Copyright information about images from house clearance

Recently I was interested in bidding for an Ebay lot of over 10,000 slides that the seller, who was a house clearer, claimed to hold copyright for. His view was that when he clears a house all the property becomes his and the family want nothing more to do with any of it. So, logically it seemed that the copyright would have automatically transferred to him from the family.

The seller was willing to write a copyright transfer letter to me, and I was tempted to trust his word and anyway if I had a letter what could be so wrong? In reality, this was me trying to persuade myself and I wasn’t at all convinced.

So I wrote to the UK Intellectual Property Office telling them about the auction and they were super efficient and sent a reply in good time – so I was at least informed and didn’t make an expensive mistake ( the lot went for around £250 and I would have bid to win!).

It is a fairly definitive reply from the Copyright Enquiries section – and yes, don’t worry I asked permission from them as copyright owners before posting here! I hope that this helps inform others. One solution to this problem would be for house clearers to insert a clause in their contract covering copyright transfer, making sure that the family and solicitor understand what it is all about. That way a lot more images of our culture and social history would become available for publication rather than become lost as ‘Orphan Works’.

I sent them this email.

Hello at IPO,
I buy photographic slides on Ebay and always check that the seller owns copyright as, for example, being beneficiary in a will. I require a written copyright transfer note before I buy any slides so that I am not getting Orphan Works. 
I want to ask about the position of a house clearer who is selling slides. He tells me that ownership and responsibility for all property comes to him when he takes on a contract to clear a house. ie) any valuable left behind is his. He claims that he can therefore write a copyright transfer because the family is not interested and has passed all responsibility and ownership to him.
Could you please let me know your reaction to this claim?

Here is their reply:

Dear Ian,

Thank you for your query that was passed to the Copyright Enquiries service to provide a response.

Please be aware that the Copyright Enquiries service is only able to provide general advice regarding current UK copyright law and cannot provide legal advice regarding how the law should be interpreted in specific cases.

It is important to be aware that copyright exists separately from the physical item itself. This means that owning, for example, a manuscript does not necessarily mean ownership of any copyright which subsists in it, and it is possible for this copyright to be owned by a different person. This means that just because the person has the physical copies of the slides does not necessarily mean that he is the copyright holder of the slides.

Ordinarily, copyright will belong to the creator of the work unless there is evidence to the contrary, or the work is created by an employee in the normal course of his employment – in which case it would belong to the employer. 

To be the copyright holder of the slides the seller must have had these rights assigned to him. Under section 90 of the of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, a transfer of copyright is only effective if it is in writing signed by the assignor. With this in mind, it is probably worth asking the seller to provide the written proof that he is indeed the copyright holder of the slides; it is possible that this is contained within the contract he has agreed with the family. 

If the seller owns the copyright in the slides then he would be free to assign these rights to you. You may find the following guidance on the transfer of copyright useful:

Ultimately who owns the copyright in the slides will depend on the agreement between the house clearer and the family. Copyright assignments are a type of contract so if you require any further assistance you may wish to seek legal advice. You should be able to find a lawyer with relevant expertise in your area using this link:

Finally, please note that copyright infringement is a matter of strict liability. This means that infringement does not require intent or knowledge of wrongdoing. If you use a work for a copyright-restricted purpose on the basis of a transfer of copyright ownership or a licence that turns out to be invalid (e.g. because the person who purports to transfer copyright ownership to you is not the owner), you can be liable for infringement. You should therefore satisfy yourself that any licence of transfer of ownership is valid before using a work for any copyright-restricted act.

We hope this response has been of some assistance.

Best regards,

Copyright Enquiries

Copyright permission
The response we sent you is covered by Crown copyright. You may use this under the Open Government Licence (OGL) providing you meet the conditions of the licence.

The full terms and conditions of the OGL can be viewed here:

Roy Haslett archive

I am very pleased to have been entrusted with the extensive archive of slide photographs created by Roy Haslett ( 1921-2008) – pictured below in southern France 1973.

