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How did a previously-copyrighted design end up on the obverse of the Platinum Eagle coins ?

dcarrdcarr Posts: 7,997 ✭✭✭✭✭

The recent discussion about the Apollo 11 dollar selection process prompted me to post this.

I recently came across one of these in a group of exonumia. It is a 1986 Statue of Liberty centennial token issued by JC Penny, apparently:


The obverse on this token is obviously very similar to the later (2007 to present vintage) US Mint Platinum Eagle obverse. Also note that the reverse of the token has a copyright symbol on it.

But what really got my attention was the small "DE" designer's initials on the lower right obverse. Those would be for Don Everhart who was a freelance artist at the time. But later in 2004 Don Everhart joined the US Mint staff as a sculptor/engraver. If you look at the reverse of a current President dollar coin, for example, you will see the exact same style "DE" mark on the tablet that is being held by the Statue of Liberty.

So how did an apparently-copyrighted 1986 design by future US Mint sculptor/engraver Don Everhart end up on the obverse of the US Mint 2007 Platinum Eagle that has a design credited to US Mint sculptor/engraver John Mercanti ?

PS:
The pictures above were borrowed from an eBay listing. It is not my listing and I do not know the seller. But if anyone is interested, the eBay item number is 112584187201 .

Comments

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    WeissWeiss Posts: 9,935 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 19, 2017 12:35PM

    Dunno. But the design was popular on Manfra, Tordella, and Brooks AKA MTB bullion about the same era.

    They were struck by JM, Engelhard, and even the Mexican government. Here's one of my better examples in a 10 ounce round by the Mexican mint. Note the designer's initials in the folds of fabric in Liberty's right (left facing) arm:

    And here's a 10 ounce bar struck by Engelhard:

    And a 1 ounce by JM:

    We are like children who look at print and see a serpent in the last letter but one, and a sword in the last.
    --Severian the Lame
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    felinfoelfelinfoel Posts: 391 ✭✭✭✭

    Dan,

    You are correct. Clearly based on the same image, right down to the masculine look (IMO).

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    BillDugan1959BillDugan1959 Posts: 3,821 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 19, 2017 12:40PM

    I think you are making a lot of assumptions. The drapery on Liberty's arm is different, the hairstyle/ ringlets are done differently. The bridge of the nose is different, one has a dimple in the chin that isn't there on the other.

    I do note the copyright symbol is only on the reverse. J.C. Penny probably just bought a bunch of stuff from some private producer and placed it in their own holder. The style of the piece, and the wording on the token, actually makes me think that this could be a product of Bernard von Nothaus,but that is just a guess.

    Above all, I wonder if you can copyright a straight-forward mechanical/ or computer copy job taken from a photograph - which is what the head and the torch mostly seem to be, IMHO.

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    ScarsdaleCoinScarsdaleCoin Posts: 5,186 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Simple... answer.... Liberty was created in 1886

    All works published in the United States before 1923 are in the public domain. Works published after 1922, but before 1978 are protected for 95 years from the date of publication. If the work was created, but not published, before 1978, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70

    Jon Lerner - Scarsdale Coin - www.CoinHelp.com
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    BillDugan1959BillDugan1959 Posts: 3,821 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 19, 2017 12:47PM

    If it weren't for the 'Animated Mouse' Corporation, that "all works published in the United States before 19xx are in the Public domain" would be a lot more recent.

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    AUandAGAUandAG Posts: 24,536 ✭✭✭✭✭

    It's a public statue and copies of it are public......minor variations make no difference.

    bob

    Registry: CC lowballs (boblindstrom), bobinvegas1989@yahoo.com
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    RogerBRogerB Posts: 8,852 ✭✭✭✭✭

    The Statue of Liberty (aka “Liberty Enlightening the World”) was a gift to the people of the United States from the people of France. It is in the public domain and has been since its dedication in 1886. Uncounted thousands - maybe millions - of representations of the statue or parts of it have been made for public and private purposes.

