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Using old art

Started by Simon C, October 04, 2009, 07:14:04 AM

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Simon C

What's the deal with using old public-domain art in games? I'm particularly interested in old Pre-Rahaelite art.  I understand that no-one now owns the copyright on these works, but that people may own individual reproductions.  If I want to publish a game with high-quality reproductions of some of these works, what's the best way to do that?

Also, what's the deal with reworking these images? I assume it's totally kosher to alter the images, or use parts of them to create patterns or whatever.  Is that correct?


If you can verify an image is in the public domain and is not copyrighted, then you can do whatever you would like with it: remixing, etc. I'm not sure I understand the question about "the best way to publish a game with high-quality reproductions"...I'm guessing the first step would be to obtain high-quality images of those works, or is that not what you meant?

Note: you are also supposed to be able to remix work that is copyrighted or utilize pieces of them (under various clauses like Fair Use) as long as it creates a unique and original work of art, but it is legally dangerous as hell to do these days, with everyone being a greedy, sue-happy pig and the courts being gung-ho to side with copyright holders in such cases. For which you can thank Disney, Sony, etc.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Simon C

Thanks Raven,

Do you know a good source for high-quality digital reproductions of artworks? I suspect owners of these might guard them tightly, since they can't copyright them, but they can sell prints and such.

If I wanted to make a game with an old Pre-Raphaelite painting on the cover, what's the best way to do that?  Where do I start?


Caveat: I have not done what you have described. The closest for me would be my involvement in the reproduction of owned art, some of it in copyright, to illustrate note cards to be sold by a non-profit institution.

It seems to me that the biggest hurdle for you is obtaining high-quality reproductions. Commercially available products will likely have use statements associated with them. Your best bet is to identify the current owner, e.g., a museum, and request permission for a high quality reproduction for commercial use. The owner may well have a service to produce such a reproduction. There will likely be a fee and a requirement to use a specifically worded citation to its source.

Coincidentally, I was recently reading this: which is more to do with display rather than commercial use. The Bridgeman Art Library may likely be a source for what you want.



Quote from: Simon C on October 04, 2009, 10:20:19 PMDo you know a good source for high-quality digital reproductions of artworks?

I don't, honestly. At least not for what you're looking for. The last public domain stuff I used was medieval woodcuts, and I was able to find what I needed on-line for that. Perhaps someone with more experience with classical artwork reproductions can chime in?
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio