Brunswick, OH asked in Copyright for Ohio

Q: Are photographs taken of President Abraham Lincoln delivering his Second Inaugural Address in the public domain?

The photo in question was taken on March 4, 1865, by an employee, probably by Alexander Gardner, if so, of a privately-owned photography studio, owned by Matthew Brady. Can I reprint one of these photos in a book and be free of any legal consequences? Thank you.

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2 Lawyer Answers
Marcos Garciaacosta
Marcos Garciaacosta
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Mesa, AZ

A: NO.

It depends on how you get your hand on the photo.

IF you go to where the original is and they allow you to take a photo, then maybe.

Most reproductions you will find online have their own trail of copyrights.

Just like anybody can take a picture of the statute of liberty, but you can not use the photos taken by others.

Consult with an attorney.

Steve Charles Vondran
Steve Charles Vondran pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • San Francisco, CA

A: Items in the public domain do not have copyright protections. That means, you can use these photos or images how you see fit, but make sure they are truly in the public domain (all rights expired). In your example, that photo would seem to be in the public domain. Public domain photos become free for the public to use. If you are concerned, you can purchase liability insurance (which might make sense if you have a lot of images in your book that you are not sure about). Good luck, sounds fun!

This is general legal information only and not legal advice.

Attorney Steve®

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