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Creative content

So by now, if you've been following the site, you might be bold enough to consider yourself an expert on whether images are in the public domain (PD) or not. But tricky cases arise all the time. For instance, there's actually one type of image that can't be copyrighted, that I haven't mentioned so far: the information-only work. Here's the skinny.

One of the most important principles of copyright is "creative content". If an image has no creative content, then it can't be copyrighted. The digits of pi aren't copyrightable, because they contain only "information", not "creativity". Because of this principle, a completely black image, or a simple image of a triangle, is in the PD. In fact, typefaces aren't copyrightable in the U.S. (although they are just about everywhere else), so a picture of a word is also safe to use. But as you can imagine, there's a lot of gray area; that's what we have lawyers for. My advise is, don't push it. If a judge rules that an image has even a minute amount of creative content, it can be copyrighted, and different judges can have different standards.

But one of the pleasant off-shoots of this is that scans of paintings are generally not copyrightable: just the original artwork is. So if a painting was first published before 1923, then a scan of the painting is PD, even if the scan was made recently. A judge ruled in Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp. that copies of artwork produce no new "creative content", so you're off the hook on that one. This opens a whole new array of PD images.

There are lots of great places on the web to find scans of PD paintings and drawings. Be careful though; some of them may be copyrighted if the original piece was first published after 1923, and it may be difficult to tell when a painting was officially published, so proceed with caution.

The three best sites I have found are the Web Gallery of Art, the Webmuseum of Paris, and the Art Renewal Center. The CGFA also has scans of artwork, and will have some pieces not listed in the links above. In addition, many museums, such as the National Gallery of London and the Louvre, sometimes have scans of their paintings available, but these esources are usually somewhat less useful.

Comments:
Quadell is a fucking tool.
 
Happy BlogDay 2005.

Today I recommended your blog to my readers, because on a BlogDay people look to find interesting blogs to share.
 
Hey! Thanks to Silvia I found you but I would like to ask you something very simple. Why you don't sindicate your blog? That way me and others can subscribe to it easily.
 
Web Gallery of Art (wga.hu/index1.html) states "The Web Gallery of Art is copyrighted as a database. Images and documents downloaded from this database can only be used for educational and personal purposes. Distribution of the images in any form is prohibited without the authorization of their legal owner."

Although the images are eligible for the public domain and indeed are, the provider of the images has placed restrictions on its use. By using the pictures, you are agreeing to a license on the terms of use, which limits its actual public domain status. Unless I am wrong, you cant just take images fron that website and sell them like you could with other public domain images.
 
Free Images
I just found your blog and want to say thank you! What an enjoyable time looking
through so many sites. Thanks for sharing.
 
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