christian thompson cthompson at SEL.BARC.USDA.GOV
Tue Nov 21 13:03:17 CST 2000

I don't what copyright law Jacqueline Soule is referring to but under US law
re-publishing art work that is already in the public domain does not
establish one's copyright to it. It simply remains in the public domain.
(the phrase "purchased the rights to ... old illustrations.." hinges on the
definition of "old"  Obviously for illustrations more than 75 years old
first published in the USA, there are NO rights to be purchased as the
illustrations are in the public domain.)

I suppose Dover may claim that their action of "scanning" the old art work
to include it in their "clip art" book is creating new derivative works that
can be copyrighted, etc.  But I doubt that Dover would really try to defend
that action in court.

Also, unless Dover really went into the new "scanned" images and
significantly altered them, there is probably no way to distinguish whether
one's use of an old, now in the public domain, image was not scanned from
the original source versus the Dover "copyrighted" reprint.

And in some cases, if one does know the original source, one will probably
get a better image if they themselves re-scan the original, now
public-domain, images.

F. Christian Thompson
Systematic Entomology Lab., ARS, USDA
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, D. C. 20560-0169
(202) 382-1800 voice
(202) 786-9422 FAX
cthompso at
visit our Diptera site at

>>> <Soulej at AOL.COM> 11/21 9:04 AM >>>
One more quick note on this topic to warn you of muddy waters.

Dover Publications, with offices in US and Europe, has purchased the
to many old illustrations and currently offers them in "clip art" books.
may use these images in the classroom but not as any part of a publication
that is paid for.

By the way, the correct spelling is copyRIGHT

Jacqueline Soule
Tierra del Sol Institute

More information about the Taxacom mailing list