How do I determine if 'Rosie the Riveter' is in the public domain? : LUSENET : Public Art : One Thread

I am designing a t-shirt for a volunteer group which wants to utilize the art 'Rosie the Riveter' from the WWII era - these t-shirts are not for resale. How do I determine whether a piece of art is registered or is in the public domain? Thanks for your help!

-- Margaret Wright (, May 28, 2001


I know this post is a year old but thought I'd answer anyway. I've been researching and I believe that any art produced by the government is automatically public domain. Afterall, our tax dollars pay for it. Rosie was commissioned by the U.S. government. Just make sure that is the one your using, and not a Norman Rockwell version or someone else's.

-- John Doe (, May 15, 2002.

"5. Is the Rosie the Riveter image copyrighted?

The image that has become most widely known was commissioned by the United States War Production Commission - Co-coordinating Committee for use on a recruiting poster in 1943. It was intended to be displayed for only two weeks, February 15 through February 28. The artist was J. Howard Miller. It is widely held that this image is in the public domain, but we are aware of no official documentation to that effect. There are less well-known images, including a painting by Norman Rockwell entitled "Rosie the Riveter," that apparently is still under copyright."

-- joel (, March 04, 2004.

Both posts are correct, as far as they go. Just a note of clarification: simply because something was "commissioned" by the government does not mean it negotiated for ownership rights. Accordingly, it is possible (though in this case not likely), that the painter of the original poster held the copyright.

In the 1940's works of authorship were subject to 2 28-year terms of copyright (the law changed in the 70's). The owner had to renew the copyright after the first 28 year term in order to be eligible for a second term. Thus, IF the copyright was held by the creator of the work, he would have had to (1) register it in the first place, and (2) renew it after 28 years in order for it to have continued to remain a protected work.

IF the owner of the copyright did renew it both times, it would have been subject to the new copyright laws, and would still be under protection in 2005. Since there has been no enforcement of the image of Rosie the Riveter to date (meaning there have been no law suits filed against 3rd parties using the image), it's unlikely that it is a protected image.

-- tsan abrahamson (, February 21, 2005.

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