Bayeux Tapestry Use?
July 29, 2011 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Can I use (images of) the Bayeux Tapestry in a music video?

I'm making a "music video" for a friend. We're not professionals, and we're not making any money off of this. I want to use primarily images of the Bayeux Tapestry in this music video.

Will I run afoul of any laws if I do this? Copyright? Are there laws that cover fair use of very old important things?

Thinking about this also made me wonder about other famous works of art, like the Mona Lisa, or less famous specific works with well known subjects, like Abraham Lincoln. What laws govern things like that?

I'm in the United States, if it matters.
posted by hapticactionnetwork to Law & Government (10 answers total)
Keep in mind that the photo for the tapestry may or may not be public domain. Someone took that photo; someone owns the copyright to the photo.

This is not legal advice, and I am not your lawyer.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:45 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Go ahead and use it. The tapestry itself is obviously out of copyright. And contrary to what Admiral Haddock says, any strictly representational photos of it are also not subject to copyright in the United States due to Bridgeman v. Corel.
posted by zsazsa at 10:54 AM on July 29, 2011

Fair point, zsazsa, but that may not be the law in the jurisdiction where the photographer is located. Say France, since it's a French tapestry (or Japan, for that matter). If someone uses a protected work (esp. on the internet), I'd be mindful of the rights of the creators in their jurisdictions.

Again, not legal advice, and I'm not your lawyer.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:00 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

HAs zsazsa says, the tapestry itself is not subject to copyright, as its creators have been dead for centuries.

But the case he cites does not actually mean what he says it means. Bridgeman v. Corel is a trial court ruling which other courts have found to be "persuasive," but it is not binding precedent anywhere.

I'd be careful, but mostly about whose pictures you're using. Some content owners are more picky about this stuff than others. And you can always ask for permission.
posted by valkyryn at 11:01 AM on July 29, 2011

I'm not a copyright lawyer and this is not legal advice, but the copyright has probably expired and the tapestry has probably become public domain.

Fair use is complicated and unpredictable, but it only applies to copyrighted works -- which the tapestry is not.
posted by J. Wilson at 11:04 AM on July 29, 2011

See: 1066. If you have problems, they have bigger problems.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:08 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

To be absolutely safe, you'd need to take your own photographs of it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:16 AM on July 29, 2011

There are tons of photos on flickr; some are explicitly "Some rights reserved" rather than "All rights..." but you can email people and ask for permission in either case to cover your bases.
posted by rtha at 12:25 PM on July 29, 2011

I think rtha is basically right - it's not the tapestry itself in question (it's definitely not protected in and of itself, at least not in France), but whether the specific images you're using are protected by their creators. The tapestry itself is at this museum, and their legal page says that their own website and the images on it are protected (but are okay to use for personal purposes, which may apply to your case), but it doesn't go so far as to say that any and all images of the tapestry are protected. I'd go by the copyright (or lack thereof) of the individual images, be they on flickr or elsewhere.

There's also some contact info on that website if you want to ask them directly - more than in many other parts of France, folks in Bayeux tend to like Americans (it was the first town liberated in the Normandy landing), so you could ask them in English and probably get a friendly response.
posted by amy lecteur at 12:38 PM on July 29, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everybody, helpful answers all around!
posted by hapticactionnetwork at 3:56 PM on July 29, 2011

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