Copies of Famous Statues

Further to an earlier question of mine about making statues of famous

people, what about copying famous works of art, such as Canova's Three

Graces and/or Michelangelo's David, for example? Looking at current

copyright laws, presumably any copyright that might have existed on

statues carved 150 years or more ago would not be relevant now,(?) –

especially as these works were often copies of another artist's

earlier work anyway – but what happens if a statue sculpted 150 years

ago is in a private museum… and somehow I get a photograph of it,

can I sculpt an exact copy of it in marble? One statue probably

wouldn't be a problem, but what happens if i want to make several

copies of it and then sell them? (I am not talking of passing them off

as the real thing, merely copies of the original.)

3 thoughts on “Copies of Famous Statues

  1. englander-ga,

    Sculpt away!

    Copyright on works that are 150 years old (or older) has long expired,

    and the works can be freely copied.

    The precise cut-off dates when copyright expires varies from country

    to country. In the US, the cut-off is January 1, 1923…any works

    from prior to this date are in the public domain:

    …the U.S. copyright in any work published or copyrighted prior to

    January 1, 1923, has expired by operation of law, and the work has

    permanently fallen into the public domain in the United States.

    Copying from a photograph of a statue is a more complicated question,

    but generally, the law is fairly liberal here as well, in terms of

    copies of, say, a recent photo of an old work of art that is in the

    public domain.

    In the US, the main case on this very topic is Bridgeman v Corel:

    which says that photos lacking in creativity, but meant to be a

    slavish copy of a work of art, are not copyright-protected, if the

    artwork itself is public domain.

    The case dealt with paintings, so it leaves open the question of

    sculpture. But still, the law clearly provides a lot of latitude for

    you to make copies of old statues.

    Have fun…let me know if there's anything else you need.


    search strategy — Used bookmarked links to sites on copyright

  2. One additional question in relation to the above…. The works of

    Frederic Remington for example – he died in 1909 – on a website

    selling his paintings and bronzes, has written underneath them

    "Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee". Surely his

    works must be out of copyright?

    Then assuming they are out of copyright, or even if they are not, and

    one made a marble copy of one of his bronzes, or depicted one of his

    paintings in a marble sculpture, could one then add "in the style of"

    or "after" Remington, in the description, or would this be a step too


  3. englander-ga,

    People sometimes include copyright or do-not-reproduce notices on

    works to dissuade copying, regardless of whether the works are

    actually copyright-protected or not. I don't know if this is the case

    with the Remington site you mentioned, but whatever the site may say,

    the basic rules remain the same.

    Works dated earlier than 1923 are in the public domain in the US, and

    are not copyright-protected.

    As for making use of the artist's name, that's a slightly more complex

    matter, since even the names of long dead artists may be trademarked

    — a very different sort of protection than copyright, and subject to

    different rules.

    The Frederic Remington name is, in fact, a trademarked name, so you

    are not free to use it with total abandon.

    If you want to check on a trademark, head to the USPTO site:

    and click on "Search Trademarks" and enter the artist's name in the search box.

    Bottom line — I believe you can indeed make copies of pre-1923

    sculptures (including Remington's) but are restricted in the use of

    the Remington name, since it is trademarked. Detailing the actual

    limits would require additional research that is beyond the scope of

    this question, I'm afraid.

    Hope that clears things up (as much as these things are ever clear in

    intellectual property land!)


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