Do you remember the squeal you suppressed the first time you saw a miniature book of one of the classics? A tiny package of oreos? Or a half inch tall Yankee candle? We love to see familiar objects shrunken down. I know it brings out that little kid in me. That’s not hard to do!
Since my interest in minis first peaked, I’ve noticed a plethora of book cover printies floating around on the internet. I ADORE miniature books! I love how they look and how they feel between my fingers. And I love making them. Yes, it is tedious but also therapeutic and so satisfying. I made myself a stash of beautiful Enid Blyton books. My husband used to read books like the ‘Famous Five’ series from a branch in his Rambutan tree, when he was a little boy. And we read a collection of her stories to our youngest girls.
I couldn’t help but think that other people would love these mini Blyton books too. It got me wondering about the laws of copyright and how they pertain to minis. As many miniatures you see that are direct copies of their real life counterparts, you also see ones that miniacs went out of their way to modify so they can’t be pursued for infringement.
Important to note, is that copyright laws vary country to country. If it’s something you care about (and you should), it helps to familiarize yourself with the laws of the country where the original work came from. Take Enid Blyton’s work, for instance. Enid was from England, so from there we must refer to the UK laws. In Britain, an author’s books don’t come into the public domain until 70 years after his/her death. In Enid Blyton’s case, that will be at the end of 2038. At first, it was pretty clear than that if I don’t care to ever receive a cease and desist letter, I should keep those mini books in my own collection.
After further investigating, black and white turned into the gray area of ‘Fair Use’ (or ‘Fair Dealing’). Fair use is a concept used here in Canada, the USA, and the UK (other countries as well). These 3 are the countries I typically deal with for selling and purchasing miniatures. Canada, US, and UK law is quite similar when it comes to copyright infringement. The gist of it is this: copyright permission is not required if you are using the work for an educational purpose, to critique a work, if you are only using a portion of the work, or it’s use is for something other than it’s original purpose. If you decide to go this route, you should have a solid purpose to what you are doing. You also should be able to defend your intended use if ever called into question.
When in question, Fair Use is determined by these 4 factors:
- The purpose and character of the intended use.
- The nature of the work.
- The portion used in relation to the portion as a whole.
- The effect your usage of the work has on (the market) the original work …will your work devalue the original work?
‘Transformative’ Use is a legal term under fair use, which stipulates that when the original copyrighted work is significantly transformed in appearance or nature, it no longer qualifies as infringement. I believe that this applies to most any dollhouse miniature. Mainly because the intended use is for decoration only and it’s only a small fraction of it’s original size. If a tiny package of oreos or box of cereal is not edible, you may have a valid argument. If you copy a book cover but not it’s contents, you may have a valid argument.
These above covers are all over Pinterest on boards for mini books to print. They are of classics, written by great authors who also happen to be long gone from this world. The books themselves are no longer under copyright protection. Anyone can publish these works. However, see that crisp, lovely typography? Well that is the property of a young lettering artist Jessica Hische , and she designed them for Barnes and Noble. Can I sell miniatures of them? I probably could cite transformative use, but I wouldn’t. Personally, I have no issue making copies for myself, but I wouldn’t feel good about profiting from the works of a current artist. However, I see no issue with paying homage by sharing Enid Blyton’s book covers with the miniature world. I believe if the inside contents were left out, in place of blank pages, or a wood slice, it falls under the definition of transformative use.
If one has any confusion over whether they are legally covered to replicate another work, it would be smart not to do it. If you just can’t resist owning that special treasure, I suggest making it just for yourself.
Miniature dollhouse versions of books will not harm the sale or damage the literary value of the original work in any way.
Perhaps not everyone agrees. Feel free to add your comments.
So many times when we read on this subject in miniature forums we see more passionate opinion than informed fact. I’ve sprinkled a bit of both in this post. Please remember – Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Know the law before you decide, and then search your conscience. It wouldn’t hurt.
*I take no credit for the photos of Enid Blyton’s books or the others in this post. They are for educational use only.