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Coflein: A guide to images and copyright


Coflein is the online site database and archive catalogue of the National Monuments Record of Wales, the archive of the Royal Commission.  It holds information on over 120,000 historic Welsh sites and details of archive records relating to them.  As well as this mountain of information it also contains some 125,000 digital images from the archive, which are all freely available for anyone to view online.  The Library and Enquires team are happy to assist and advise on access, copyright, permissions, licencing and general queries relating to the archive and images but here are the answers to some common questions:

Who owns the copyright of the images on Coflein?

Copyright of the images on Coflein belong to various individuals or organisations.  The images are protected by copyright law, meaning they cannot be used commercially without permission.  Many of the images were created by investigators and other staff working for the Royal Commission itself and are therefore ‘Crown Copyright’.  The Royal Commission has authority from the Crown to administer the copyright for these images, i.e. grant permission to use them, sometimes for a fee.   

However, copyright of many of the images on Coflein is owned by third parties, for example an individual or organisation who has donated photos to the Commission but has kept the rights to the images.  In these cases, permission must be sought from the owner.  We can often help with this.

Why is it important to get permission and acknowledge creators?

  • To acknowledge the hard work and creativity of other people.
  • It is the law – theft of intellectual property is a crime.
  • It allows people viewing or reading your work to seek out the original sources.
  • In a professional or academic setting, it demonstrates the extent of your work and research.

What can I use the images on Coflein for?

Images on Coflein can be freely used for the following purposes:

  • Education: e.g. essays, classroom presentations.
  • Personal research: e.g. family history, local history, academic research.
  • Personal use: e.g. to hang on a wall in a private home.
  • Social media and non-commercial websites: e.g. Facebook history pages, local history websites.

All the uses above are broadly classed as ‘non-commercial’ and are allowed for under the terms of the Non-commercial government licence if they are Crown Copyright and our Terms and Conditions for other material.  Although you do not need to seek permission to use most images in these ways it is important to go through the proper process to acquire copies, as some images will be under a third-party copyright which require permission.  We also charge for high-resolution or unwatermarked images.

When do I need to get permission to use the images?

Commercial use of the images, or use of the images by commercial bodies, is not covered under the ‘Non-commercial government licence’.  Therefore, permission must be sought from the Royal Commission or other copyright holders by purchasing a specific licence.  Broadly these include using the images in the following way:

  • Publications – charity, academic, magazines, commercial or official reports.
  • Leaflets and brochures.
  • Media – TV programmes, DVDs, streaming.
  • Re-sale – keyrings, prints, postcards, mugs, etc.
  • Commercial displays – exhibitions, restaurants, pubs, display panels.
  • Commercial presentations – businesses, talks with entry fees.
  • Commercial websites – businesses.

The above list includes the most common examples of commercial uses but is not exhaustive.  We usually charge a fee for issuing licences which grant permission to use images for a specific commercial purpose.  These prices vary depending on their use and a full list of Licence Fees is available here.

How can I find images on Coflein?

Getting copies of our digital images is now easier than ever.  Images can be found in two different ways.  Firstly, by searching Coflein for a specific historic Welsh site, e.g. Caernarfon Castle.  Once on the specific entry for that site you can select ‘Images’ to display all the digital images associated with that site.

Alternatively, if you are looking for a specific image you can search by archive number, reference number, archive collection name or other criteria. 

RCAHMW colour oblique aerial photograph of Caernarfon Castle, taken by C.R. Musson, 1/5/1994.  Archive No.: 6153284

How can I get copies of the images on Coflein?

Once you have found and selected an image click ‘Further Information’, this will open our image library in a new tab. 

To acquire a copy of the image the purchase options can be found on the left-hand side under the image.  Low resolution, watermarked versions for personal use can be downloaded for free, alternatively higher resolution versions can be purchased for up to £10. 

After selecting the correct options for both use (see below) and image resolution, you will need to create an account with an email address and password.  You can then proceed to checkout and complete payment (if applicable), the image will then be downloaded to your computer. 

How can I get permission to reproduce the images?

To obtain an image for non-personal use, e.g. publications, websites, TV programmes, leaflets etc., proceed to image library (see above).  Once there select the appropriate option from the dropdown list in ‘Use’ and fill in the required information on how you will use the image.  Once you have selected the right options press ‘Add’.  After creating an account and completing payment, you will receive a licence along with your downloaded image.

There are many factors to consider when using other peoples’ intellectual material and it can seem quite complicated.  However, whatever the situation please follow these two ‘golden rules’:

Always Acknowledge – however they are being used, commercially or non-commercially, images and other material should always be properly acknowledged and credited as being the intellectual property of others using the appropriate wording. 

If unsure – ask!  Librarians and archivists are usually able to help with copyright.  For any material on Coflein the Royal Commission’s Library and Enquiries team are always happy to help clarify and advise on permissions, copyright, licencing, costs and other matters.

To contact the Library and Enquiries team email nmr.wales@rcahmw.gov.uk phone 01970 621200 or fill in an enquiry form.

Click here to learn more about some of the digital collections that can be seen on Coflein: https://rcahmw.gov.uk/digitised-drawings-and-fabulous-photos-highlights-from-our-online-collections/

By Rhodri E Lewis, Enquiries & Library Assistant


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