Can a mechanical reproduction of a public domain artwork be copyrighted?
A. If I publish a print of the Mona Lisa, does that mean I own the copyright on the Mona Lisa? As silly as this sounds, until recently, the answer to this was yes–sort of. Museums very routinely put copyrights on prints that they sell of paintings in their collection, even though any copyright on the painting would have expired long ago (and in many cases, the painting was created long before there were any copyright laws). They then used these copyrights as a means of pursuing ‘unauthorized’ reproductions of these paintings. However, a recent court decision in the United States (Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corporation) has established that simple reproductions of two-dimensional artwork do not justify a fresh copyright claim. Note that this precedent was established in the United States, and is not relevant to EU or UK law. It only applies to mechanical reproductions of two dimensional artwork, not photos of sculpture, etc. This is a huge benefit to the public domain, since it mea