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Subject: Legality of reprinting really old work? rss

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Tim Kline

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Howdy folks. Sorry if this makes me sound like a total noob.

So, I'm developing a miniatures game based on the Wild West.

I bought a reprinted gun catalog from 1880 that I've been using for some research. The catalog is loaded with old drawings of the different guns for sale, and the descriptions are all long-winded and proper sounding.

So, question is.. can I copy art or text from a publication this old? Will there be any legal ramifications?

For one, I like the authentic drawings and would like to use them, and that would save me a big chunk of money that I barely have to spend on artists. I was also going to draw most equipment my own, but I really like the authentic look and was planning to design the equipment section of the book to resemble an old catalog anyway.

Next is the item descriptions and more. I was thinking of taking what's said and rewriting it a little, by just changing some names and things around. I don't want to just blatantly plagiarize what's in there, but it would be close. Is something like that "OK"? On that note, I also have a collection of wanted posters I was planning to copy & update too

I emailed the company I bought the book from, and they said something like "I'm sure everything in there is in the public domain by now." But, that's not really a definitive answer.

So, just looking for some opinions/advice? I can do my own drawings, etc, but I thought copying some of the old stuff would just make it seem a lot more authentic. I just don't want to get a ton of rulebooks printed up and then promptly get sued. what do you think?
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todd sanders
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yes all public domain. use what you will
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Jonathan Harrison
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In the United States, anyway, anything printed before 1923 is guaranteed to be in the public domain.

Great find.
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Nate K
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Don't United States copyrights only last 70 years? I'm pretty sure you're good to go.
 
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Tim Kline

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OK thanks. I just wanted to be sure.

I guess the same go for really old photographs?
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Rich Shipley
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kurthl33t wrote:
Don't United States copyrights only last 70 years? I'm pretty sure you're good to go.


We're up to life+70 for individuals & 120 or 95 after publication (whichever is sooner) for corporations at this point. As long as Disney has enough money to bribe congress, it will keep getting longer.
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James Hutchings
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Necros wrote:
OK thanks. I just wanted to be sure.

I guess the same go for really old photographs?


Yes, you can freely reproduce text, photos, engravings, layout - the whole catalog.

The only minor 'but' is that trademarks etc are separate to copyright. For example Sears Roebuck or Colt might still be a trademark (I don't know if they are, they're just examples). However you can still use the names in the game.

For example, assuming Colt was a trademark, and Colt had made a board-game at some stage and registered their trademark as applying to board games, you could still reproduce the ads for Colt .45s as is, but you couldn't call your game 'Colt .45'.
 
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Timothy Adamson
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rshipley wrote:
kurthl33t wrote:
Don't United States copyrights only last 70 years? I'm pretty sure you're good to go.


We're up to life+70 for individuals & 120 or 95 after publication (whichever is sooner) for corporations at this point. As long as Disney has enough money to bribe congress, it will keep getting longer.


Yes, but before the longer terms kicked in, a lot of stuff went into the public domain. Especially when you were required to renew copyright. I'm pretty sure the 1923 year from above is accurate.
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Wim van Gruisen
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Necros wrote:
OK thanks. I just wanted to be sure.

If you really want to be sure, I guess that you can do better than ask the opinion of random people on the internet.

That said, everything I've heard about the subject indicates that you can use the work. With the caveat that they have to be the original works; if you work from a reproduction of those pictures, there can be some hairy issues. For instance, Van Gogh's Sunflowers are public domain, but a photograph of the painting isn't.
 
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John Middleton
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Or another malt liquor named "Colt .45"
 
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Richard Morris
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Whymme wrote:
Necros wrote:
OK thanks. I just wanted to be sure.

If you really want to be sure, I guess that you can do better than ask the opinion of random people on the internet.

That said, everything I've heard about the subject indicates that you can use the work. With the caveat that they have to be the original works; if you work from a reproduction of those pictures, there can be some hairy issues. For instance, Van Gogh's Sunflowers are public domain, but a photograph of the painting isn't.


This.

And he did say that it was a reproduction of a 1880s catalogue. Not an original 1880s catalogue. Which technically means that nearly all the advice above is wrong.
 
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James Hutchings
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From wikipedia:

"n the U.S., reproductions of two-dimensional public domain artwork do not generate a new copyright; see Bridgeman v. Corel. Scans of images alone do not generate new copyrights-they merely inherit the copyright status of the image they are reproducing. For example, a straight-on photograph of the Mona Lisa is ineligible for copyright."

(source)
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Richard Morris
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apeloverage wrote:
From wikipedia:

"n the U.S., reproductions of two-dimensional public domain artwork do not generate a new copyright; see Bridgeman v. Corel. Scans of images alone do not generate new copyrights-they merely inherit the copyright status of the image they are reproducing. For example, a straight-on photograph of the Mona Lisa is ineligible for copyright."

(source)


OK. Then scratch my previous remark. In the US.
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Wim van Gruisen
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apeloverage wrote:
From wikipedia:

"n the U.S., reproductions of two-dimensional public domain artwork do not generate a new copyright; see Bridgeman v. Corel. Scans of images alone do not generate new copyrights-they merely inherit the copyright status of the image they are reproducing. For example, a straight-on photograph of the Mona Lisa is ineligible for copyright."

(source)

That seems all right then. I trust Wikipedia a bit more with regard to legal affairs than the collected knowledge here.

Then I just hope that the people who reprinted the catalogue did not change anything in that reprint, but kept as faithful as possible to the old drawings.
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Tim Kline

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thanks for all the info

I was actually changing the names of the guns to something that sounds similar.. like instead of Colt I called made it Holt, etc. I guess I don't really need to then?

As far as the catalog I have though.. it's pretty obvious that all this company did was take photocopies of the original one and turn it into a little booklet at Kinko's. I don't mind though, I just wanted it for the info. But, I tried scanning some images and after a little bit of photoshopping they actually look pretty decent, so thats when I thought it might be a good idea to just use some of the original images.

I may still just try and redraw what's in the book though, since there's other items in the game that aren't in the book.. like flaming bottles of booze or sticks of dynamite that you can toss at people
 
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