Is it illegal for me to use photographs and advertisements from old books and magazines in my collages?

I’ve heard that if I only use a part of an image and/or alter it so that it isn’t quite the same, that I’m OK. I’ve also heard that copyrights expire after 100 years. I keep getting different stories and I just want to protect myself and my new business. I’m working on creating a catalog of all my designs, but if some of them are going to get me sued, it’s not worth it.

Asked on October 22, 2011 under Business Law, Indiana


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Copyrights that are registered in the United States expire fifty (50) years after the life in being (person who created the copyright) passes away. However, you need to be aware that even though an item may be copywritten, the same item could also be a trademark.

An item such as a logo that is trademarked or servicemarked continues in existence so long as the trademarked or servicemarked item is used in a business context. Examples would be "Ford Motor Corporation" or "Coca Cola".

You might wish to consult with an attorney experienced in copyright law for additional questions that you might have about your project. You might be able to write the person holding the copyright to a given item for written permission to use it in your catalogue.

Good luck.

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