Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Copyright laws around the world

[A Sleeping Dog. . Gerrit Dou 1650]

I'm often asked about copyright on these pictures. I mainly work from old auction catalogues where the auction house claims copyright on the photographs of the paintings. Legally this is probably doubtful as they are reproducing the original painting, which is almost certainly out of copyright without adding anything ro it. The position is explained here:

This theory has been tested and proven in U.S. courts already: In Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp., 36 F.Supp.2d 191 (S.D.N.Y. 1999), the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that exact photographic copies of public domain images could not be covered by copyright because they lack originality. Even if accurate reproductions may require a great deal of skill, experience and effort, it is a process that lacks originality, a key element for copyrightability under U.S. law. The decision applies only to two-dimensional images such as paintings.

But it is fair to say that in some ways this is a grey area. Proceed with caution.

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