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It has come to my attention that many people don't really know what this means. They assume the definition based on the words. 


If you think this means "a place where people are" you need to educate yourself.


"Public Domain" for our purposes refers to all images that are no longer protected by copyright protections.

In the US that would be registered works published before 1923. Unpublished works are protected for the life of the author plus 70 years. For anonymous works the protections last 120 years from day of creation.* 


I imagine the last part is giving the "orphaned works" movement trouble.

The "fair use" provision of copyright law allows me to cite that published information for this discussion.



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Can I enter art fairs with Painted images of public domain items?

Whether or not you could do it legally, I would think is less important then, should you do it. As artists, we are supposed to be creative, innovative and unique. If we are copying somebody else's work, no matter what the medium, we lose some of that. I never copy anybody's work or ideas.

Thanks for your input.  But I hope to find out if painting a portrait from a picture of a long-deceased (in the public domain) famous personality is allowed at an art fair for sale.

You would probably get away with it. Despite any rules or principles, I have found many "Rules" are not enforced at the shows. In my medium, photography, I found artists selling works that they absolutely did not even shoot the picture themselves. I have found different artists at different shows with the exact, exact same image. In other media I have seen mass-produced items from molds even though the rules specifically stated that was not allowed. And more. It is commendable that you are concerned about whether or not you are allowed to do such. I would think that you could contact the directors of some of the shows you are considering entering and pose that exact question to them, prior to applying.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful input!  Sincerely appreciate it!  Hope to meet you at a show someday.

From what I understand, you may create an original one-of-a-kind work of anyone. It becomes an issue when you start mass-producing that work. Then the person or estate can come after you for 'damages'. I've always thought the rule mentioned by Terry was 100 yrs. Either way that typically refers to items that are be mass produced.  In my research, I'll share 2 interesting stories. Former MLB player Tony Gwynn's wife is an artist and created a mural with many pro athletes' likeness. I believed she had posters and other products made. An LA Dodger pitcher whose likeness was used, sued her and won. In another case, Tiger Woods during the height of his career sued an artist for using his likeness on limited art prints. The artist actually won the case and the judge said since the repros were signed and limited edition, it was close enough to original...Although the artist 'won' the case, imagine the legal bills? As my disclaimer, I'm no trademark/copyright lawyer so if this is an issue for you, I would highly recommend contacting one.

Thanks so much for your reply.  I will consider all you've detailed.

For sale maybe. But never for jurying. I wouldn't take anything recognizable that someone else created and call it my own.

Larry Berman

I think this discussion is mixing together different areas of law: privacy, trademark, copy right, and model’s rights to be compensated. That’s why it appears to be confusing.  To the specific question “Can I enter art fairs with Painted images of public domain items?”  the answer is: It depends.  If the item or person being painted or photographed is not copyrighted (“public domain”), then obviously you have no copyright exposure.  But you may still be exposed to trademark violations, privacy law violations or the requirement to compensate models.  The jury and promoter are not going to care, but an art fair attendee may demand compensation or send you a “cease and desist” letter.  Not likely, but possible.

Predicated on this discussion:

If the messiah of the Christians were ever to return. He would be extremely wealthy.

As so many have made money from his likeness, reproduced infinite. 

Sorry, I could not help myself :-) 


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