The image I am talking about is here:

The Wikimedia page indicates that:

This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years or less.

Van Gogh died in 1890, which is more than 100 years. So is his artwork worldwide available for commercial purposes? Or am I missing something?

  • Is "world-wide" the same as "copyright term is author's life plus 100 years"?
    – DJohnM
    Mar 20, 2019 at 3:42
  • Do the people who scanned or photographed the image have any claims? Perhaps someone who enhanced or modified the file? Mar 20, 2019 at 12:35
  • 1
    @StefanoPalazzo: In the US, the answer is probably "No, unless the photos are materially different from the original artwork" (see Bridgeman v. Corel and related cases). But if the photos are materially different, then you probably don't want to use those photos in the first place because they're inaccurate representations of the art. Ironically, this means that experts in restoring and photographing art get less protection than amateurs who produce inferior images.
    – Kevin
    Mar 26, 2019 at 0:12

1 Answer 1


Yes. This is why it's commonly seen in many works. Van Gogh's estate does not recieve any monetary value from copyright, nor do the current owners of the orignal work. To answer a question in the comments, because the person who scanned the picture is using it as public domain, it's not necessary. I could, for example, copy word for word an unabridged Shakespeare work from an available book printed in 2002 and print my own book.

  • You could not, however, photocopy the book because copyright exists in the design and typography of the book. Scanning and OCR might be questionable too. You would have to type it all.
    – Owain
    Mar 20, 2019 at 18:20
  • In Germany, copying a book word for word and selling it could be "unfair competition".
    – gnasher729
    Mar 20, 2019 at 20:24
  • @Owain maybe in some places. The US has no copyright in typography and thin in design. I'd argue that scanning a work for the PD parts is fair use on whatever you unavoidably copied but didn't distribute.
    – prosfilaes
    Aug 15, 2022 at 16:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.