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    ctf_error_coinsctf_error_coins Posts: 15,433 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 19, 2017 1:10PM

    The statue is public domain, but if an artist did a drawing of the statue, the art would not be public domain.

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    BillDugan1959BillDugan1959 Posts: 3,821 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @RogerB said:
    The Statue of Liberty (aka “Liberty Enlightening the World”) was a gift to the people of the United States from the people of France. It is in the public domain and has been since its dedication in 1886. Uncounted thousands - maybe millions - of representations of the statue or parts of it have been made for public and private purposes.

    That second sentence really requires a citation from some credible published source. If you're going to make that claim, cite a source.

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    ms70ms70 Posts: 13,946 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 19, 2017 2:10PM

    If 100 people took a picture of the same publicly owned object in a public domain from the same angle.......

    In my non-expert opinion the "rights" would all come down to the exact photo.

    Just my guess / opinion but I'm always right. Just ask my wife.

    Great transactions with oih82w8, JasonGaming, Moose1913.

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    davewesendavewesen Posts: 5,849 ✭✭✭✭✭

    maybe the copyright owner is getting royalties

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    ms70ms70 Posts: 13,946 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @davewesen said:
    maybe the copyright owner is getting royalties

    I've been ripped off! I want my tax dollars back!

    Great transactions with oih82w8, JasonGaming, Moose1913.

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    ctf_error_coinsctf_error_coins Posts: 15,433 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @ms70 said:
    If 100 people took a picture of the same publicly owned object in a public domain from the same angle.......

    In my non-expert opinion the "rights" would all come down to the exact photo.

    Just my guess / opinion but I'm always right. Just ask my wife.

    Almost every photo would be different as lighting, time of day, time of year, clouds or not, lens choice, artistic vision all influence the final product.

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    PRECIOUSMENTALPRECIOUSMENTAL Posts: 961 ✭✭✭✭
    edited October 19, 2017 2:49PM

    I have one of these that looks similar, from Sears and Roebucks, 1986 reconstruction of the Statue.
    I don't remember if it was in a cereal box or what?
    https://ebay.com/itm/1886-1986-SEARS-New-Centure-Token-Celebrating-100-years-STATUE-OF-LIBERTY/182035886795

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    TwoSides2aCoinTwoSides2aCoin Posts: 43,835 ✭✭✭✭✭

    He got a pretty good job for doing a pretty good job.

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    JBKJBK Posts: 14,745 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I cant open the link at work, but I think you are referring to the small (nickel-sized or a bit bigger) medal that contained some copper from the SOL. I believe they were attached to the Sears catalogs and sent out that way.

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    RogerBRogerB Posts: 8,852 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 19, 2017 3:44PM

    Use of public domain material can be copyrighted, but not the item itself. All government materials are in this class with a few exceptions. Thus, the Liberty image as used on a specific token design might be copyrighted, but not an image of Liberty from a public source. Anyone can put their version of the Statue of Liberty on a medal or token, and can copyright the token.

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    BillDugan1959BillDugan1959 Posts: 3,821 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 19, 2017 3:54PM

    I didn't ask for your reasoning.

    I asked for a citation from a book or credible source to back you up.

    Despite the fact that you are a highly respected researcher and author, I'd like a source citation.

    People can say anything on these blogs, and they often do.

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    ms70ms70 Posts: 13,946 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @ErrorsOnCoins said:

    @ms70 said:
    If 100 people took a picture of the same publicly owned object in a public domain from the same angle.......

    In my non-expert opinion the "rights" would all come down to the exact photo.

    Just my guess / opinion but I'm always right. Just ask my wife.

    Almost every photo would be different as lighting, time of day, time of year, clouds or not, lens choice, artistic vision all influence the final product.

    Yes, that's exactly my point!

    Great transactions with oih82w8, JasonGaming, Moose1913.

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    ms70ms70 Posts: 13,946 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 19, 2017 3:46PM

    @BillDugan1959 said:

    @RogerB said:
    The Statue of Liberty (aka “Liberty Enlightening the World”) was a gift to the people of the United States from the people of France. It is in the public domain and has been since its dedication in 1886. Uncounted thousands - maybe millions - of representations of the statue or parts of it have been made for public and private purposes.

