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First, a disclaimer that I am not an intellectual property attorney, and the information below is just what I have informally learned regarding copyright of art images...
Art copyright falls into two categories under the Berne Convention:
- If the artist is alive or has been dead less than fifty years (seventy-five in Europe) all rights to reproductions of his/her work reside with the artist or estate. A good starting point for obtaining rights is:
Artists Rights Society- If the artist has been dead more than fifty years (seventy-five in Europe), their work is in the public domain. Reproduction rights are then concerned with rights held by those who have produced photographs of the works (in other words, if you took a snapshot of a public domain work yourself, you could do anything you want with it). Normally, museums have commissioned photographs of their works and thus hold the rights to these photographs to be used in reproduction. So, a first step here would be to contact the museum where the work is held. Another source for rights to public domain works is The Bridgeman Art Library.
The best web resource for copyright information is Benedict O'Mahoney's The Copyright Website.
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