“A local artist died. Can I use his painting on my book’s cover?”

“A local artist died. Can I use his painting on my book’s cover?”

Q –

I took a picture of a painting by a local artist and used that for my cover image. He died a few years ago and he didn’t have any family nearby so I don’t need to get permission to use it, right?


A –

I’m not an attorney and this is not legal advice. Always consult an attorney for any legal needs you have.

That said…

No, you can NOT use something created by another person simply because they died! Almost everyone has heirs and, even if they didn’t name a specific person, the courts distribute any assets to family, or friends, or even creditors. And, that includes the rights to his original works.


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3 Responses to "“A local artist died. Can I use his painting on my book’s cover?”"

  1. Ronny Richardson  May 28, 2018 at 8:57 am

    It amazes me how many of this type of question you get. The answer is always “if it does not belong to you, you cannot use it without permission.” Why do people not know that?

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of WritersWeekly.com  May 28, 2018 at 11:06 am

      I know! And it takes every ounce of my will power to NOT respond to those ridiculous emails with ALL CAPS! >:-(

      Angela Hoy, Publisher

  2. pamelaallegretto  May 25, 2018 at 5:47 pm

    I am grateful to you for your response to this outrageous question.I do hope the writer took your advice. As an artist, I have had the unfortunate experience of having images of my paintings stolen. Unlike the deceased artist in the query, last I checked, I’m still alive. I have even seen one of my original paintings for sale on a Chinese art site. Hard to believe, since the original is hanging on the wall in front of me. What they do is copy an image from the Internet, and if they sell it as an original, they make a giclee print on canvas, add a few brush strokes, and sell it as an original. Stealing/copying art is no different from putting your name on someone else’s books or articles.