Database rights could indeed be significant here, whether or not they have been mentioned
by the IWM.
Under sections 13 and 14 of the Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997, the
IWM will have database rights in the contents of their database of images assuming that
there has been a ‘substantial investment in obtaining, verifying or presenting the
contents' of the database. That is likely to be the case.
Those database rights will remain in force under s 17(2) for 15 years from the date on
which the IWM first made the database available to the public (actually, to the end of the
During that period, database right will be infringed by any person who, without consent,
‘extracts or re-utilises all or a substantial part of the contents of the database’,
whether all at once or by repeated extractions of ‘insubstantial’ parts. On the other
hand, any lawful user of the database is has a right under s19(1) 'to extract or
re-utilise insubstantial parts of the data for any purpose’, and that right cannot be
restricted by the database owner (s19(2)).
The critical term ‘substantial’ is defined to mean ‘substantial in terms of quantity or
quality or a combination of both’.
Applying the law to the IWM database suggests that you would be OK to extract and reuse an
‘insubstantial’ part, but that it would be unlawful to extract more than that until after
the end of the 15 year term.
Given the huge practical uncertainty as to how the courts would interpret ‘insubstantial’
in this context, it would be sensible for your own protection to proceed with extreme
You have not mentioned Wikimedia UK, and my understanding is that your work with these
images is being done entirely independently and not as a Wikimedia UK volunteer. Given
the potential legal and reputational risks that may be involved in an incorrect judgement
call on what constitutes ‘insubstantial’ this is not an area that the charity can to get
involved with in any way.
Chair, Wikimedia UK
On 2 Jun 2014, at 13:49, Fæ <faewik(a)gmail.com> wrote:
I am considering automating an upgrade of a large
number of images
that I previously uploaded from the Imperial War Museum's (IWM)
website. My original uploads were carefully selected to be public
domain by having expired Crown copyright (over 50 years old) and since
uploading a small number have been deleted on other grounds, most
notably those taken or created by members of the German military and
where the photographs were seized during the war and claimed by the UK
Ministry of Information.
Here's the rub - by doing this, the IWM may argue that I am bending
database rights by systematically accessing their website for
downloads. At the current time, the IWM make no statement with regard
to this aspect of copyright, see .
I am thinking of writing to the IWM's IP Manager (again) before
starting this upload/upgrade project, so that I can produce good faith
correspondence to protect myself if this is challenged in the future.
Any thoughts from fellow Commoners?
PS though I am pondering raising this on the Village Pump, I am
hesitant to do this yet, based on past experience I suspect someone
would prime the IWM as soon as I do so.
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