published art

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  • The well known engraver L.D. Nimschke died in 1903. He kept a scrap book of his engravings, or pulls of his work. These works fell into the hands of another party and the the scrapbook of his Mr. Nimschke's work was published in the 70's. What are the copyright rules for this example.
  • YBurton,

    Nimschke's original works should be in the public domain by now. I did a quick search of the WorldCat database to see if I could locate publication details for the book from the 70's that you mention. All I could find was the book L.D. Nimschke: Firearms Engraver, by R. L. Wilson. This book was published in 1965 by J.J. Malloy and then reprinted in 1992 by R & R Books.

    To the extent that either edition of this book is copyrighted, my understanding is that the protection would apply only to those original, creative elements added by the author or publisher. So any text accompanying the reproductions of Nimschke's engravings would be protected, as would the organization and arrangement of those reproductions. The reproductions themselves may or may not show sufficient originality to qualify for copyright protection, depending on how "expressive" the depiction is -- if it's just a straightforward documentation of the engraving, then the reproduction probably doesn't show enough originality to qualify as a new creative work. But the selection and arrangement of those reproductions as a collective work probably does qualify for copyright protection, even if Nimschke's original artwork is in the public domain and even if the individual reproductions themselves are not copyrightable.

    What this means is that you can't copy or digitize the reproductions included in Wilson's book indiscriminately. Remember, that collective work probably enjoys its own copyright protection, so if you use it as your source for images of Nimschke's work you could infringe that copyright, to the extent that your use exceeds fair use.

    But if you wanted to take your own photographs of Nimschke's engravings and then publish them, or if you wanted to create a derivative work from one of his engravings then my strictly non-lawyer opinion is that you're probably okay.

    Anyone have a different take on this?

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