General Question

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

If you own an original painting/drawing, do you have the rights to reproduce it?

Asked by DarlingRhadamanthus (11271points) April 30th, 2012

That’s pretty much it. Is it possible to reproduce it as a print, card or other item….for resale? I own a beautiful drawing that has been admired a lot and I have often wondered if this would be possible without any copyright infringement. (The artist died in the 1970’s.) I hope I don’t offend any artists with this question.

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30 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

Interesting question! I don’t know the answer from a legal perspective, but it’s certainly true that museums do it.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Probably not. The copyright of a work of art lasts for the life of the artist plus 70 years (US figures – other countries have other ideas). The artist can bequeath their copyright to whoevever they want who would then recieve the royalities etc so there may be someone out there who has an interest in making sure the copyright is honoured.

Bill1939's avatar

I would be surprised if any work of art or literature could be legally reproduced without the permission of the originator or the executer of their estate.

blueiiznh's avatar

GQ as I own a few and have wondered. Here is a quick find document I found from the US Copyright Office
I don’t know how this follows with other countries around the globe.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Generally if the drawing comes with copyright priveledges it will be in the contract you get when you purchase the drawing. I know that when large companies commission artwork for their advertising campaigns they generally buy the copyright with them.

elbanditoroso's avatar

No. You aren’t the creator.

annewilliams5's avatar

No you shouldn’t reproduce it for any reason, unless you have permission. Copyright and Trademark legal issues are hard to live down. It’s stealing. My business will not steal another’s art. It’s just wrong.
Consider, your work, something you’ve spent time on, energy creating, making sure it’s exactly right, and then someone steals it. How would that make you feel?

Salem88's avatar

@elbanditoroso and @WestRiverrat are right. If you are not the creator, then there must be a contract with someone (the deceased person’s heirs??) to claim a copyright. Had a little experience with this over some iron railings that I designed for a nice house years ago.

Copyrights are not worth the money and time to copyright unless it’s something big time (usually not art) believe me. I let blacksmith I Hired to make the railings, take pictures of railings when house finished (which he put in portfolio along with my drawings with copyright mark) He got 3 jobs that I know of reprod. them without a word to me. Found out from other Contractors.

So even though I was the creator and copyrighted, it wasn’t worth suing him over. Just a little miffed for a minute. Glad he got some good paying jobs from them. Que Sera.

annewilliams5's avatar

@Salem88 Very unfair of someone to steal your work!

josie's avatar

Copyright? If so, no. If not, yes.

Judi's avatar

What if you commission the piece?

WestRiverrat's avatar

@Judi then it would depend on the contract you draw up with the artist. It can work both ways, generally if you let them keep the copyright the original piece is cheaper to you.

I have also seen contracts where the copyright is held by both parties and both parties have a certain number of uses before they need permission from the other party to reproduce.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

No. It’s like buying a CD, you have a license to own the one thing you actually paid for.

blueiiznh's avatar

@MollyMcGuire but in the case of a CD you have the right to make a copy for yourself

Lightlyseared's avatar

@blueiiznh no you don’t. You have a right of fair use (in the US) that may include format shifting but it does not allow you to sell that copy.

blueiiznh's avatar

@Lightlyseared I never said anything about sell a copy.

Response moderated
Lightlyseared's avatar

@blueiiznh but you don’t have an automatic right to copy the CD anyway you have a right to fair use which you can use as a defence in the violation of the copyright.

blueiiznh's avatar

@Lightlyseared there are plenty of threads here on this so I do not want to hijack the question or beat a dead horse. From Recording Industy Law:
Copying CDs

◦It’s okay to copy music onto an analog cassette, but not for commercial purposes.
◦It’s also okay to copy music onto special Audio CD-R’s, mini-discs, and digital tapes (because royalties have been paid on them) – but, again, not for commercial purposes.
◦Beyond that, there’s no legal “right” to copy the copyrighted music on a CD onto a CD-R. However, burning a copy of CD onto a CD-R, or transferring a copy onto your computer hard drive or your portable music player, won’t usually raise concerns so long as:

◦The copy is made from an authorized original CD that you legitimately own
◦The copy is just for your personal use. It’s not a personal use – in fact, it’s illegal – to give away the copy or lend it to others for copying.
◦The owners of copyrighted music have the right to use protection technology to allow or prevent copying.
◦Remember, it’s never okay to sell or make commercial use of a copy that you make.

Salem88's avatar

@blueiiznh – If you feel that strongly about it, why don’t you just but the original?

blueiiznh's avatar

@Salem88 I do buy the original. I also know my rights and that is what this question is all about.

Salem88's avatar

I salute your ethics.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

Wow….this led to a spirited interaction! I suppose that there really is no definitive answer unless one consults with a copyright attorney…and/or finds out of the estate of the artist has bequeathed copyrights to all his/her works to someone. I would definitely consult someone professional first.

I also wonder (like @blueiiznh ) if it is possible to copy a work for non-commercial purposes…not for sale. For example, if someone uses “Monet’s Waterlilies” as a poster background to advertise a garden show, would the organization be liable? If the poster was not sold, simply distributed as advertising? Seriously, is Monet’s great-great-grandchild who is now 80 coming after a group of little old zinnia-planting ladies in Ottumwa, Iowa? Probably not.

I think that this is a very complex subject…...but I enjoyed reading all the contributions…thank you everyone…for your thoughts/ideas/knowledge.

Lurve coming to all. Thank you again!

(PS @blueiiznh…I had problems opening the PDF…so I will have to refer to it later. Thanks for that, though.)

WestRiverrat's avatar

@DarlingRhadamanthus I know that they allow people to paint copies of the Mona Lisa, so long as they are not the same size as the original. I don’t know if this is common or not.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

Thank you @WestRiverrat….that’s a good point.

NanoNano's avatar

Paintings are copyrighted just like music, drawings, poems and literature in general, fiction and NF…

If it were a painting you created, sure you could make prints and sell them at will…

Though great works of art are often copied (I saw an artist doing this in museum some time ago) they have an agreement to do so…

NanoNano's avatar

No you do not.

Rights to “prints” or copies are retained by the artist, unless sold or licensed to someone else.

NanoNano's avatar


Painted copies of the Mona Lisa and such in museums are allowed as those works predate copyright law. Of course, forgery is still a crime…

Response moderated (Spam)
MollyMcGuire's avatar

@blueiiznh With CD you have the right to make an “archival” copy. The purpose is in case your CD gets damaged. There is no such right for DVDs or paintings.

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