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DWW25921's avatar

Are all flags and maps considered to be "public domain" for retail use?

Asked by DWW25921 (6141 points ) December 13th, 2013

I want to create at least 2 more stores. Out of respect for Fluther I would like to refer you to their product site, although the question is about mine. You get the idea.

http://www.zazzle.com/fluther

I wish to use public domain graphics to create products. With that being said, what would be acceptable use? I was told I could use anything as long as it’s not been altered by an artist. Is that true? Are there more well known graphics that are public domain that I can look in to?

Your wisdom in these matters would be appreciated.

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9 Answers

glacial's avatar

I’m confused – is there something on the Fluther store site that we’re supposed to see in order to answer the question? Do you want to use Fluther graphics?

SavoirFaire's avatar

Maps are not public domain. In fact, they are one of the things copyright laws were invented to protect. If you are going to make flag products, make sure to find a public domain image of the flags you want to use. A photographer who takes a picture of the flags outside of the UN building, for instance, owns the rights to that image—including the flag images within it. But Wikipedia has images of most flags that are available for public use.

@glacial I think the Fluther store link is so we understand what a Zazzle store looks like.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

I think you need to talk to a lawyer about = = = = >
“fair use” and “public domain graphics”.

It will be cheaper than being sued for damages.

DWW25921's avatar

@glacial Sorry if I didn’t make that clear. It’s exactly what I want to do only using public domain graphics.

@SavoirFaire Thank you for that explanation! Do really old maps count or should I avoid them altogether?

@Tropical_Willie Perhaps. Rest assured I will make sure.

DWW25921's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr That’s a pretty good link! Thanks!

Darth_Algar's avatar

@DWW25921 “Do really old maps count or should I avoid them altogether?”

Depends on how only the map is. Generally speaking anything before 1920 should be safe to use.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@DWW25921 Really old maps are almost certainly public domain. Like @Darth_Algar said, anything published before 1920 (actually, 1923) will be safe to use. This is because everything created before then was subject to a law under which copyright could only last for 75 years (originally, they could only be copyrighted for 56 years, but the period was extended in 1976). Though more recent laws have extended copyright protection ever further, nothing created before 1923 is subject to these revisions. Note that this is all assuming US law.

It is also worth mentioning is that anything published by government agencies in the US is public domain from the moment it comes into existence, including maps created by government order. The only exception I know of is the Seal of the President of the United States, which is regulated by federal law.

One last thing: I found this wiki dedicated to open source geographical data, which includes a page about maps that are no longer subject to copyright. I don’t know how useful it might be, bit I figured I’d pass it along.

DWW25921's avatar

@SavoirFaire That’s good stuff, thanks!

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