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I'm thinking of changing the cover to one of my novels.  I found some artwork that would be perfect.  The artwork is listed as public domain (the artist has been dead for over 100 years).  I don't plan of changing the artwork, at least not very much.

Is this a bad idea?  It would be similar to having the Mona Lisa on your cover.

Opinions?
 

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If it works, and is in the public domain, go for it.  The cover image might bring in more publicity (which is never a bad thing).
 

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What you need to be careful about is not the image itself, but the image of the image, if that makes sense. Painting X by Jane Artist might be in the public domain, but the professional photo of Painting X By John Photographer could still be under copyright.
 

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I know of a couple of authors who have used some nice public domain artwork as a cover. I see nothing wrong with it.
 

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Rin said:
What you need to be careful about is not the image itself, but the image of the image, if that makes sense. Painting X by Jane Artist might be in the public domain, but the professional photo of Painting X By John Photographer could still be under copyright.
Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer.

Many reputable organisations (Wikipedia, the Creative Commons institute), and myself, are of the opinion that a simple photograph of a public domain picture that does not add anything creatively, and merely attempts to reproduce the original painting as faithfully as possible, is also under public domain.

Some museums and other organisations disagree, but they are dumb (IMO).
 

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David Adams said:
Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer.

Many reputable organisations (Wikipedia, the Creative Commons institute), and myself, are of the opinion that a simple photograph of a public domain picture that does not add anything creatively, and merely attempts to reproduce the original painting as faithfully as possible, is also under public domain.

Some museums and other organisations disagree, but they are dumb (IMO).
Totally, totally agree with you, but because some people are dumb, it's always worthwhile checking. :)
 
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Museums disagree over this.
They want you to buy their photos of the art work.
Good source of income for museums.

But if the art is in the public domain, it's in the public domain.
 

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If the artist has been dead for over 100 years then you ought to be safe - unless they died in active service - in which case you still can't use it in France! http://www.reusableart.com/v/about/

Also, the photos of art thing - some countries grant copyright of the photo to the photographer and some don't.

If you're publishing internationally, then it's important to consider that - if the photographer/artist's estate (if it's something that is public domain in the US but still under copyright elsewhere) wanted to, they could potentially sue you. It's worth noting that England is one country which is granting copyright to photographs of art works - and most people are publishing their ebooks in the UK as well.
 

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If it is a flat painting and over 100 years old you are probably good to go. In the US the 1999 judgement in NY by Judge Kaplan in Bridgemen vs Corel ruling that, "a photo which is merely a slavish copy of the original PD painting is not copyrightable since it is not an original work of art, it is merely a copy. This extends even if the photographer used special processes and.or lighting to enhance the work." This ruling applies only to paintings on 2-D surfaces which are flat and does not extend to sculptures which are 3-D.

This ruling has been challenged several times by museums etc and Kaplan's ruling has always prevailed and is the formal legal case cite.
 

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jackz4000 said:
If it is a flat painting and over 100 years old you are probably good to go. In the US the 1999 judgement in NY by Judge Kaplan in Bridgemen vs Corel ruling that, "a photo which is merely a slavish copy of the original PD painting is not copyrightable since it is not an original work of art, it is merely a copy. This extends even if the photographer used special processes and.or lighting to enhance the work." This ruling applies only to paintings on 2-D surfaces which are flat and does not extend to sculptures which are 3-D.

This ruling has been challenged several times by museums etc and Kaplan's ruling has always prevailed and is the formal legal case cite.
On the other hand, do you really want to go to court to defend yourself and this ruling, with the attendant costs? I would suggest care because there are museums which will defend their photos in court.

There is nothing wrong with using public domain artwork, and there are arguments that it is all right to use any photo you come across of public domain artwork. But that doesn't protect you from the costs and you are the one who has to pay the lawyers. So I chose to pay for the public domain work that I used on a coupe of my own novels. My choice and I think it was an intelligent one. But that's me.

Paying for it cost a lot less than an hour of an attorney's time.

Edit: And it's rather funny that I forgot in answering the question that both Freedom's Sword and A Kingdom's Cost have work that is in the public domain on the covers. The art on the cover of A Countenance of War is quite definitely not in the public domain though.

By the way, you can find a lot of photos for which the photographer does not claim copyright so it isn't always an issue.
 

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A museum bringing a suit would today be risking a frivilious federal suit. Today museums are looking for a perfect case to win, but it looks doubtful from Kaplan's ruling. Every challenge has been denied.

If the fee price is reasonable, paying is wiser.
 

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jackz4000 said:
A museum bringing a suit would today be risking a frivilious federal suit. Today museums are looking for a perfect case to win, but it looks doubtful from Kaplan's ruling. Every challenge has been denied.

It's fine with me if you want to pay. A Euro museum wanted 5000 Euros from me. Nyet!
Well, needless to say I didn't pay 5000 Euros. And the fact is that they are looking for such a case. Now sure they might lose. They might get a slap on the wrist. They MIGHT not bother. But it is something to think about when looking at this issue.

I think in fact, we're in agreement here. If the fee price is reasonable (and mine was under $50) then just pay it. But 5000 Euro? LOL

They're asking people to just use it. Of course, I don't know the EU laws regarding the issue either. (Paid in Euros they could be in Europe. I have no clue about that) They are no doubt not covered by US law and we are publishing internationally.
 

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JRTomlin said:
Well, needless to say I didn't pay 5000 Euros. And the fact is that they are looking for such a case. Now sure they might lose. They might get a slap on the wrist. They MIGHT not bother. But it is something to think about when looking at this issue.

I think in fact, we're in agreement here. If the fee price is reasonable (and mine was under $50) then just pay it. But 5000 Euro? LOL

They're asking people to just use it. Of course, I don't know the EU laws regarding the issue either. (Paid in Euros they could be in Europe. I have no clue about that) They are no doubt not covered by US law and we are publishing internationally.
Oh $50 or $100, no problem. Much easier to pay. Here's a little more:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bernard-starr/museum-paintings-copyright_b_1867076.html
 

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I used a public domain photo for my cover of the The 15th Star of the Star Spangled Banner (circa 1864.) I put an acknowledgement with a link in my book to the website that provided it, as they requested.
 
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