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Mexico Wants Payment For Aztec Images 325

innocent_white_lamb writes "Starbucks brought out a line of cups with prehistoric Aztec images on them. Now the government of Mexico wants them to pay for the use of the images. Does the copyright on an image last hundreds of years?"


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Mexico Wants Payment For Aztec Images

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  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Thursday January 07, 2010 @11:46PM (#30690656)

    Surely they could have included a picture of the offending cups...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Surely they could have included a picture of the offending cups...

      Then they'd have to pay too!

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @11:53PM (#30690700)

    IIRC certain countries or people demand that their "culture" must not be exploited without their consent. I.e. not without paying for it.

    I don't think it's just "simple" copyright they're going to field, they're going to insist that the culture of a country belongs to that country and isn't just public property.

    Which should be interesting if it sticks. Egypt demanding compensation for every mummy movie, Italy demanding compensation for every time someone does a gladiator movie, Russia demanding compensation for every dystopian totalitarian novel and Israel demanding compensation for every Bible.

    I somehow almost wish they get away with it. It should be insanely hilarious.

    • The Boston Bruins are gonna have to accept a buy out by the Red Army in order to settle their debts.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zippthorne ( 748122 )

      But if you kill everyone in a culture, you can claim it?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Aargau ( 827662 )
      Ask Mexico to pay Israel (or would it be the Vatican) for any Christian icon, including crosses, Virgin Mary statues, and patron saint candles, and see what the response is.
      • by gtall ( 79522 )

        Oh hell, we should all be paying Africans for the use of their genes starting from the Australopithecus Lucy. Or maybe the chimps since they are our closest relative and we share 95% of their genes. They could compensate us with...err....bananas. Anyhow, don't we already pay Monkey Boy'd he get in there....

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Wait until Japan demands payment for all of those Kanji tattoos.

    • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
      And some countries including mine (still) believe that there is such thing as a world culture heritage and that it belongs to every human.
  • The answer is . . . No?

    If this is the case, then sweat damn are all the states of the old Confederacy gonna make some serious Union dollars.

    • Nope, we'll pay all the royalties for all the Civil War movies in Confederate cash only.

      • Confederate cash is rare and a century and a half old. It's worth a fortune.
        • Confederate cash is rare and a century and a half old. It's worth a fortune.

          In some cases, yes, but its current market value is not in any way proportional to its face value:

          $500 []

          $5 []

  • Actually (Score:3, Informative)

    by Lobo42 ( 723131 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @11:56PM (#30690722) Journal

    Actually, the article clarifies that these images are from the pre-Aztec ruins of Teotihuacan, which would make them at least 1,000 years old.

  • What. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @12:00AM (#30690742)


    That's crazy. I can sort of understand wanting compensation for something your government created, to recompense taxpayer expense... but to ask recompense for an artistic STYLE your nation was built upon the dead remains of is WAY beyond my usual expectations of baseless money-grabbing.

    If there was a copyright on the creation, it has expired. By a few thousand years. There is certainly no derivative works clause you can pull out at this point.

    Even if you want to stake some claim on government effort in excavation, the only efforts you can claim ownership of would be individual performances/creations you have based on the original works - anyone else can just base their works on the original and avoid any derivative claims.

    Still, my guess is that this isn't really about making a serious claim - it's about getting settlements - about casting nets and seeing what comes back. The governmental version of SCO-style license trolling.

    Ryan Fenton

    • Re:What. (Score:5, Funny)

      by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @12:04AM (#30690750) Journal

      But without copyright, those unnamed artists of millennia past might not have the motive or means to produce anything. I know if I'm an ancient artist, the first thing on my mind is how I'm going to feed the civilization that murders and conquers my own civilization hundreds of years after my death.

    • the law involved has nothing to do with copyright. []

      it is the "La Ley Federal sobre Monumentos y Zonas Arqueológicos, Artísticos e Históricos"
      (federal law for monuments and archeological , artistics and historic sites)

      It has the purpose of protect the national heritage. And what it is asking is a fee for taking the photographs for comercial use, stating what use would you give to it. It is no very high, and nowhere it goe to the amount if it

    • What...

      That's crazy. I can sort of understand wanting compensation for something your government created, to recompense taxpayer expense... but to ask recompense for an artistic STYLE your nation was built upon the dead remains of is WAY beyond my usual expectations of baseless money-grabbing.

      You forget, there is a government involved; inventing new baseless ways to money grab is their speciality.

      Realistically, Starbucks should see if the cost of mugs plus fee less what they expect to get from the sale of the mugs is less than the cost of the mugs. If it is, pay the fee to minimize your loss. While I don't agree with the whole we own all images of our cultural heritage argument; since Starbucks does business in Mexico a fight would probably cost them more in teh long run.

  • Amazing (Score:5, Funny)

    by jgreco ( 1542031 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @12:05AM (#30690760)
    Walt Disney would be proud.
  • And we will have the Sunny Aztec copyrith extension act. Now, copyright will last at least from 1923 until next decade. That is from when Disney and other media houses started recording movies and music. Today that means 100 years. In a billion years, copyight will have been extended to 1 billion and 100 years. If the mexicans want in on the game, they will have to pay some lawmaker.

  • The copyright, trademark, and patent insanity will only stop once everyone is negatively impacted. It's got to get (much) worse before it will get better.

