My book manuscript was finished finally. Now all I needed was an eye-catching book cover. The perfect choice for Healing through Humor: Change Your Focus, Change Your Life! was an oil painting I’d owned for over 35 years. It pictured a seated clown listening to his own heart with a stethoscope, a medical book open on his lap. I’d simply photograph it and e-mail it to my publisher to use as my cover image. Was I surprised to learn that while I owned the painting, I didn’t own the rights to reproduce it! I’d paid a lot of money for that huge painting. Who sez I can’t use it? Well, copyright law, that’s who.
Nolo.com, the do-it-yourself legal guides creator, advises that, “,any original work – whether text, visual art, photos, or music – is protected by copyright law. You may not reproduce it without permission from the copyright owner. Giving credit or thanks to the copyright owner does not change that; you are not allowed to reprint,the work without the owner’s authorization.”
So I began the search for the elusive artist, Robert Owen, who I was sure was probably dead by now. I checked the Internet but all I could find were sites advertising his paintings with no direct contact information for him. I finally found an art dealer who wrote back with a phone number for the artist’s agent – his daughter. (He’s alive!) After explaining what I needed, she said she’d ask him. A week later she e-mailed me, saying simply “Bob says it’s okay.” I asked what he’d charge, and she responded, “No charge for using the picture – per Bob. Just send two books, one for me and one for my dad.”
I still needed his written permission, of course, but now it’s completely legal!