If you Google almost any public domain painting you will find many sites and individuals implying or claiming a copyright on their reproduction photos and asking for licensing fees, or saying that you can't use the photos without their permission. That would seem analogous to people claiming they have the deed to the Brooklyn Bridge and then setting up toll booths -- with the public willingly paying the tolls, or choosing the booth with the lowest toll.
At best this is an extremely confusing situation for authors and publishers. Sprigman: This is a great example of something that I've often noticed. Congress makes a copyright law, but the law on the street is often quite different from the law on the books.
Simon Stålenhag's hauntingly beautiful retro sci-fi art
People make claims that they own things that they don't own because in some instances copyright doesn't have completely clear rules about who owns what. In an environment where there is not a lot of clarity there are a lot of weird claims. He gives examples like people claiming copyright in the U. The Constitution is in the public domain. People claim copyright ownership of Shakespeare's sonnets.
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It's just insane. The lack of explicit clarity encourages this kind of behavior -- it makes this kind of behavior profitable and to some extent that's what some institutions are doing with public domain images.
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Starr: When I've asked permissions people and editors if it's necessary to get a license for a photo of a public domain artwork they say it's a gray area and if you don't want to get sued you'd better pay for a license. Sprigman: It's not a gray area. If they make an unadorned photo of the public domain image, that photo can't be copyrighted -- period! What I understand is that institutions want to preserve every possible source of revenue.
Government funding is going down -- they're under pressure. Starr: What about the use of hyperlinks to a photo or image of public domain works, and for images that are still under copyright. Sprigman: That's less and less of a gray area. Recently, courts in the U.
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But it may be different in other countries. Starr: Can museums or other institutions and photographers sue if you use their "slavish" images of public domain artwork? Starr: But that forces the author to defend the suit, which could be costly, even if it's defeated, as in Bridgeman v. Sprigman: The threat of a lawsuit may be the ultimate intimidation. The only thing I would say though to help people not to be so intimidated is that the copyright law provides for fee shifting, so that if you get sued for using a public domain image and you successfully defend the lawsuit there's a good chance that the plaintiff will wind up paying your attorney fees.
Starr: As we've noted, institutions are apparently avoiding initiating these suits. Sprigman: That's true. The last thing they want is litigation because they are likely to lose. Can I guarantee that? No, because federal courts are notoriously inexpert in and uninterested in copyright. But if the case comes out in any way that it should under the law they will lose. Starr : So what would you advise those who are hesitant to use photos of works that are in the public domain?
Sprigman: They should know that under the law if the image is "slavish," a mere reproduction, a plain unadorned exact image, they can use it and do not have to pay anyone a licensing fee. Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you.
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Starr: Before we continue, it would be useful to define "public domain. Sprigman: In that case you would own the photo and then you're fine. Starr: Has Congress tried to pass legislation like that? Sprigman: You can always sue. That's America. Starr: Thanks, Professor Sprigman.
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From Our Partners. Follow us. I love developing ideas and collaborating with folks on projects. Like all reputable publishers, Chronicle offers on its website a handy batch of submission guidelines , letting folks know what elements to include in their book proposals, how to send them in to us, etc. First and foremost, I need to see the art.
That last word is of paramount importance. Make it hard for the editor to review your work, and your work will be getting reviewed by a cranky editor. And no one wants that. Nice quality laser prints or easy-to-open electronic files, either one is fine. Avoid common pitfalls: overkill huge portfolios of dozens of fine art prints that come with little white cotton gloves in the box, myriad unlabeled disks ; underkill photo prints from the drugstore, crummy home printouts ; technical difficulties DVDs—not every computer has a DVD drive—software specific file types, Mac or Windows-only files.
What is the book? Common pitfalls are long-windedness on the one hand, and skipping this step entirely on the other. A page or two should suffice. Also detail your platform. You should familiarize yourself with the other books in your category and on similar subjects. Include in your proposal a list of other relevant books, and note which ones are points of inspiration for the sort of book you want to make, which are your competition, and which you think missed opportunities which your book will fill. Tags: Art , behind the scenes , Editorial.
Ming Platt November 14, at pm. Susanne DeNeef November 30, at am. Bridget: I recently read an article that described a new book from Tipoteca: Alphabets of Wood by Luigi Melchiori and the History of Italian Wood Type; authors James Clough and Chiara Scaholin-any possibility you can get this book to sell here in the states? I'm about to hit send on my art book submission!
The awkward 12 year old inside me appreciates your candor, Bridget. Great post. Armina December 15, at am. Susan DeNeef February 23, at pm. Anne-Louise Ewen October 19, at pm. Vinny Verrillo March 29, at pm. I have been wondering how to submit an art book proposal, you gave precise instructions, thank you. Edwina Owens Elliott July 25, at am.
Must You Pay to Use Photos of Public Domain Artworks? No, Says a Legal Expert | HuffPost
Denise Allan August 14, at am. Brilliant information delivered in a lighthearted fun way. Leanne Thomas October 16, at am. Notify me of follow-up comments by email.
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