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(Message started by: Jen on Jun 14th, 2004, 9:31pm)

Title: autographs and copyright question
Post by Jen on Jun 14th, 2004, 9:31pm
I have a large amount of autographs and some appear online.  It's come to my attention theft of some of these that someone else put them on their site as their own.

Questions:  Can an autograph be copyrighted?  I know that photos can copyrighted possibly to say film owners or the person taking the photograph.  But then that image is used and signed by someone, that changes its state and not is something else.  I consider it a one of a kind thing as no two autographs can be identical.  Therefore, could is not be consider artwork?  And can it be copyrighted?  

Maybe a silly question, but I am dying to know!

Title: Re: autographs and copyright question
Post by David Axel on Jul 5th, 2004, 10:54pm
I am wondering the same thing.  I host websites and several of my clients are autograph delaers.  Recently we have received DMCA (copyright violation notices) from Barry Rosen, a photographer.  

He claims that the images which have been signed are his photographs and that the people selling the autographs are violating his copyright.  

However, the sellers claim they have bought a signed photo, with no knowledge of any alleged infringement, and now should be able to sell it.

Any thoughts?


Title: Re: autographs and copyright question
Post by eric stasik on Jul 6th, 2004, 12:59am
From the US Copyright Office's FAQ page:

"How do I protect my sighting of Elvis?

Copyright law does not protect sightings. However, copyright law will protect your photo (or other depiction) of your sighting of Elvis. Just send it to us with a Form VA application and the $30 filing fee. No one can lawfully use your photo of your sighting, although someone else may file his own photo of his sighting. Copyright law protects the original photograph, not the subject of the photograph."

In other words, YOUR photograph of an autograph posted on your website is protected by copyright, but not all photographs, nor the autograph itself.

Normally, purchasing a copy/print of a photograph (as one does from a photographer) gives the purchaser only very limited rights to make copies known as "fair use." Normally, deriving commercial benefit from a copy falls outside the confines of "fair use."

As always, you should contact a qualified attorney in your area for answers to your specific questions.


Eric Stasik

Title: Re: autographs and copyright question
Post by nobody on Jul 6th, 2004, 3:27pm
Does a photograph of a two dimensional autograph or printed PD material merit copyright protection at all? Copyright protection would cover any substantial originality apparent in the photo, not the mechanical act of photographing it. How much originality can there be in a photo of an autograph? If you use a color filter, I'll B&W it. If you add a scale, I'll crop it. If somebody posts a scan or a simple 2D photo of the Declaration of Independence, and I crop out and color reduce J.o.h.n H.a.n.c.o.c.k's signature for my own use, I don't see copyright infringement myself.

Title: Re: autographs and copyright question
Post by Isaac Clark on Jul 7th, 2004, 6:40pm
I had the same question.

I've seen some pretty artsy looking signatures that I'm not prepared to say cannot be protected by copyright, but I don't think a photograph of a 2D drawing that simply reproduces the drawing gets it's own copyright.  I think I was just discussing that with ... nobody???

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