    That second sentence really requires a citation from some credible published source. If you're going to make that claim, cite a source.

    How could it possibly NOT be in public domain?

    Great transactions with oih82w8, JasonGaming, Moose1913.

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    JBKJBK Posts: 14,745 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I am sure there are compelling arguments on both sides and I am not trying to take one side over the other, but if you start with the premise that the artist holds the rights to his own works unless transferred, then it seems that someone might have originally held a copyright to the SOL, most likely the sculptor or the one who commissioned it (France). This assumes, of course, that 19th century copyright law was any thing like 20th/21st century law.

    To put it another way, if I buy a bronze sculpture I own the physical piece but not the rights to reproduce it, and if I give that sculpture to you as a present, you also only own the actual piece, not the rights.

    Not sure if or how this scenario might translate to the Statue of Liberty.

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    BillDugan1959BillDugan1959 Posts: 3,821 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @ms70 said:

    @BillDugan1959 said:

    @RogerB said:
    The Statue of Liberty (aka “Liberty Enlightening the World”) was a gift to the people of the United States from the people of France. It is in the public domain and has been since its dedication in 1886. Uncounted thousands - maybe millions - of representations of the statue or parts of it have been made for public and private purposes.

    That second sentence really requires a citation from some credible published source. If you're going to make that claim, cite a source.

    How could it possibly NOT be in public domain?

    Roger B said it has been in the public domain since its dedication in 1886. I'm leery of when (not the fact that it is today), so show me a credible printed source that agrees.

    Bartholdi made copies later (as late as 1900), so perhaps he retained some rights? He also had a U.S. Patent issued to him for some aspects of the Statue (or maybe all of it).

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    jmlanzafjmlanzaf Posts: 31,869 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @ScarsdaleCoin said:
    Simple... answer.... Liberty was created in 1886

    All works published in the United States before 1923 are in the public domain. Works published after 1922, but before 1978 are protected for 95 years from the date of publication. If the work was created, but not published, before 1978, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70

    Not quite accurate. The issue isn't over Liberty but that representation of liberty. You can't simply use someone's artwork even if the subject of the artwork is in the public domain.

    The question is more the degree of similarity and who holds the copyright. If the copyright was held by DE and not JC Penny, I think there is no possible issue even if the style is considered identical

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    messydeskmessydesk Posts: 19,683 ✭✭✭✭✭

    The US Mint coin is a derivative work of the statue, not of the JCP medal. It is also a far better execution.

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    dcarrdcarr Posts: 7,997 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 19, 2017 7:31PM

    @messydesk said:
    The US Mint coin is a derivative work of the statue, not of the JCP medal. It is also a far better execution.

    I tend to agree with that. However, I wonder if Everhart showed his circa 1985 design to Mercanti when Mercanti was tasked with designing the 2007 Platinum Eagle ? They both worked at the US Mint, after all. So could the Mercanti work still be a derivative of the Everhart work ? If both parties agreed to that and there was no copyright infringement, then I don't see any problem with it.

    Regardless, my point in starting this thread was to shed some light on the question that perhaps I was not chosen for the Apollo 11 design competition due to my previous design and minting activities related to Apollo 11 astronaut concept dollars. My own opinion is that I was not disqualified for that reason. Everhart was not disqualified as a US Mint hire based on his past work, nor was a design similar to his disqualified from being used on the Platinum Eagle obverse.

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    JBKJBK Posts: 14,745 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 19, 2017 8:00PM

    @dcarr said:

    @messydesk said:
    The US Mint coin is a derivative work of the statue, not of the JCP medal. It is also a far better execution.

    They both worked at the US Mint, after all. So could the Mercanti work still be a derivative of the Everhart work ? If both parties agreed to that and there was no copyright infringement, then I don't see any problem with it.

    Everhart was not disqualified as a US Mint hire based on his past work, nor was a design similar to his disqualified from being used on the Platinum Eagle obverse.

