Commons talk:When to use the PD-signature tag

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An observation[edit]

I think we should put this on hold until we either find 1) case law specifically pertaining to signatures, rather than using our own home-brewed reading of US law, or 2) legal advice to the same effect. Lewis Collard! (lol, internet) 08:47, 11 October 2008 (UTC)

I think there is a real need for some general guidance even in the absence of explicit case law, for example to avoid repeatedly having to discuss this issue in DRs such as Commons:Deletion requests/PD-ineligible signatures? and Commons:Deletion requests/More signatures. Decided cases cover only a very small proportion of copyright law, and Commons could not function if we were to adopt your proposal (1). Legal advice we obtain from wherever we can, including practitioners' texts, but in the absence of a fund to allow us to obtain international copyright advice on a full fee-paying basis we have to do the best we can. That is already hugely better than the vast majority of image repositories on the internet, and we are getting better. --MichaelMaggs (talk) 20:07, 12 October 2008 (UTC)
I agree with MichaelMaggs; that would amount to paralysis. Signatures would seem to uncopyrightable just about everywhere, so it is likely that no one would even try to bring a lawsuit regarding them in many countries. The U.S. Copyright Office bluntly saying A signature is not protected by copyright doesn't leave much room for other interpretation. Carl Lindberg (talk) 14:42, 19 October 2008 (UTC)


I propose to add the {{trademark}} tag to signatures as well, as certain signatures are trademarked even if not protected by copyright, e.g. Audrey Hepburn's (see [1] - "Signature trademark licensed by Sean Ferrer and Luca Dotti..."). I'm just not sure whether it should be added only to signatures which are known to be trademarked or to all of them (the template says "This work contains material which may be subject to trademark laws in one or more jurisdictions", so there's a "may"...) Gestumblindi (talk) 20:43, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

Signatures are capable of being protected by trademark, although the vast majority of them are not. I don't think the {{trademark}} tag should be used indiscriminately; instead, use it to tag signatures which are known to be trademark-protected. --MichaelMaggs (talk) 21:28, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
I have added a section to explain this. --MichaelMaggs (talk) 14:58, 19 October 2008 (UTC)


Does any one knows about India? It is not ok for UK and assuming that India is one of the "Common law countries" I would expect that it is not ok. But I would prefer to "know" and not just "expect". --MGA73 (talk) 23:02, 19 December 2011 (UTC)

I suspect no one really knows. The section here you quote suggests many UK signatures may be copyright (the UK has a much lower bar on originality than the US) but there probably is no relevant case law. Anyone stating that a particular UK signature is or is not copyright will merely be giving an opinion, though possibly an informed one. As for India, because law in India is based on English common law, the situation there may be the same (or may not be!). The only way anyone will ever "know" is when a case is decided in the courts. What seems agreed is that a signature is an artistic work rather than a literary one so it is potentially copyright if it shows sufficient originality whereas the mere words of someone's name would not be subject to literary copyright. Many "Indian" signatures appear at and the fact that "© copyright 2010. Thakkar Numismatic and Art Foundation. All rights reserved." appears at the foot of each page suggests to me the site owner does not care about people's copyright rather than that he has assured himself over the legal situation. My personal view is that these signatures should be deleted (for reasons of privacy rather more than copyright) unless there is evidence that the individual has suitably released their signature. en:Wikipedia:Signatures of living persons takes much the same view but it is not clear whether "the person has publicly published their own signature" in the case of those on the Indian website. Thincat (talk) 10:41, 20 December 2011 (UTC)
That is basically my take. I doubt it has come up often in court cases, so it's going to be hard to tell for most countries. Even this UK source thinks that signatures probably aren't copyrightable even in the UK. Canada has a similar threshold at least in wording (skill, labour, and judgement), but they seem to have a bit higher threshold in recent years -- Tele-Direct v American Business Information (about library copying of court decision compilations) denied copyright protection to a phone book (much like Feist vs Rural) and CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada appear to have backed away somewhat from some UK precedents (which defined original as simply not being a copy, and which I think some of the guesses regarding signatures were based on) and instead required at least some skill and judgement involving intellectual effort (thus rejecting pure sweat of the brow), though not as high as the U.S. requirement of creativity. But I'm not aware of any case which has explicitly considered signatures specifically (there or the UK). Carl Lindberg (talk) 16:27, 20 December 2011 (UTC)

Is a photograph of an autograph of a celebrity subject to copyright?[edit]

Is a photograph/scan of an autograph of a celebrity on a book page or any other item subject to copyright? Is the nationality of the owner of the autographed item / owner of autograph (celeb) pertinent? --J Raghu (talk) 16:28, 12 May 2012 (UTC)


The argument at this page makes a convincing case that a signature wouldn't be copyrightable in Cambodia: Commons:Deletion requests/File:Khem Veasna Signature.PNG. I am not a lawyer, so I cannot evaluate such a claim. Personally I suspect that copyright law isn't mature enough in Cambodia to know for certainty either way. Still, I think the above law is as close as we're ever going to get to figuring out whether a signature is copyrightable, and maybe we should add Cambodia as ✓OK. Thoughts? Magog the Ogre (talk) (contribs) 23:40, 28 January 2014 (UTC)