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No guineas

A MEMBER writes: "I wanted to use an image in my book on Virginia Woolf - in the final chapter on her legacy, as an indication of how ubiquitous she now is. It's a Google search engine banner that appeared on her birthday."

Virginia Woolf photographed by George Charles Beresford

The young Virginia Woolf, photographed by George Charles Beresford, who died on 21 February 1938 - so this has been out of copyright since 1 January 2009

Virginia Woolf is known to different people for different things: the Freelance would like her to be better-known for her A Room of One's Own and the subsequent Three Guineas - some of the best writing there has been on making a living as a woman writer.

The member continues: "the picture researcher on the book has gone to great lengths to get permission to use it, even finding out the name of the designer and writing to her, but she's had no response from anyone.

"The book is now in layout and we have to decide finally tomorrow on the pictures. There is a move to remove it, to avoid the sword hanging over it I just wondered if you'd had any relevant experience or knowledge.

"I've just had a quick look again at Google's permissions page and I see that they don't allow anyone to use 'Google Doodles'. And I guess this may fall into that category."

The Freelance advised the member to pull the picture.

Arguably, its use might fall under the exception to copyright allowing use for the purposes of review and criticism. That was widened in 2014 - but no-one knows what the new law means until a case has been to the Court of Appeal at least, and the member's publisher versus Google probably isn't the case where we want it decided.

Google is, of course, possibly the largest funder of anti-copyright campaigns. But it knows the value of its own copyright (and trademarks).

  • Ah, yes: Virginia Woolf at Home by Hilary Macaskill is scheduled to be published by Pimpernel Press in in May 2019.