    I am sure you probably are correct in your ultimate assumption about your disqualification, but in regard to mint employees I doubt they had to worry about competing copyrights as I am sure the Mint owns all works created on company time. In the case of your prior space designs they are "private" copyrights. We'll never know for sure if that had any impact.

    Bottom line: I hope the Moonlight Mint produces it's own moon commem, as I expect the US Mint is going to let us down.

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    dcarrdcarr Posts: 7,997 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 20, 2017 10:02AM

    @JBK said:
    ... but in regard to mint employees I doubt they had to worry about competing copyrights as I am sure the Mint owns all works created on company time. In the case of your prior space designs they are "private" copyrights. We'll never know for sure if that had any impact.

    I also don't think we will ever know for sure, not that it really matters at this point.
    But my previous point is that the 1986 Everhart Statue of Liberty design was created for (or by) a private company prior to his employment at the US Mint, and that design might be copyrighted in some way. And that didn't seem to be any hindrance to Everhart's career at the US Mint, nor the apparent usage of a very similar design by the US Mint via Mercanti.

    @JBK said:
    Bottom line: I hope the Moonlight Mint produces it's own moon commem, as I expect the US Mint is going to let us down.

    I've already done the small-size concept dollar. But I will probably do a large-size dollar piece in a year and a half or so.

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    cameonut2011cameonut2011 Posts: 10,061 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 19, 2017 11:12PM

    Statue designers can have both copyrights and design patents. When the statue was made, copyright law allowed for 28 years protection with a 14-year renewal. The Copyright Act of 1909 extended the renewal to 28 years in length. It would have expired as late as 1942 (assuming for argument's sake that the date of publication was 1886 when it was finished/dedicated). Since it would already be in the public domain, there would be no extensions of designs "published" before 1923 under the most recent iteration of copyright law. Design patents were only covered for 17 years and would expire in 1903.

    According to the Library of Congress, the Copyright Office issued copyright registration number 9939-G for the "Statue of American Independence" as the Statue of Liberty was first called in 1876. I think @RogerB is thinking of a provision of modern copyright law (17 U.S.C. § 120) which allows pictorial representation, paintings, photos, etc. of protected architectural works located or visible in a public space. That is not the same as being in the public domain all along.

    @BillDugan1959

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    JBKJBK Posts: 14,745 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @dcarr said:
    But my previous point is that the 1986 Everhart Statue of Liberty design was created for (or by) a private company prior to his employment at the US Mint, and that design might be copyrighted in some way. And that didn't seem to be any hindrance to Everhart's career at the US Mint, not the apparent usage of a very similar design by the US Mint via Mercanti.

    Ahh, yes, I had missed this point, that the earlier design was a private one.

    @JBK said:

    I've already done the small-size concept dollar. But I will probably do a large-size dollar piece in a year and a half or so.

    A very nice one, I have the two versions. Looking forward to the larger one....

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    rickoricko Posts: 98,724 ✭✭✭✭✭

    The similarities are obvious between the several renditions discussed. Not being a copyright lawyer, I am not clear on what 'variations' to a design eliminate it from infringement. I do remember some discussions while I was in business, that for products (such as what we manufactured) it only took a small difference in appearance, but for functionality the requirements were quite stringent. Cheers, RickO

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    CascadeChrisCascadeChris Posts: 2,517 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I don't know much about copywrite law but perhaps the miniscule differences between the designs are enough to obfuscate any infringement?

    The more you VAM..
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    derrybderryb Posts: 36,192 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 20, 2017 9:55AM

    art/photographs are copyrighted (without any formal application) by the originator, even when they depict something in the public domain.

    Just to give you an idea how the courts lean toward proprietary onwership, John Deere was able to prevent another outdoor equipment manufacturer from painting its products green and yellow.

    Keep an open mind, or get financially repressed -Zoltan Pozsar

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    HalfStrikeHalfStrike Posts: 2,202 ✭✭✭

    They didn't copy it (wink wink).

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    LindeDadLindeDad Posts: 18,766 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Does someone really care? It's a so what to me....

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