Thursday, January 12, 2012

Can I Reproduce Images From Gray's Anatomy?

[REVISED 1/13/2012 -- Please see comment posted below]
Dear Rich: I am trying to get through the murky waters regarding what constitutes public domain. I design patient education fliers for many different departments in a medium-sized hospital. We are having trouble getting permission from most medical illustration resources to create these materials with external illustration without going way over budget. The problem being we can't offset the cost of purchasing the usage rights for patient materials since we're not selling these images -- we're giving them out free as a much needed service. I have found a site called and they have a huge number of wonderful illustrations from the original 1918 printing of Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body that I can use for these materials. The pitfall is our research librarians aren't certain if we are allowed to utilize any of the online imagery since it's saying the company renewed the copyright in 2000. If I use the reproduced 1918 digitized illustrations from the Bartleby site am I violating any copyright? Or am I well within the public domain period to use these images without permission or attribution? First of all thanks so much for asking about Gray's Anatomy because that allows us to put the book title into our header which may fool alternate-spelling Internet searchers seeking information about the popular TV show (Grey's Anatomy). We're not sure if that's a deceptive business practice (class action attorneys take note), but we hope that it is. We need to do something to jumpstart our Blawgsearch rankings. Also, we hope you don't mind that we cut 212 words from your question. That gives us more space to blather on and hopefully will keep our bounce rate down.
Right, you had a question. Good news. Copy all you want from the 20th edition of Gray's Anatomy. You're free to copy it from (we discuss their terms of use, below), or if you're uncomfortable with that, use any of the 1247 graphic plates from the book that have been digitized and posted at the Wikimedia site. When you click on any image there, you'll see an expanded reproduction and this tag on the bottom of the page.
This faithful reproduction of a lithograph plate from Gray's Anatomy, a two-dimensional work of art, is not copyrightable in the U.S. as per Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp. ...
What's that mean? It means that the original image in the book is in the public domain in the U.S. and that slavish digitized reproductions (exact copies) are also in the public domain, per the Bridgeman case. Because you're only asking about print rights in the U.S., we don't address worldwide rights (and we are not sure that you can rely on Wikimedia's conclusions regarding worldwide use, as well. You'd be better off consulting Steve Fishman's Public Domain book.
What about the terms of use at's terms of use claims, "All materials published and provided on the [site] are protected by copyright ..." That kind of wishful thinking is popular at a lot of sites that publish public domain works. It's true that the 21st through the 30th editions of Gray's Anatomy are protected, but the 20th edition published in 1918 --  the one featured at -- is safely in the PD. Unless the site has done something original to the works, for example, added distinctive coloring and titles, there is no claim the site can make to the images.
P.S. Dept. We recently answered a similar question and provided more detail about the public domain.