Friday, March 14, 2014

Art & Public Domain (Before 1923)

Color pencil peacock on ©1983 Webster's Dictionary pages

This is a school art project my daughter is working on for class. Her teacher loaned her an old (©1983) Webster's dictionary to use as the background paper. In my daughter's eyes - this is a vintage dictionary. In my eyes - it is my freshman year of college! I mentioned to my daughter that it is copyright infringement to use the dictionary pages without permission. I got an eye roll. :-D

"It is just a dictionary Mom... Just for class Mom..." I am thinking, what if you want to sell this piece some day?

So I fired up my computer and did a little research. As far as I can tell, I wouldn't use anything unless is was copyrighted prior to 1923. Here is a good chart for more detailed exceptions:

A Pinterest search turned up a LOT of people creating art on old books - fun to look at!

I got tired of trying to find out if there is an exception for a dictionary. Does anyone know for sure? I would love to point to some authority so I can say "I told you so" :-)

One more thought...I maybe shouldn't post this image on my blog?! Hmmm.

Thanks Doodlebugerz - Always enjoy hearing from you.
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  1. I hope I'm not doing this twice, but I don't see my post!
    Your daughter's artwork is beautiful…she must get that from you!
    Regarding the copyright issue,I don't believe it's a problem unless she wants to sell or license it.But it's a great issue for us all to contemplate ,thanks!

  2. Hey Kim,
    Yeah, I don't think it is an issue unless she wants to sell it someday. She does think that dictionaries "don't count" where copyright is concerned. I think they do count :-) Thanks so much for stopping by!

  3. I use old dictionary pages in my mixed-media art. However, the pages are usually covered with layers of paint, ink, etc. and the text is not clearly visible. I think that dictionaries come under the copyright law but I'm not 100% sure.

    1. Hey Darlene! You are the first person to tell me they use old dictionary pages! THANKS so much! I to think they fall under copyright law unless they are old enough to be considered Public Domain. Thanks a bunch for stopping by and commenting :-)

  4. It was my pleasure to reading your blog "" so thanks for this amazing posting. I will again visit your blog.


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