As a Designer of Vintage Digital Kits, I use a lot of Public Domain Images, in my art work.
I try very hard to be diligent in researching each image I choose to use. Not only that, but I don't just take an image and use it "as is" in my kits, I alter it in someway shape or form; as part of another embellishment or part of a background image on a "paper". With that said, I've had a lot of questions about my work and the use of the vintage images you see.
I am hoping that this post will answer those questions for you and give you more resources for finding out about public domain images, and how to use them, when to use them and how to be sure they are indeed copywrite free. As diligent as I try to be I make mistakes too, and may have information wrong, or find the wrong information on an image, if this happens and I am informed I am using an image that is not public domain or violates any copywrite laws I will remove the image and correct the problem as soon as I am aware of it.
Generally anything published in the USA before Jan 1 1923; is considered public domain.
There are some gray areas, so you still need to be diligent about researching any image you choose to use in your artwork. It is up to you as a designer to keep up with the various copywrite rules and to research every image you use. Unless it was taken by yourself with your own camera.
Everything published in the U.S. between 1923 – 1963 is in the Public Domain only if it’s copyright protection was NOT renewed in the 28th year after publication. For example Walt Disney's Work is Copywrite Protected and always will be.
I am not going to go into a whole lot here and list every rule; but if you wish to find out more information please visit the links below..
The Right to Display Public Domain Images
Copywrite Laws and Public Domain
Extension of Copywrite Terms: United States PDF
Article "What exactly is in the Public Domain Datewise"
Video: Debra Conrad: That Public Domain Diva
There is a lot of information out there, about public domain and using public domain images, if your in doubt check it out, google is just a couple of key strokes away.. .. I could go on an on, adding links, but instead I chose to give you the basics. I hope that this helps you with your search for public domain images and how to use them..
Thanks for Reading