If I'm using an image of Pocahontas for commercial purposes, how do I go about figuring out what license I need to purchase?

She is a historic figure, but with much fictional rendering.

I could use her historic image or a fictional render. How does that work?

  • Hi lik ka. Your question at the moment is more about the legal implications - which would be a better fit on Law. If you edit your question to be more about the design of the character it would be a better fit here.
    – Cai
    Feb 23 '16 at 15:02

I think you'd have to obtain some type of consent to use a character based off something else you'd seen. Even the engraving of Pocahonats by Simon de Passe has some type of rights to it.

The Copyright Act protects against “derivate works” that use the copyrighted work as a jumping-off point in creating a new work. Changing Mickey’s pants from blue to red would still start with Disney’s work, so it would infringe its copyrights.

  • 1
    I rather think the engraving is well in the public domain by now. Representations of that engraving are more of a moot point. Feb 24 '16 at 10:35

Disclaimer: My answer below does not constitute legal advice, since I am not a lawyer. If you want legal advice, hire a lawyer.

In most cases, actual people themselves cannot be copyrighted. There are some exceptions such as fictional/literary characters. In most cases, it's only images of people which are copyrightable works. Copyright also covers the making of derivatives, such as creating a new work based on an older work that is still under copyright.

The licence on Wikipedia for the image you linked to, claims that it's in the public domain which means the copyright has expired. However, please note that just because Wikipedia claims the image is in the public domain doesn't necessarily mean it is. It's your responsibility to check.

According to the licence page on Wikipedia, the etching is in the National Portrait Gallery in London. So, if you want to check, that's probably the best place to start. Contact them and ask.

Copyright laws also differ by country. Here in the UK, generally speaking, copyright lasts 70 years after the death of the author/creator of the work, although apparently there are some exceptions to that rule.

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