Monday, September 21, 2009

Music Ensemble Wants to Use Turner Paintings

Dear Rich: I run a small nonprofit chamber music ensemble and am researching images to use on the brochure we are putting together for our season. I'd love to use a Turner painting of Venetian canals, since it echoes imagery in a song in one of our programs. My graphics person insists that all paintings are protected, and that I need to find images from an online source like shutterstock, which, needless to say, doesn't have any Turner paintings. Can you clarify? According to the Dear Rich Staff's research, the British "painter of light" died in 1851. In Europe, copyrights expire 70 years after the death of the author. Unless we're missing something (or we've got the wrong British painter named William Turner), all of the paintings are in the public domain. Perhaps your graphics person believes that the photographs of fine art paintings have their own copyright. That's not the case as the courts will not enforce copyrights in slavish reproductions of public domain works.