Is it against the law to paint an old photograph that someone has taken?

Can I paint a photograph that someone has taken? If the photograph was taken before 1930 but published in a book in 1980, does the copyright on the photograph still exist?

Alison on Febraury 23, 2012

It is not legal to sell paintings of photographs that have copyright. See the recent issue with Shepard Fairey and the Obama “Hope” poster. However, since the photo is old, it may no longer have copyright. Works taken before 1923, and works taken before 1977 that were not published with a copyright notice do not have copyright protection. They are in the public domain and you may paint them. The copyright of the book is separate from, and generally does not affect, the copyright of the photo.

derivative work, painting photos, public domain

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