Frederick Ferdinand Schafer Painting Catalog

Copyright Notice

All text, web page appearance, and site design are Copyright 1996 by Jerome H. Saltzer. You may copy the text for personal use and study, but republication or commercial use requires written permission. Blanket permission is granted to make use of the web page appearance and site design, providing that credit is given. Images appearing in this catalog should not be copied without explicit permission of the photographer, who is usually identified in the credit line associated with each image.


Background. As far as is known, all of Schafer's paintings were executed by 1911 and offered for sale to the general public before 1978, so the Copyright Acts of 1870 and 1909 apply. Under these Acts, at the moment each painting was first offered for sale to the general public it became, in copyright jargon, "published" and, since none of the paintings are known to have been registered or carry a copyright notice, at that moment they entered the public domain. The only exception to this general pattern would be for paintings that were in the artist's estate at his death in 1927, and remained in the hands of the artist's heirs without being offered for sale until 1978, when the Copyright Act of 1976 (Title 17, U.S. Code) introduced a new set of rules for previously unpublished works. No paintings are known to fit this exception, and because newspaper stories of the nineteenth century emphasize that Schafer made every effort to sell every painting and sketch in his possession, it is unlikely that any exceptions will turn up. (If you know of an exception, please contact the author!)

Moral Rights (Le Droit Moral).The 1979 California Art Preservation Act (California civil code section 987) creates rights for artists that go well beyond copyright law. However, the rights that act creates specifically expire 50 years after the death of the artist. Since Schafer died in 1927, these rights do not apply to his paintings.

The 1982 New York Arts and Cultural Affairs Law (Title C, article 14) retroactively creates additional rights, including disconnection of the sale of a work from granting of copyright in that work; but the act explicitly does not apply to works that are in the public domain, so this law is not applicable to Schafer's paintings, even those that may have been painted in the state of New York.

Finally, the federal Visual Artist's Rights Act of 1990, which added section 106A to the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, creates additional rights for artists. But the rights created apply only to works created after June 1, 1991, and in addition they expire with the death of the artist, so they, too, do not apply to Schafer's paintings.

Painting Copyright. My (layman's) conclusion from that analysis is that all known Schafer paintings are in the public domain, and there are no copyright or droit moral impediments to making and distributing reproductions of the paintings.

Photograph Copyright. Photographs can also be subject to copyright by the photographer or the person who hired the photographer, and for most of the painting photographs appearing in this catalog, the 1978 Copyright regime would apply, thus requiring permission of the copyright owner for publication. However, to qualify for copyright protection, a photograph must have elements of originality. A photograph that is intended to reproduce a painting as accurately as technically possible can be argued to lack the originality necessary to qualify for copyright protection. Following this argument, the United States District Court in the February 1999 case Bridgeman Art Library, Ltd. v Corel Corp denied Bridgeman's claim of copyright in its photographs of public domain paintings.

On this basis, most of the photographs that were scanned to produce the images in this catalog are assumed to be free of copyright. The few exceptions are clearly identified with an adjacent copyright notice.

Permissions. In order to obtain access to photograph a painting, a photographer may have made a formal or informal agreement with the owner of the painting, and may have other concerns about the use of his or her work. For this reason, to maintain continued access and availability of photographs, it is advisable always to obtain consent of the photographer before reusing an image from this catalog, especially if the use has any commercial aspect.

Last updated 7 August 2003

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Apr 26, 2008, 13:36 MDT Comments, corrections, or questions: