Who owns old icons?

Noel noelf at nomigraphics.com
Mon Aug 4 16:33:29 EDT 2008

I've been reading this conversation, and have to throw a few points 
of clarification out there.

First off, Fonts and dingbats both are copyrighted by the person that 
created them.   Typefaces on the other hand, are not covered by 
copyright.  However the US hasn't yet made a legal decision on if a 
font is a typeface yet (go figure).  But ask any publishing house, 
and they will tell you they make sure to have licenses for any 
typeface they use that isn't in the public domain.

Next, the Corel vs Bridgeman Art Library case says that if the 2d 
object (such as a painting) is in the public domain due to its age, 
the owner of the object cannot claim copyright on its image.  You can 
take a picture of that object, and do whatever you personally want to 
do with it and keep the copyright of that image.  However, this law 
has not been tested on anything 3d (such as a statue), and doesn't 
apply to everywhere (US is the main application of this law)

Almost last, the idea of changing the item so copyright doesn't 
apply.  The owner of the original copyright also owns all derivative 
works from that copyright.  So you cannot take someones icons, change 
them slightly, and claim they are yours now.

And finally Last.  Taking a "screenshot" of an icon, in no way gives 
you a right to distribute that property.  The original icon still has 
copyright on it, you are not allowed to claim copyright on a 
"picture" or a "screenshot" of that item.

Just a few things to throw out there :)

  - Noel

At 12:18 PM 8/4/2008, you wrote:
>Richmond Mathewson wrote:
> > Rick Harrison wrote:
> >
> > "Unless Apple, Inc. has put all of HyperCard into the public domain,
> > the HyperCard icons are still owned by Apple, Inc."
> >
> > which seems pretty clear and unequivocal.
> >
> > However, old icons are a bit like my face:
> >
> > I own my face, and were somebody to mysteriously remove it and
> > graft it on to another person they would have stolen it.
> >
> > However, journalists and others photograph people's faces and
> > publish them everywhere without so much as a backward glance;
> > and they cannot be said to have "stolen people's faces", or even
> > their likenesses.
>You did not create your face.  In the US, your image in public 
>places is considered pubic domain, and can be photographed by anyone 
>without requiring consent.  Photos of your face taken in private 
>places will require your consent, or may be considered an invasion 
>of privacy.  But it's the privacy at play with faces, not copyright 
>(at least not in the US; YMMV); you did not create your face, and 
>copyright is generally limited to the domain of created works.
> > Now, were I to post the HyperCard application, or, say, a ResEdit
> > document containing Hypercard icons on a website and/or user group
> > I would have stolen the icons.
> >
> > However, were I to post (as, indeed I have done) photographs (i.e.
> > screenshots) of HyperCard icons; this would be similar to an
> > individual publishing a photograph of me s/he took.
>Actually, photographs of paintings are covered by the copyright of 
>the painting being photographed.  There may be exceptions for 
>incidental use (e.g., a painting in the far background of a 
>photograph of a gallery), but the rules for incidental use are vague 
>and the copyright holder can elect to have them tested in court.
>Pixel-for-pixel copies of a work, even if saved in a different 
>format, have been tested by the court and found to be under the 
>protection of the copyright holder of the original work.  In some 
>cases even modest deviance from the original may still be protected, 
>unless the defendant can demonstrate that their work was indeed 
>original and similarity is purely coincidental.
>Oddly enough, fonts are a specific exclusion to this protection, 
>having been defined by the courts as purely utilitarian and 
>therefore unprotectable by copyright (given the artfulness required 
>for font design I disagree with this ruling, but the courts rarely 
>consult me when making judgments).  The underlying code of vector 
>fonts can be protected as software instructions, but the actual 
>rendered image of the glyphs themselves are not protected (hence the 
>knock-off industry).
>Screenshots which include copyrighted images may fall under 
>"incidental use", but as I noted such usage is vaguely defined and 
>may be tested at the copyright holder's election.
> > This discussion is rapidly reaching its natural end.
>Yes, all citations of governing law have demonstrated that 
>distribution of pixel-perfect copies of an entire collection Apple's 
>icons represents a violation of their copyright.
>If this seems unclear the best test of course is to verify this with 
>Apple.  I'm not an attorney, and I haven't seen any of the attorneys 
>on this list offer their opinions, so while no one here can be of 
>assistance the original copyright holder is the one who can best 
>answer your question.
>  Richard Gaskin
>  Managing Editor, revJournal
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