern day Europe. There is a poster (left) which was issued years ago by the Council of Europe, with a slogan which says "Many Tongues One Voice." We would really like to include this in our book but the publisher says we must first get permission from the Council of Europe since the poster is copyrighted. Could you advise as to the proper procedure to get this done? In case you're not aware, there are many who believe that Satan had a hand in the creation of this poster. We don't know if that contribution rises to co-authorship but we sure wouldn't want to run up against the Evil One in a federal court case.
Right, you had a question. The typical procedure for getting permission would be to contact the apparent owner of rights -- the Council of Europe -- and to ask for permission. Here's their contact information. Although the Council of Europe is a multinational organization --  a bit like the United Nations -- it can retain copyrights. For example, the Council of Europe is listed as copyright claimant for seven U.S. copyrights (although there is no registration for the poster). You can review their U.S. copyrights by searching at the Copyright Office. Click "Search the Catalog" and filter your search by "Name." If you can't get a response for your requests, document your attempts in the event that you decide to claim fair use. As we've indicated before, there are a line of cases that make thumbnail reproductions, whether in books or on the web, more likely to be excused as a fair use, especially when accompanied by commentary or criticism.