Thursday, September 23, 2010

Copyright Question

Just a quick post, to see if anyone knows the answer to this one. While I was in the shower this morning, a place I find I frequently get inspiration (anyone else?), I had the thought that the ancient Roman mosaics I've been seeing in the museums here in Italy would make really awesome cross stitch patterns. I wouldn't feed my photos into a program if I were going to do this, I'd design them by hand. Does anyone know how the copyright would work on something like that? My guess is that if I'm working from a photograph I took and creating a (even very similar) pattern, it shouldn't be an issue, the moreso because there is certainly no copyright on two thousand year old mosaics, but I know from experience that when museums get involved these things can get fuzzy. Thoughts?

Here are a couple of examples (because all posts are more fun when they have pictures!):


  1. I'm fairly certain there's no copyright on stuff that old. And I'd LOVE to see patterns for something like that.

  2. IANAL, but my guess is that there is no copyright on the original mosaics, and you would own the copyright on your patterns. (Much in the same way that if you were to do a painting based on the mosaics, you would own the copyright on the painting.) If the museums have any such stake in the matter, via bans on photography, my guess is that it has to do with the manner in which the mosaics are displayed; I don't know of any way in which the mosaic image itself could be claimed as their intellectual property.

  3. Hi swan-tower, I had no idea you were reading this, lol! That's kind of my take as well. Once I've made a derivative work, I think it's mine - I own the copyright on the photograph, and as a result I would own the copyright on anything I produced FROM the photograph. The hitch is that most museums reserve the rights to control how you distribute photographs that you take in their institutions - for example, to publish them, you have to get their permission (theoretically). However, I've heard from at least one source that even though museums say this, they can't actually do much about it. And even if they DO own that (ie the photograph) I'm still not sure that they would be able to limit the distribution of a further derivative work that I created "inspired by" a photograph.

    I posted about this in another place where I import my blog, and a person there suggested it might be in my best interest to contact the museum ANYWAY, which I think may in fact be sound advice. But based on what you two said, and what I believe to be how it works, I might save myself the trouble by simply spending five minutes speaking to a copyright lawyer.... :)