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Q: Copyright Alice in Wonderland Illustrations ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Copyright Alice in Wonderland Illustrations
Category: Relationships and Society > Law
Asked by: j_philipp-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 06 Apr 2003 03:17 PDT
Expires: 06 May 2003 03:17 PDT
Question ID: 186712
Which of these illustrations from "Alice in Wonderland" are in the
public domain?

I'm thinking about publishing some on a non-commercial web site. As
far as I know, according to US laws, every book published before 1923
is in the public domain.
Subject: Re: Copyright Alice in Wonderland Illustrations
Answered By: grimace-ga on 06 Apr 2003 04:02 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

It's not quite that simple. The US is a signatory to the Berne
Convention, which extends protection for artists and authors to fifty
years after death.

Berne Convention Article Seven

The Berne Convention has recently extended the posthumous protection
period to seventy-five years, although this has not yet been adopted
in US law. Over here in the EU this caused peculiar problems when some
authors suddenly came back *into* copyright after having been in the
public domain for a few years.

The death dates of your chosen illustrators, then, are the issue here,
rather than a blanket 80 year rule.

Tenniel died in 1914, so is comfortably in the public domain.
Similarly, according to the National Library of Scotland site, Maria
Kirk died in the 1930s, so is also in the public domain. Arthur
Rackham died in 1939, so is also in the public domain.

John Tenniel

National Library of Scotland

Arthur Rackhma and his art

Mabel Lucie Atwell, however, lived well into her nineties, dying in
1964; Bessie Gutmann died in 1960, so is also off-limits. I've been
unable to find death dates for the 1920s illustrators Gwynedd Hudson
and AE Jackson. I will keep looking.

Mabel Lucie Attwell

Bessie Collins Pease Gutmann

There is a much more comprehensive list of Alice illustrators here:

Illustrators of Alice on the Web

And many reproduced (illegally?) here. The Mervyn Peake drawings are
rather wonderful:

Lauren Harman's Alice pages

Bafflingly, neither of these sites seem to contain Carroll's own
illustrations for 'Alice's Adventures Underground', which are public
domain and rather disturbingly bad. You can see some of them here:

Alice's Adventures Underground

For more information on copyright law, there's a useful summary and
links here:

CornellLegal Information Institute

I hope this makes sense - please ask if you need anything,


Search terms used:

copyright + illustrations + us
"berne convention"
tenniel + died (etc.)

Clarification of Answer by grimace-ga on 06 Apr 2003 05:40 PDT
Ho hum - the US law on this seems to be more of a tangled web than I
had thought; unlike many other countries, the US did not apply their
copyright legislation retrospectively; thus, works published before
the 1978 Copyright Act are treated entirely differently.

Works Originally Created and Published or Registered before January 1,
Under the law in effect before 1978, copyright was secured either on
the date a work was published with a copyright notice or on the date
of registration if the work was registered in unpublished form. In
either case, the copyright endured for a first term of 28 years from
the date it was secured. During the last (28th) year of the first
term, the copyright was eligible for renewal. The Copyright Act of
1976 extended the renewal term from 28 to 47 years for copyrights that
were subsisting on January 1, 1978, or for pre-1978 copyrights
restored under the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), making these
works eligible for a total term of protection of 75 years. Public Law
105-298, enacted on October 27, 1998, further extended the renewal
term of copyrights still subsisting on that date by an additional 20
years, providing for a renewal term of 67 years and a total term of
protection of 95 years.

From the US copyright office

Works Published and Copyrighted before January 1, 1978 
A work published before January 1, 1978, and copyrighted within the
past 75 years may still be protected by copyright in the United States
if a valid renewal registration was made during the 28th year of the
first term of the copyright. If renewed by registration or under the
Copyright Renewal Act of 1992 and if still valid under the other
provisions of the law, the copyright will expire 95 years from the end
of the year in which it was first secured.

Therefore, the U. S. copyright in any work published or copyrighted
prior to January 1, 1923, has expired by operation of law, and the
work has permanently fallen into the public domain in the United
States. For example, on January 1, 1997, copyrights in works first
published or copyrighted before January 1, 1922, have expired; on
January 1, 1998, copyrights in works first published or copyrighted
before January 1, 1923, have expired. Unless the copyright law is
changed again, no works under protection on January 1, 1999 will fall
into the public domain in the United States until January 1, 2019.

US Copyright Office

This makes things simpler for us, as we are indeed just going by
publication date. Thus the following illustrations are in the public

Mabel Lucie Atwell (pub. 1910)
Arthur Rackham (1907)
Bessie Gutmann (1907)
AE JAckson (1915)

Whereas Gwynedd Hudson (1925) is not.

Hudson's illustrations *are* public domain, however, if no renewal was
made after 28 years. Unfortunately, the copyright office's searchable
database only covers works registered since 1978 (and, indeed, is not
currently working). The only way, as far as I can tell, of discovering
if the renewals were made is to do a manual search at the Copyright
Office for the princely sum of $75 an hour. This, you will agree,
seems rather exorbitant. If the renewal *was* made, Hudson's
illustrations will not come into the public domain for another fifteen

Hope this clarifies things - I'd love to see the site when you put it


Request for Answer Clarification by j_philipp-ga on 06 Apr 2003 19:50 PDT
You got your 5 stars already for the great answer, but please clarify:
as for different copyright laws, is it more important where the works
were published (USA) or where my server is located (Germany)? The
first public domain list given by you is for EU, and the second for US
law, right?

Clarification of Answer by grimace-ga on 06 Apr 2003 23:03 PDT
Yes, the deciding element seems to be where your server is located.
The Berne Convention rule applies to EU countries, so you can safely
ignore the second part of my answer.

Enjoy your trip down the rabbit hole!

j_philipp-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $2.00
Very happy with the answer.

Subject: Re: Copyright Alice in Wonderland Illustrations
From: probonopublico-ga on 06 Apr 2003 10:01 PDT
Fascinating stuff!

And I understood that it was 70 years!

(I'm not complaining)

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