Wednesday, October 7, 2009

She Wants to Use Bloch Paintings on TV

Dear Rich: I am a television producer who would love to use the work of the Danish painter Carl Bloch within a project of mine. Bloch was born on May 23, 1834 in Copenhagen, Denmark. I'm sure his work is in public domain and out of copyright but would I have to pay any kind of royalties or fees to anyone to broadcast his paintings on television.You are correct. Bloch's work is in the public domain. Danish copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years and Bloch died in 1890. You should not have to pay a fee for the right to broadcast the paintings on a television program, however you may have to pay a fee to acquire access to the paintings -- for example, some museums require photographic access fees or fees for the right to use photographic reproductions prepared especially for  the museum. Note, as we have indicated in previous posts, there is no copyright in a slavish photo reproduction of a public domain painting.
If the work is in the public domain, why is there a copyright notice on Bloch's painting (above)? Establishments such as the Hope Gallery earn revenue by selling reproductions of public domain works and probably include the copyright notice with the intention of discouraging competitors and tracking copying on the Internet (such as performed here by the Dear Rich Staff). We suppose we could remove the notice (since copyright law prohibits the placement of false copyright notices (See 506(c)) but we're too busy packing up personal belongings to mess with Photoshop right now. (By the way copyright law prohibits the fraudulent removal of notices as well (see 506(d).)