I would like to use an old painting (over 100 years old)
as the cover on a book and a few others (also artist over 100
years old) inside the book.
What process do I go about to verify that they are
in the public domain?
Thank you and sorry if it's a very basic question.
I did reply to your question the other day but some reason my posting has disappeared and I haven't been able to log in for the last 2 days.
It's not just the copyright in the painting you need to check up on, but much more relevant is the copyright in any photograph of the painting which you want to use. If you took the picture yourself then obviously there isn't a problem, but if you found a picture on the internet or in a book, then you will much probably need permission from the photographer to use that image for your cover. If you have no details to go on, one way is to use TinEye or Google Image to search for the image in the hope that you will find the source, and so be able to contact the current copyright owner.
Alternatively, there are a number of sources of copyright-free images of old masters, or ones issued under Creative Commons licence which might be a cheaper way of doing what you want. If the image is issued under Creative Commons you need to check the terms of the licence, as a large number may have a No Commercial Use (NC) stipulation, which would exclude your book cover, so additional permission would be required.
As far as the actual painting is concerned, unless you are thinking of publishing in the US, the date when the painting was made is less important than when the artist died. If the date of death was before 1943, then the painting will be out of copyright, and free for you to use. As far as the US concerned, anything published there before 1923 is now in the public domain.
I hope this clarifies things a bit.
The painting is on Wikimedia Commons, and on the page it says:
"This is a faithful photographic reproduction of an original two-dimensional work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason:
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.
This work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years or less."
I am in the UK. Can I take it that if it is on Wikimedia Commons
and has this statement it is ok to use?
It does not stipulate anywhere that I need to do any creditation.
Do you think it is ok to go ahead?
thanks so much Andy
Your help much appreciated.
I think that if the Wikipedia Commons entry is correct then you are OK as far as the painting is concerned, but you are not entirely out of the woods as far as the photographic image is concerned.
Wikipedia tends to adopt US law when applying copyright decisions, and in the US generally most courts tend to treat photographic reproductions of art as lacking sufficient originality to qualify for copyright as separate works (the most influential decision is know as Bridgeman Art Library v Corel Corp). However the UK courts have taken the opposite view (see Antiquesportfolio v Rodney Finch) and given photographers copyright in their photographs of art works even if the latter are in the public domain.
So for this reason it might be worth trying to discover if the photographer in this case is a US citizen (and therefore unlikely to think he owns any copyright) or one from the UK or another EU member state, where the photographer might wish to protect his rights.
I think he is in Austria, but I don't see how to contact him.
There are two other people who uploaded the image on the
same page but his one is the highest resolution.
Right under the image it says the following:
"The official position taken by the Wikimedia Foundation is that "faithful reproductions of two-dimensional public domain works of art are public domain, and that claims to the contrary represent an assault on the very concept of a public domain". For details, see Commons:When to use the PD-Art tag.
[b]This photographic reproduction is therefore also considered to be in the public domain."[/b]
If it says that this photographic reproduction is therefore also considered
to be in the public domain, why does he not say the contrary somewhere
in his comments on the file history for example, and why put it there
in the first place?
The unclarity is really worrying - I just wish it were black and white!
your answer would be greatly appreciated.
If the photographer is Austrian, or largely based there, then he would probably expect to invoke Austrian/EU law on the subject, and that generally protects photographs of this sort.
I can't say why he has not objected to Wikipedia's use of this image: he may not know about it, he may not mind, he may have consented to its use or he may think it is too difficult or time-consuming to try and get it taken down.
If any of those are the actual reason for him not objecting, then maybe the same will apply to your use also. It is worth saying that since the photograph is a faithful reproduction of the original painting, it may be very difficult to prove, based on visual aspects alone, that the photograph is his and not some other reproduction of the painting. If there is metadata embedded in the image, this may provide proof of the source of the image, however as it is relatively easy to strip this data off a digital image, it may be missing in this case.
I'm sorry not be able to provide more certainty or clarity. Unfortunately I only report what the law says; I don't make the laws!