Over the years, we've heard tons of stories of professional printers refusing
to print certain images because they're concerned about being accused of copyright infringement. This tends to create a huge nuisance for people who have a legitimate right to have things printed, but it gets absolutely, positively ridiculous when it involves material that is quite obviously in the public domain. Long time Techdirt community member Rose M. Welch
sends in this ridiculous personal experience:
I'm working on an educational paper about medieval illumination and needed about a dozen full-color sheets with examples printed up to go with the paper. I called several local printers, found one who could print them today, and e-mailed her my documents.
The documents in question feature anywhere from one to six pieces from various illuminated manuscripts on each sheet, including some bits from the famous Book of Kells. The largest image is comprised of a full scan of the original manuscript, but printed in less than half of the size of the original piece (something like 6" x 8") and the smallest are six 2.5" x 2.5" chunks showing specific detailing from five different manuscripts on a single page.
These manuscripts were created between 600 and 900 A.D. and are firmly in the public domain. Even if they were not, printing pages and cutout bits from pages for an educational paper almost certainly constitutes fair use, which the printer had never heard of.
Seriously. No joke. What is the world coming to?"
And, just because we can
, because it's public domain, here's an image from the Book of Kells, pulled from Wikipedia
It's really troubling just how frequently we hear similar stories where people simply don't believe the public domain exists any more. They have it beaten into them so hard that everything is covered by copyright, and they're so scared of being accused of infringement that they can't even seem to fathom that there are works out there that you don't need permission to copy. It's pretty sad.