  • by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @12:19AM (#30690832) Homepage Journal
    The real trouble happened when tried to put 2 Aztecs in 1 Cup. Associated a whole new twist to the taste of their coffee.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Starbuck's work is likely either a photograph, or a work derived
    from a photograph. The photo is likely copyrighted, or restricted.
    When you visit an architelogical site, your personal photos are
    for personal use only -- not commercial reproduction accoring to
    the law of Mexico. It's been this way for quite some time (70's?).
    When you do apply for reproduction rights, it's usually limited
    to specific publications with a nominal fee per object represented.
    These laws were put in place quite early, perhaps before

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      Wow, what an amazing evolution of Western culture, i.e., a way to make money off dead people. And all the lawyers needed to defend this income stream get rewarded also. As well as the pols who get to piss off the new income. What people will do for sex is weird, what people will do for money is downright alien.

  • by rdmiller3 ( 29465 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @12:33AM (#30690892) Journal

    Of course, the Mexican government is going to be sure and give that money to the indiginous tribes, the descendants of the original artists, right?

    • If by "give money" you mean "sodomize then throw in a pit", then yes....
    • by orasio ( 188021 )

      Native Mexicans are not organized in tribes. Most Mexicans are descendants of Mexicas, even people in the government. In Central America, the genocide was not complete.

      Anyhow, RTFA, it's not about that.

  • LMAO (Score:4, Interesting)

    by multimediavt ( 965608 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @12:40AM (#30690918)

    What's next? We're going to have to pay the Italians for using Roman letters and the Saudi's for using Arabic numbers? Ridiculous!

    • by bl968 ( 190792 )

      Just be glad they didn't think about demanding payment for the use of the number zero....

      • by N Monkey ( 313423 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @03:48AM (#30691700)

        Actually, IIRC the Arabic number system had it's origin in India. There was an excellent BBC program [] on the history of mathematics which showed some early examples.

  • Just pay the US royalties on blue jeans

    • by Sique ( 173459 )

      Which are made from denim ("de Nîmes" = from Nîmes in southern France) and cut according to genuese fashion (thus "Jeans" = "Genuans").

  • I think trademark would be more fitting intellectual property here.

    And can a government assert trademark rights over things it didn't create? Can a government assert trademark rights over things that are marks of a people that existed prior to them? Can a government assert trademarks at all?

    This just sound like more government corruption to me.

    • by Sique ( 173459 )

      It can. Because most of the things it asserts trademark rights on are created as Work for Hire for the government (e.g. the rulers of the tribes/chiefdoms/kingdoms/empires of the time). Most countries I know of have special laws governing the usage of the cultural heritage. Just because the U.S. for a long was not really interested in anything created on U.S. soil that predates Copyright law and thus didn't fall under its protection does not mean that other countries might not see things differently.

  • by nanahuatzin ( 1363965 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @02:36AM (#30691374) Homepage
    In México, the use of historical images (from buildings, archeolgical artifacts, sculpture or paintints) requires permision from the INAH (national institute of antropology and history)..

    This is contemplated in the federal law about Monuments and Archeological, artistics, and historic sites. It is not exactly a question of copyright, but those images are considered "property of the nation".

    Ussually the fees are not very high, but depends on the use of the images. Since this was part of a comercial product, the INAH has to autorize its use, and charge a fee, used for conservation of the monuments. The problem is that the design company that sold the images to starbuck should have request permision to the INAH first. There are no penalties involved.

    The permisions can be requested here: []

    If you took a photograph nad use it for personal or divulgation, there is no problem, but if you used them for a comercial purpose you need permision. []

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      Oh, well, if there is a law involved, that makes it okay then. There is a Seinfeld episode where George is going to a chiropractor and he had to cancel an appt. They charged him because he canceled within the 48 hour limit specified in their policy. Later on, the chiropractor had to cancel whereupon George attempted to charge the chiropractor because he now had a policy. There's much truth in that episode.

  • For using the Corinth style capitals and columns in its buildings ...
  • It's almost hilarious that a government that existed after the Aztecs wants money for the images of their predecessors... Am I missing something here? Or am I laughing by myself?
  • National iconography should be protected from redefinition, abuse and from corporate marketing departments.
    This being said, I am still waiting when I can publish my, adult only, Mickey Mouse movie : "On Santa's knees".
  • Could it be on Slashdot []? Yeah, that's the ticket, Egypt tried to copyright the pyramids [] and the sphinx no less. I haven't heard anything else about it, but I'm pretty sure that answer was "how about no".

  • How many New Yorkers does it take to screw in a light bulb! NONE, F%&K YOU!
  • Does the copyright on an image last hundreds of years?

    Copyright gets extended every time it's about to hit the expiration limit so yes, copyright will last hundreds of years a century from now.

  • its a valid copyright/patent issue.

    if copyright lobby can extend the copyright period by 90 years, why a government shouldnt be able to extend any copyright 500 years ?

  • Wouldn't the Aztecs own the rights to their images rather than the government of Mexico. Aren't the tribal Aztecs who used these types of art long in their graves? Wasn't it Spanish governments that pounded the Aztec empire into the dust? Should the US government do the same and collect money every time an American Indian's image is used? Oh boy. Now I'm messed up. Aztecs are American Indians. But that is the other kind of American. Do they count?

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