How Is It That New Copyrights Are Being Claimed On Work Done By An Artist Who Died 70 Years Ago?
from the abusing-the-system dept
If you visited Google on Saturday, you may have noticed that the logo looked like the following:
I was reading that the copyright has expired on Mucha’s works. What does that mean in practical terms? Does it mean that anybody can, I don’t know, create a mouse pad with his images on it?
“It means that the rights are in the public domain, with two exceptions. Exception one are works that have not yet been photographed or seen. And there are quite a few of those. There, once we photograph them or we make the images available, those images have their own copyright.
“The other exception is, we have the biggest and possibly best quality archive of all the images. Because these images were created within the last five years with the latest technology, they all have their own copyright of 75 years.
That sounded wrong to our reader, who questioned how that could make sense, seeing as Mucha has been dead for over 71 years. Now, I’m certainly no expert on Czech copyright law, so anyone out there who is an expert, feel free to chime in. But I’m assuming that the situation is similar to one that we discussed a year ago. In the US, thanks to Bridgeman vs. Corel, it is mostly believed that a photograph of a copyrighted work does not receive a new copyright (technically, it only applies in the court where the ruling was made, but the ruling has been followed by other US courts as well). However, in Europe, I believe the question is more or less unsettled — so many claim that a photograph of a work can itself get a new copyright.
This seems silly, if you think about it. Copyright is supposed to cover the creative work added. Photographs, in general, are given copyright protection on the basis of the idea that the composition involved some creative choices (framing, lighting, aiming, etc.). In fact, the copyright is technically supposed to just cover those creative choices. A direct photograph of an artwork involves no such creative questions. However, as it is “unsettled” law in Europe, then some like to claim that photographs of artwork create brand new copyrights. That seems to be what the younger Mucha is claiming here, though assuming this issue hasn’t clearly been settled in the Czech Republic (and I can find no detailed info either way), then such a “new” copyright on a work so old could, conceivably, be challenged.