If you follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Flickr you'll have seen that I've been busy recently doing some work with posters for the #Savelibraries campaign. I love looking through old posters, advertisements, bill stickers and so on, and I got to thinking, I wonder what the Savelibraries campaign would look like through the medium of some of those old posters? I started with the obvious idea of 'Your library needs you', but as I started to go through the posters in detail I could see that - without a great deal of work, we could have some fun here.
I started by looking at the message of these First and Second World War posters. The propaganda messages are actually really interesting; the WW1 posters do however tend towards individual responsibility and shaming people - as in the 'Daddy, what did you do in the Great War?' sentiment. WW2 posters on the other hand tend to emphasis the strength and power of doing things together - the Battle of Britain poster with all the pilots together is a good example of that. However, in both cases what was similar was a very basic statement with a call for action of some sort. Indignation and direct demands were commonplace, and an emphasis on the differing roles of men and women were also common to see.
Having got a clear idea of the type of message that worked with the posters I obviously wanted them to look as realistic as possible. A major problem here is that the fonts used are very specific, and you just don't find them in modern default collections. I did some hunting around and did find some but each font was costing upwards of £25 each, so that just wasn't happening. Sometimes I left the font as it was and used a similar default font, or I removed the lot and started over.
I tended to use Paintshop Pro and Photoshop for the actual work. What I did depended on the image. With some posters I just removed the text and replaced it with my own. I'd use the ink dropper to make sure that the shade was the same. Sometimes I had to do a lot more work, with layers and scripts to get the right feel but overall I'm happy with the results that I got.
People have understandably asked about copyright. I should start by saying that 'I am not a lawyer'. Copyright law is a horrible area, but these images fall into basically one of three categories, at least as far as my understanding goes (and I've been looking into this a lot since I started to think about producing the posters!) The general UK copyright law is the life of the artist +70 years. Consequently, the first thing to do is to try and find the actual artist - in some cases this wasn't available, and despite trying to find the artists I haven't always been able to. However, if we go back to 1941 it's reasonable to suppose that any artist working the period of WW1 will have died by then.
We also need to take into account the fact that when someone was engaged to produce posters, they would not necessarily own the copyright - it would be owned by the appropriate department (many of which do not exist now of course), or more generically by the Government of the country concerned. Media files of this type are in the public domain in the United States, and this applies to US works where the copyright has expired, often because the first publication was prior to January 1st 1923. Many of the WW2 posters that were produced are also in the public domain since they're Government produced and published between 1923 and 1977, inclusive and without a copyright notice. Some works are also in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States Federal Government under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.
A lot of the artistic works from the UK (including posters of this nature) are in the public domain because of one of the following:
1. It is a photograph created by the United Kingdom Government and taken prior to 1 June 1957; or
2. It was commercially published prior to 1961; or
3. It is an artistic work other than a photograph or engraving (e.g. a painting) which was created by the United Kingdom Government prior to 1961.
(Just to confuse matters further, as there isn't one global law on Copyright, an item may or may not be in the public domain depending on the country in question.)
The third category is the anonymous category - when an item has been produced and it's not possible to ascertain ownership, or the name of the artist, or the commissioning body or the date of . This is particularly the case with a lot of images of this type, which were either produced a long while ago, or which were produced in a country that was subsequently overrun during the war and all records were lost.At this point all that you can do is take a best guess.
So - I've tried to ensure that with every single poster in the collection that it's in the public domain, and as such it's fine for me to use. Of course - if anyone does have a copyright claim I'll happily remove any poster. I'm making absolutely no claim on them myself, other than having the idea, and if other people want to have a go, I'm certainly not going to suggest that they shouldn't - the more the merrier!
I should also point out that it's not me who produced the 'Use Libraries and learn stuff' along the lines of the Keep Calm and Carry On poster. I've linked to the Flickr account for that particular image in case you'd like to take a look at it.
If you wish to buy copies of the original un-savelibraries versions there are many poster companies on the internet who will sell them to you.
Above all, I hope that you enjoy the posters - I am indebted to the original artists (whoever they are in some cases!), who I like to think would be pleased that their work has got a new lease of life in protecting libraries.