About Clip Art Copyrights

When looking for artwork to use in your design projects you are likely to encounter a wide variety of different kinds of art presented as ‘clip art’ and from many different sources. Some of these sources will want to charge you for the artwork and will then allow you to use the art for free under the terms of a license, which may restrict such things as your ability to print or reproduce the images, or requiring the payment of a licensing fee or the inclusion of a printed credit to the owner or creator. Some may be presented as free to use because they were either released to the public domain by the artist or because their copyright has expired. Many images you encounter may not offer any clear indication of their copyright status and that’s where you need to use some caution.

As a general rule, any printed artwork published more than 95 years ago or prior to 1922 is absolutely going to be out of copyright. Similarly, any artwork coming with a clear statement or license indicating that it is in the public domain or released for free use under a license is also safe to use. Artwork which comes from an unknown source and without documentation always carries with it the risk of copyright violation, even if it does not have an artists signature or a copyright statement or symbol on it.

In many cases there are individuals, organizations or companies which have either created original artwork or researched and reproduced antique artwork specifically for release for others to use, either for free as public domain artwork or under their own copyright with a license which grants you limited reproduction rights, usually for a small fee per image or per package of images. In these cases the producer of the licensed works has absolved you of any risk by certifying that their work is legal to use. If you want to avoid copyright hassles, these are the types of packages to stick to.

Scriptorium Images are released with a simple license. Most of the images are digital reproductions of out of copyright artwork and the license grants permission to use the images to those who purchase the package which includes the images. The license requires that a credit be provided with any images used and that images not be used commercially in ways where the only value of the item being sold derives from the image itself – so no post cards, prints or posters. Inclusion of the images in a design or publication is permissible under the license.

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