Hit history website is a lost cause after row over copyright

An online collection of pictures chronicling Edinburgh’s architectural past has itself been consigned to the history books despite becoming a runaway success.

The Lost Edinburgh Facebook page – which attracted more than 20,000 “likes” in just nine days of being created – is no more after copyright issues forced its creators to take it down.

But David McLean, 25, who set up the page along with his friend Mike Robertson, 25, has insisted the site, which featured photographs of the city throughout the decades, will rise from the ashes.

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“We do have plans to make a return and if we do it we will get all the necessary permission to do so – it won’t be what it was like before.

“It’s going to take some time, a number of weeks, to get something together on it, we’re going to let the dust settle for a bit.”

Many of the images on the site belonged to the Royal Commission for the Ancient and Historical Monuments Scotland (RCAHMS), which subsequently made a request for the images to be removed.

But there were further complications, including pictures being added to the site by users who did not own the copyright or the images they were sharing.

After deliberation a decision was taken to close Lost Edinburgh for good.

The disappearance of the page prompted demands to know what had happened to it and a flurry of online campaigns to have it reinstated.

David, a hotel worker from Roseburn, said: “I can understand people being a bit annoyed about the page being taken down, but once an image is on Facebook it belongs to them and they can distribute it or do whatever they like with it.

“We apologise wholeheartedly to anybody we possibly upset – we only had the best of intentions.”

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David said part of the inspiration behind the project was his grandad, Andrew Boyd, who spoke of a number of places he used to work which no longer exist – Mackies and Co, the Palace Picture House and Princes Street Station.

David admitted he was surprised at the meteoric rise in Lost Edinburgh’s popularity – and how much it meant to some of its fans.

It was doing so well, David and Mike – old school friends from James Gillespie’s – hoped to organise an exhibition, with the ultimate goal being The City Art Centre.

“The site caused a bit of a stir. To get more than 20,000 likes in just nine days – it doesn’t happen every day.

“I read a comment someone had posted that said their dad didn’t have long to live and for the first time in ages she saw him enjoying something.

“It said he didn’t have time to look through all the pictures and could we put it back up.

“I’m sad to see this but also proud that we created something so poignant and meaningful for people.”

A statement from RCAHMS read: “In the case of the ‘Lost Edinburgh’ Facebook page, the overriding issue is that Facebook’s own terms and conditions for the posting of images prevent us from posting copyright RCAHMS images.

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“We couldn’t give the creators of the ‘Lost Edinburgh’ page the permission to post images, and we cannot post them ourselves – to do so would mean granting Facebook rights in our images, which would be in breach of our duty to protect the copyright of these images for all those who have deposited them with our National Collection.

“Our archive holds over 18 million items relating to both Scotland and other locations throughout the world and they are available to anyone to use, subject to a licence and potentially a fee.”

RCAHMS has its own database, Canmore, allowing the public to share images and comments with its national collection. It can also be viewed on Flickr at www.flickr.com/photos/rcahms