[OSM-legal-talk] Copyright of old media / images / maps

Eugene Alvin Villar seav80 at gmail.com
Fri Apr 4 16:45:06 UTC 2014

On Sat, Apr 5, 2014 at 12:02 AM, Martin Koppenhoefer <dieterdreist at gmail.com
> wrote:

> Anybody can explain how it can be legal to claim copyright on old
> material, say 18th or 19th century works?
> When browsing the web (mostly library pages and catalogues) those
> institutions often claim full copyright and prohibit reproduction,
> distribution etc. of the (digitalized/scanned/photographed) works, but I
> wonder on what basis they do so, given that the authors of those works are
> all dead for centuries now.
> Would it be legitimate to derive features (e.g. names or old names) for
> osm from such sources if the distributing entity claims copyright on the
> material?

As I understand it, in some jurisdictions, while the original piece (on
paper, canvas, etc.) is already in the public domain, a digital scan,
reproduction, or photograph of the piece may still be given copyright
protection, especially if the jurisdiction uses the "sweat of the brow"
doctrine[1] as the reproduction process may take a lot of effort and skill
(e.g., preventing damage to the original piece). This is notably NOT the
case in the United States as shown by the Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel
Corp. case[2].

As for deriving factual data from the reproductions, I think this should be
OK since you are not copying the reproduction itself but rather picking up
uncopyrightable data, much the same as if you are picking out facts by
reading a copyrighted piece of text. But of course, IANAL.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweat_of_the_brow
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridgeman_Art_Library_v._Corel_Corp.
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