Over the years I have collected many fine arts antiques and/or vintage collectibles. Most notably hand-painted porcelain plates, dinnerware, and figurines or art glass (stained glass windows, lamps, figurines, paperweights, fine crystal), and oil paintings.

I was interested in making photographs or postcards of some these objects to sell (on my own property), but wanted to know if I can copyright these or if I am infringing on other copyright laws?

Some of these pieces are signed by the artist and many of them were once commissioned by a factory/production company (ie: M.H. Fritz Porcelain figurine for Hutschenruether).


Photographs of objects other than flat artworks, including pretty much all the things you list except in some cases oil paintings, involve creativity and originality in composition, positioning, lighting, and other aspects, and each such photo would be copyrighted by the photographer (or the photographer's employer in a work-made-for-hire situation). Such photos (or copies of them) could be sold if the copyright owner chooses to, just like any copyrighted work.

If the object being photographed is itself a work of art, and if it is recent enough that it is still under copyright protection (See this chart for US rules on copyright terms), then the photo would be a derivative work, and the permission of the copyright holder on the original would in theory be required. But such a requirement could only be enforced by the copyright holder on the original work filing suit, and if the work is not clearly identifiable this might not be likely.

If the photographer knows the name of the original artist, and the work seems likely to be still in copyright, an attempt to secure permission would be at least good practice, and quite possibly legally essential.

For a flat (2D) work of art, such as a painting, if the photo attempts to reproduce the original exactly (a "slavish copy" ), then under the Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp., 36 F. Supp. 2d 191 (S.D.N.Y. 1999) decision, the photo will not be original and so will not be protected by copyright. See this question and its answers for more on Bridgeman

A photo of a painting on a stand, showing the painting and its frame, and not trying to just reproduce the painting exactly, will not fall under the Bridgeman rule.

This answer is quite US-oriented. Much of it will apply in any country which adheres to the Berne Copyright Convention but the details may vary, and if a different jurisdiction is intended, that should be stated.

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