Do I need to seek permission to Use photos of old Paintings?

Tracing copyright owners and asking permission.
Post Reply
Khine Tun
New Member
New  Member
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2012 11:16 am
Location: London

Do I need to seek permission to Use photos of old Paintings?

Post by Khine Tun »

Hello, I hope soemone can clarify things for me. I'm getting rather confused so would welcome any commnets to my query.

I'm clearing rights for a project at present. We would like to reproduce photos of old paintings such as the Mono Lisa and the The Last Supper. Both paintings are by Leonardo Da Vinci. These should both be out of copyright but can be found in gallaries around the world.

My question is, if these are out of copyright, would I still need to obtain permission from the gallery to use the photo of the paintings?

I would be grateful for any comments. Thanks. :?:
User avatar
Posts: 2471
Joined: Fri Jan 29, 2010 12:43 am

Post by AndyJ »

UK law generally accepts that photographs of paintings attract copyright in their own right, due to the skill and effort of the photographer (this is in contrast to the USA, France and Switzerland, where there have been landmark cases which found that such photographs lacked any 'original' input by the photographer and therefore were not subject to copyright).
So you need to try and find out who is the photographer of any work of art and either negotiate a licence to use his work, or ascertain if the photograph has been effectively made available for free via a scheme like Creative Commons. There are certainly many of the more famous works of art which are available for free, so it may be best to try and locate them. Take a look here for how Wikipedia approach the issue, but bear in mind they operate under US law so not everything in that article will accord with UK law. Don't be tempted to use any images from the major picture libraries such as Getty without paying for a licence as they do go after people who alledgedly infringe their copyright. Also note that some Creative Commons licences do not permit any commercial use of works (these are marked NC or use the $ sign crossed out as below:
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
New Member
New  Member
Posts: 5
Joined: Wed Oct 12, 2011 2:44 am
Location: New Sheoth, The Shivering Isles

Post by Sheogorath »

Hi, Khine Tun.
To add to AndyJ's answer, a photograph of the Mona Lisa taken at the Louvre by an American in 1996 or later is definitely in the Public Domain in the UK because of the Berne Convention's Comparison of Terms.
I'm an Autistic auto-didact cognoscente of UK copyright law.
Post Reply