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What is copyright?

Copyright is an intellectual property right. It is an automatic right afforded to a creator for their lifetime and an extended period after their death. The type and length of protection given varies from country to country but generally gives the creator of a work economic rights of control over copying, adaptation, distribution of copies, performance and broadcasting. It can also give moral rights of paternity (the right to be identified), integrity (the right to object to any derogatory treatment of their work), privacy and the right not to have a work falsely attributed.

Copyright protection is given to original artistic, literary, dramatic and musical works as well as sound recordings, films, broadcasts, cable programmes, published editions, computer generated works and computer programmes. Therefore a creator can be an artist, musician, author etc.

Many images supplied by Bridgeman Images are copyrighted photographs. This is noted on webpages displaying such images. In such cases, a licence must be obtained from the Library before any reproduction is made or this will constitute an infringement of copyright. It is important to note that images can contain multiple copyrights.

In some cases, the copyright in the image may belong to a third party,  or the copyright may have expired.  However, as Bridgeman Images invests in digitizing content, as well as organizing and verifying content and related metadata, we may claim ownership to of the digital file recording the image. 

What do I need to know about copyright clearance?

Bridgeman Images is the copyright holder, or authorised representative of the copyright holder, for many photographic transparencies in Bridgeman Images. However, there can be multiple copyrights for an image we provide to you. For example, our photograph may be in copyright, but so also might the painting which has been photographed. When an image is in copyright it means that you will need to contact the artist or their (estate) or representative (such as a collecting society, agent or lawyer) for permission to use the image, in addition to obtaining reproduction permission from Bridgeman Images based upon your specified use.

You should allow as much time as possible to clear artist permissions. It is also advisable to decide upon an alternative image in case you are not able to clear permission for your first choice. Expect to pay a fee for clearance and some artists and estates will also ask to approve colour proofs before you go into production.

While it is your responsibility to clear these additional rights before reproducing your chosen image, we will do everything we can to help this process.

What does it mean when an image on the site is flagged as needing copyright clearance?

Copyright protection varies depending upon the nationality of the artist, the place and time when the artistic work was first exhibited and the territory in which you plan to publish or distribute copies. It is therefore only possible to give a general view without specific research into a particular work. All countries have their own separate copyright laws which decide whether a work is in or out of copyright and what that means. The first copyright laws gave no protection to foreign works at all. Today, members of WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) and signatories of the Universal Copyright Convention have agreed to the mutual protection of works in copyright. Generally, this means that they will protect foreign works to the same level as in their own countries, provided that the duration of copyright is no longer than the duration or 'term' that they already give to their own works. So, if an artist's works are in copyright in their own country it is still possible that they are out of copyright elsewhere.

We have attempted on the site to flag the current copyright status of the image in the country of origin of the artist. This flag is provided AS A GUIDELINE ONLY to help you determine whether the image you wish to use will need copyright clearance. We can only offer guideline information because we do not know within which countries you plan to reproduce and distribute the image, and we often do not have all the information about the image we would need to determine copyright status (for example, the date of creation of the painting).

Please note that just because an image is not flagged as needing copyright clearance it does NOT necessarily mean that it is out of copyright.

Artists represented by Bridgeman Images

Bridgeman Artists

Bridgeman Images represents a growing number of artists and artists estates. This means that we will handle the copyright clearance for you, writing to the artist on your behalf where necessary, and simply adding the additional copyright fee to the invoice for use of the transparency. On the site these images are flagged as Bridgeman Contemporary Artist and Bridgeman Copyright Service.

If you want to use a work by a Bridgeman Contemporary Artist, an additional fee to cover artist's clearance will be payable.

The Bridgeman Copyright Service was set up to handle permissions clearances on the entire body of works of an artist or collection regardless of whether Bridgeman Images can provide reproduction materials.


A brief guide to copyright durations

UK and European Union

Provides protection for life of the artist plus 70 years from the end of the year of death of the artist.

EU exceptions:
If the artist died before 11th November 1987 their work is protected for life plus 80 years.
French war artists
If the work of art was published before 31st December 1920 it is protected for life of the artist plus 84 years and 272 days, and if it was published after that date, then it is protected for life plus 78 years and 120 days.


Life of the artist plus 70 years. Please note that the legislation extending the duration from life 50 years to life 70 years was not retrospective. This means that if an artist was out of copyright under the 50 year rule on 27th October 1998, they stay out of copyright even if it is now less than 70 years since their death. It should also be noted that before 1978, copyright protection was not automatic - works had to be registered with the US copyright office. Protection also varies depending on whether the work was created before 1978 and whether it was published by that date.

New Zealand and South Africa

All provide protection for the life of the artist plus 50 years. In Japan, artists who were nationals of the UK, US and other Allied war nations before the Pacific War have been awarded an extension of copyright term of a further 3,794 days.


Life of the artist plus 75 years.

Australia, Brazil, Israel, Japan, Norway, Peru, Russian Federation, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey

All provide protection for the life of the artist plus 70 years.

Please note that this information is a simplification of current legislation for guidance purposes and is subject to change. Bridgeman Images does not offer this as legal advice and takes no responsibility for its interpretation by third parties.

Copyright Statement

The website and its contents are owned and operated by Bridgeman Images. All elements of the website and all rights therein, including but not limited to the content and general design, are protected by copyright and database rights. Some content displayed may also be subject to third party rights.

By accessing this website and downloading or otherwise viewing any images or other content from this website, you will be deemed to have agreed to the following:

Any use of the images on this site is subject to written permission from Bridgeman Images and the applicable Licence Terms and Conditions displayed on the site. In particular but without limitation no images may be reproduced, communicated to the public, distributed, re-used or extracted from this website for any purpose (including without limitation any storage, reproduction, linking or indexing for the purposes of any search engines) without the prior written consent of Bridgeman Images. Third party permission (for example from the artist or their estate or from the holders of any trade mark, personality or image rights or similar) may also be required and Bridgeman Images makes no warranties or representations in this regard nor does it purport to grant any such rights. Please contact Bridgeman Images for further information.

No permission is granted to create any hyperlinks to any part of this website or to frame any pages or images from this website. The prior written consent of Bridgeman Images must be sought.

To the fullest extent permitted by English law (which law shall apply) and unless otherwise expressly agreed by Bridgeman Images in writing, Bridgeman Images shall have no liability in connection with any use made of this website or any images or other content contained within it.

Useful Contacts

Design and Artists Copyright Society
33 Great Sutton Street, London, EC1V 0DX
T: 44 (0)20 7336 8811, F: 44 (0)20 7336 8822

ADAGP 11 Rue Berryer, 75008 Paris, France
Tel: 33 (0) 1 43 590 979, Fax 33 (0)1 45 634 489

ARS (Artists Rights Society)
536 Broadway, 5th Floor (at Spring St.), New York, NY 10012
Tel: 212 420 9160, Fax: 212 420 9286

VAGA (Visual Artists and Galleries Association)
350 Fifth Avenue, Suite 6305, New York, NY 10118
Tel: 212 736 6666, Fax: 212 736 6767

VG Bildkunst Köthener Straße 44, 10963 Berlin, Germany
Tel: 030 261 38 79, Fax: 030 230 036 29

Viale della Letteratura, 30 · 00144 Rome (Italy)
T:+39 06 59905100

UNESCO have a wealth of information on international legislation including a news bulletin area and a database of national copyright legislation.

WATCH gives advice on how to trace UK and US copyright holders.

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