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Home > Using Copyright > Compilations, Music, Images > Images of Art and People

Images of Art and People

Images may involve many rights:

  • Copyright in photograph
  • Copyright in subject
  • Trademarks in subject
  • Personality rights if people are depicted

Images of art are an important element in many courses of instruction and images of art are popular subjects for multimedia works.

Photographs of art
If you are interested in using photographs of art, it is important to consider that there may be a copyright in the photograph as well as a copyright in the artwork depicted in the photograph. If both works are still protected by copyright and your use requires permission, you may need to seek permission from both the owner of the rights in the photograph and the owner of the rights in the art.

Public Domain
If the subject of a photograph is in the public domain, can the photograph be digitized and used freely? Possibly, but you do not assume that to be the case.
Example: A painting by Monet
The original painting is in Public Domain, the photograph may be covered by copyright

Although copyright in an original artwork may have expired, the owner of the physical copy of the work may control access to the work and control how images of the work may be used. For example, a museum may not allow the general public to photograph paintings in its collection and may own the copyrights in the photographs it authorizes and as such, would have the exclusive right to allow derivatives or other adaptations of the photograph.

    Consult guidelines
    Guidelines for the acquisition and use of images in non-profit educational visual resources collections have been developed by the Visual Resources Association and may be helpful if you are planning to use images of art in your course or project.

Subject matter of photographs may also include company names or logos and these should be used carefully. Even if you took the photo yourself, if you use an image on your web site that shows a company logo or trademark, this may imply a relationship between you and the company that does not exist. You may want to visit the getting started section for further discussion on trademark and other intellectual property rights issues.

Individuals have a right to control how their image, likeness, name, voice or other identifying characteristics are used. If you wish to use photographs of people, you may need to obtain a release to use their image. Personality rights [2A5] are discussed further in the getting started section. Washington State Law governing personality rights is discussed in the information section.


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