This is a brief biography of his life and photography written by his son Martin:

Born: Portsmouth 1921
Died: Cheltenham 2008
Roy showed great promise in science subjects at school and went on to graduate in Physics at Reading University. For his war service he was put in charge of radar stations in India which started him on his future career as a research physicist, specialising in underwater acoustics. It was also in India that he discovered his passion for photography. At first pre-war supplies of film were available but when those ran out he adapted his camera to use unexposed movie film from the Bollywood film studios.
Back in the UK, Roy was soon taking colour slides and continued to do so for the rest of his life. His travels, with his wife Margaret, were first around the British Isles. When car ferries to the continent became available, they travelled independently, first in France and then further afield. As the years
moved on they looked for a more relaxed way of exploring and found Swan Hellenic cruises could take them to many famous historical and archaeological sites, some of them well off the beaten
Roy’s slide collection reflects these stages of his life, from family holidays in the UK, through tours of France and Italy and on to the Mediterranean and more exotic places in North Africa and the Middle

I have started back at the beginning in the early 1960s with quite a tight edit of slides of various family holidays in UK and Ireland, and moved on to the images of France, Netherlands, a few of Bergen, and next will be Italy. This has taken me up to the mid 1970s. This is a first edit picking out a number of slides from each Kodachrome box – there are plenty more to come when I work through them more methodically. I’ve tended to select those pictures which show historical change through the vehicles and the appearance of people rather than ones of landscapes or buildings. Several hundred of Roy’s excellent images are now on Geography Photos in a gallery of his name.

Please follow the link to see the photos.

Roy Haslett

I have a favourite and that will be the subject of another blog. Which do you like best? Please do feel free to ask any questions or make comments.

Photographic slides and copyright

This is a much misunderstood topic. I’ve come across quite a few Ebay traders who claim that the slides they are selling come with copyright. Usually this just isn’t true. Copyright is created automatically the moment a camera shutter fires. It lasts for 70 years after the photographer’s death. When the photographer dies the copyright ownership passes, just like all other property, to whoever the beneficiary is. All too often the beneficiary has no interest and disposes of the the slides – sadly a lot must just get dumped in the rubbish bin and end up at landfill. Other collections go to house clearance auctions. But buying the slides does not come with automatic copyright transfer. The buyer often sells them on, quite often splitting the collection into batches and selling to various different people.  Slides of popular subjects, aviation, ships, trains, cars,  are cherrypicked and sold off on Ebay. Pictures of, for example, buildings are mixed with the building pictures of other photographers and sold off as a mixed job lot.  What started off as a unique personal collection built by one person through a lifetime ends up being mixed and muddled, taken out of all context, and flogged off all over the place. A great shame as far as I am concerned. Think how much of cultural and historic importance is being lost.

All too often the slides become separated from any connection with the photographer and nobody knows who took them. At this stage they become Orphan Works. There is a government process for getting permission to publish these ‘Orphans’ but it is time-consuming and quite costly.  Strictly speaking simply publishing an OW on a website is a breach of copyright. You own the physical property but not the right to make copies of the pictures except for private personal use.

How much easier it is when the sale of slides comes with a written note transferring the copyright to the new owner. This is what I have been trying to achieve and it is not always easy.  If you have an unwanted slide collection then do let me know.

This picture below was taken by Dave Denning, for at least a part of his life he worked as a helicopter pilot in Saudi Arabia. When his nephew was selling Dave’s slide collection on Ebay he was willing to write me a letter transferring copyright. On Geography Photos I have posted some of his Saudi Arabia oil industry images, also some of people in the Sahel region of northern Nigeria, skiing at lake Louise in Canada ( I worked out the location from the distinctive shape of the mountains!), and a few of a ghost town in Montana are on the way.

Screenshot 2020-05-13 at 13.00.37

A lot of these slides have become dirty and dusty over the years. There is something very satisfying about cleaning them up and showing them on my website, and also in making them available to publishers. I like to think that Dave would be pleased.

Back to Film

With spending a lot of time at home I have been using a new system of digitising film through photography. I am using a specially made adapter that mounts onto my Macro lens ( thanks Alan for making it!) and an old light-box for illumination. It is much quicker than doing it the old way using a film scanner though still time-consuming in Photoshop removing all the dust spots and blemishes.

Alamy now offers an Archive submission route which accepts images which may have some flaws but are of historic interest so that makes the whole process more forgiving.

In addition to working through my own slides I have bought some from local auctions and Ebay ( with copyright).

I’ve tentatively set up a new section on my website for ‘Vintage’ images. There is a lot of work to do yet but it’s a start. I’ve moved heaps of images, including old TIFFs, that were hidden away and pushed them into the limelight. Many don’t even have proper captions – so apologies about that. It means I have put some pressure on myself to get this tidied up.

This picture is on my site but not yet featured in a gallery. Out of thousands of slides it caught my eye. I could try and analyse the reasons but will resist. If it works for you there is no need for me to explain. It was taken in 1979. I have another couple of the same girls rushing around the back garden playing football – so that explains the grazed knee.

