Using common domain paintings for advertisements

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by Ravich, Jul 19, 2011.

  1. Ravich macrumors 6502a

    Oct 20, 2009
    Portland, OR
    I did a bit of research and found this site:

    Not sure how reliable it is although it looks trustworthy to me and cites sources.

    What I am wondering, is whether that means I am free to use a picture of a painting from the 19th century or prior for advertisement purposes (for example a poster for a concert). I know that no one can claim copyright on the original painting, but is there any issue that arises when it comes to pictures of those paintings? I am guessing not, since in every sense they would be an identical reproduction of the original, but I am not sure if using them for commercial purposes would change that. Just needed some clarification...
  2. davedee65 macrumors regular


    Apr 7, 2010
    Hi. As I read it:

    1. If it's under copyright then obviously it can't be used.
    2. If it's in the public domain then in theory it can be used.
    3. If it's covered by fair usage then you can use it as long as you or any other party DO NOT profit financially from its use.

    I've always found it's far better to NOT use a direct reproduction of a painting for example. If you do need to use it then I would manipulate it in some way that changes it enough that you don't fall foul of any legal issues.

    If in doubt don't use it. Always better to come up with your own design/artwork anyway! :)

  3. Ravich thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 20, 2009
    Portland, OR
    Thanks for clearing that up. I'm actually not a graphic designer. I just have to make posters that look appealing because I'm heading a project and there's no budget for a good designer. If I use paintings, they're always public domain (Van Gogh and another painting from the Baroque era in this case), so I dont have to worry as long as I'm allowed to use public domain paintings for advertisement.
  4. jtara macrumors 65816

    Mar 23, 2009
    In the U.S., I believe that this is somewhat unsettled law. Museums routinely assert copyright on reproductions of works that they own, but those copyrights may or may not be enforceable. I think it depends on whether or not the reproduction is considered a derived work. For example, a photo might be extensively retouched. Is the retouched photo, then, a new work of art?

    As an example, I have a few photo prints that I purchased from the San Diego Historical Society. Each is stamped with a copyright, even though the original negatives are out of copyright. And they have a schedule of royalties for print publication, web use, etc.

    But I did some research, and it appears that in many cases, these asserted copyrights are not valid.

    But why take a chance? The safest thing would be to take the photo yourself, providing the source is available and the owner permits photography.

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