Public Domain Day 2012

Robert Delaunay, Saint-Séverin, 1909

Robert Delaunay (1885-1941), Saint-Séverin, 1909, Minneapolis Institute of Arts (photographed by Derek Churchill)

In addition to being New Year’s Day, January 1st every year is also Public Domain Day, a celebration of artists and authors whose works are entering the “public domain” because the copyright protection of those works has expired.

Technically, no major works will actually enter the public domain in the United States this year (or in any year until 2019), thanks to a series of complicated changes to United States copyright law since 1978. But in many countries, copyright protection ends 70 years after the death of the artist or author. So in those countries at least, works by anyone who died in 1941 would have passed into the public domain on January 1, 2012.

Artists who died in 1941 include a number of important late 19th- and early 20th-century figures, such as Émile Bernard, Maximilien Luce, William McGregor Paxton, John Lavery, El Lissitzky, Alexei Jawlensky, and Robert Delaunay (left).

The VRC’s website has a Copyright page with more information and links to additional resources.

Please note that I am not a copyright lawyer, so my comments here should not be mistaken for legal advice. You should always consult a copyright professional if you have questions about whether or not a particular work is in the public domain.

Yale to Open Its Image Collections

Louis I. Kahn, Yale Center for British Art

Louis I. Kahn, Yale Center for British Art, 1969-1977, New Haven, Connecticut (Photo © Kathleen Cohen/WorldImages)

Yale University has announced its intention to open its digital image collections to all users over the Web. This will provide free access to works in its museums and libraries, which include the Yale University Art Gallery, Yale Center for British Art, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and Lewis Walpole Library. Read the press release here and a story about it here.

This follows a similar announcement by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which I discussed in a post last month on VRC@UD.

LACMA Image Library

Georges de La Tour, Magdalen

Georges de La Tour, The Magdalen with the Smoking Flame, ca. 1638-1640 (Photo © Los Angeles County Museum of Art,

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has just launched its new Image Library, which lets you download free, high-resolution images of works from its permanent collection. Many other museums already do the same thing, but LACMA’s Image Library is different in one significant respect: it explicitly permits you to use its images without restriction. That means you don’t need to seek the museum’s separate permission in order to use these images in publications.

Note that this only applies to works that LACMA has established as being in the public domain, so most 20th-century works are excluded. The VRC’s Copyright page explains why this is.

You can read LACMA’s Terms and Conditions of Use here. Hopefully, this openness is part of a trend towards greater access to images.