What do you think? Please feel free to leave a comment.


Screenshot 2020-05-09 at 10.02.34

Visit Geography Photos

Photo gift cards – get creative!

If you are stuck at home this would be a great time to get creative and explore a new hobby.

This is all you need to get started.


A pack of white cards that are already ready to be folded, they come with envelopes, some photo paper for your printer and some double sided sticky tape. Companies such as Hobbycraft sell the cards, envelopes and tape. I have used HP photo paper but there are many different options.

Here is an example – I chose a nativity one for a Christmas card.


The photo is from Geography Photos

The original image was 2500 pixels in length and is available, along with 60,000 others, for £7.50 for Personal Use. One at 1500 pixels would be just as good at £5.00 but if you are doing a lot of cards of the same subject why not pay a little extra for the higher quality print?

The oldest object still in use

I have been doing a lot to photography of churches over the last few years both where I live in Suffolk and also in Wiltshire. I am not at all a religious person but these buildings in addition to being places of worship are museums of village life and national history.

Most of them are open during the day and so you are able to freely explore their architectural and cultural treasures and artworks. There are all sorts of stories to discover about village life through the centuries. I started thinking about the oldest objects that I had found – there are medieval wall paintings, 14th century fragments of stained glass windows, historic carved wooden pews, Norman period door archways with their characteristic chevron pattern, but what is the oldest?

It think it must be the baptismal font in the village church at Potterne, Wiltshire, England.

church of Saint Mary, Pattern, Wiltshire, England, UK

This dates from the 9th century – two centuries or so or so before the Norman conquest.

It is the only surviving pre-Conquest inscribed font in Britain.

The rim inscription is in Latin:


In English “As the hart panteth after the fountains of water; so my soul panteth after thee, O God.  Amen.”

The story of a hart ( deer) drinking from a fountain or pool of water goes back to very early  christianity and is a theme depicted in Roman mosaics.



About Geography Photos

The text beneath is taken from the ‘About ‘ section of Geography Photos

Since January I have been trying to get on with a much delayed task of revamping my website to get more images accessible and hopefully make it easier for Google to find image. At the moment I’m finding that Google doesn’t seem to find my pictures.

About Geography Photos

13 March 2020

Most recent images – Cardiff, Exeter, Swindon, Trowbridge

I have been creating Collections and Galleries so that more images are accessible through browsing. I am using locations –  counties and countries – to do this rather than themes. Working backwards I have completed this task for 2020 so far, 2019, and am half way through 2018. Please use the ‘Search’ function to refine searches and to go beyond the location-based Collections and galleries

  • Geography Photos is an award winning stock photography site run by Ian Murray, a former geography teacher, author and adviser.  Over 55,000 high quality images are available for personal and education use, and for commercial publishing.  Images are also available for high quality prints delivered direct from Loxley Colour in UK.
  • The online purchase system means that images and prints can be purchased conveniently and safely at any time. Alternatively, please use the Contact facility to discuss your specific needs.
  • Recognition of the value of the collection to geography education was given through a Geographical Association award.  Geography Photos was a UK government approved supplier of digital content to schools in the Curriculum Online initiative between and currently provides images to Encyclopedia Britannica’s ‘Image Quest’ service.

Follow the Galleries link to view all the public galleries and from that section you can search the entire catalogue.

Fine Art America – prints on demand

Not much happening with the weather and a few health things stopping me from getting out so I thought I’d upload a few pictures to Fine Art America. I’ve had couple of print sales over the years but probably not enough to cover the, admittedly modest, annual subscription. This detail is from a stained glass window by designer Henry Holiday. Details of this picture and others by the same designer are in a small gallery on my homepage. I am planning to photograph all Holiday’s stained glass in Suffolk – that will mean visiting Lound church to complete the coverage.


Close up of Simeon, stained glass window of Presentation in the Temple 1863

My rather random assortment of images on Fine Art America including these by Holiday is at Ian Murray Fine Art America

Kate Moss and me being ubercool

Who knew that Kate Moss and me both hang around this ‘ubercool’ Cotswolds town?

I first went there aged about 15 with my friend Jeff on a camping trip from Bath. We shared a breakfast of a still warm loaf of bread from the baker and then walked to Burford. So, obviously I have been latently ubercool for much longer than Kate.

I’ve been back a few times taking photos.

Always encouraging to see my photos in use but as I’ve mentioned before the fee for this will be tiny.  It is from today’s Daily Telegraph.

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