If I have a very small business that creates reproductions of historical documents and I find a photo of a document on the internet and recreate it from scratch, am I violating any copyrights?

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If I have a very small business that creates reproductions of historical documents and I find a photo of a document on the internet and recreate it from scratch, am I violating any copyrights?

The document in question is a civil war recruiting poster from 1862. My contention is that the document is not copyrighted and that simply being in possession of the document does not give the owner copyright protection.

Asked on January 5, 2015 under Business Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, you are wrong. The document may not be copyrighted, BUT the photograph of it is, since the photograph is an original work created by someone. Also, the photograph is protected as part of a copyrighted work, the website/page on which you found it, since that site or page is also an original work and copyright protects not merely an original work in its entirety, but also its graphic or textual elements. You cannot use, or modify, or adapt, or create a derivative work, etc. of someone else's photograph (assuming the photograph was not placed in the public domain). However, you may take your own photograph of the document and use that.


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