Can I use famous art work images that were created prior to 1900 in my book and sell the book legally? Are all artworks prior to 1900 Public domain? I want to use images of paintings made in 1800 to 1900 in my book and I need to understand if there are limits or restrictions to these artworks of this era?

  • Please beware that a big deal of the answer is country dependent. – Pere Apr 4 '19 at 23:36

Images can be tricky. If you went to a museum and took photographs of a 200 year old painting, you would be completely safe: the copyright on the painting has long since run out. But if you use a picture of that same painting that you found in a book, the photographer who took the photo can say that his photograph is an original composition.

I'd have to check the details, there was a court ruling a few years back that a photograph or other reproduction of an image cannot claim a copyright of its own if the photograph simply shows the original image. But if there are other elements in the photo, the photographer CAN claim copyright. Like if a photograph of the Mona Lisa showed people standing in front of it examining it, the photographer can say that these people and their poses, expressions, etc, are an essential element of the image, and his original composition.

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