Terms of Use


We don't limit the use of the illustrations available on our site, but we accept no responsibility regarding any problem, legal or otherwise, which might result from such use. More specifically, we leave it up to users to make sure that their project complies with the copyright laws of their country of residence.

Text content (descriptions, translations, etc.) is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

If you wish to use our structured data, such as available through the downloadable json files, we ask that you credit us and link back to the site.

Full Terms

This terms of use agreement governs your use of the visual (Illustrations), textual (Texts), and structured digital (Data) content available through Old Book Illustrations (OBI). If you do not agree to these terms, please do not use the OBI website.

We do not try to limit the use of the Illustrations available on OBI, but we cannot guarantee these Illustrations are noninfringing, or legally accessible in your jurisdiction and your use of them is solely at your own risk. Although we do our best to offer only Illustrations that are considered public domain in most countries, copyright laws vary from one jurisdiction to another, and you agree that you are solely responsible for abiding by all laws and regulations that may be applicable to using the Illustrations. While we endeavor to provide enough information to make that process as easy as possible, we cannot guarantee that this information is accurate.

You are welcome to download as many pictures as you wish, with no restriction in time or quantity; but we do not approve of the use of offline browsing software, or website downloaders, such as HTTRack, WebReaper, etc, due to the heavy load they put on the server. Please don't use them.

All Texts (original works and translations) that do not belong to the public domain are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Data provided by on-page HTML code, the website API, or downloadable json files is published under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

OBI explores the art of book illustrations within boundaries defined by time and age, not by subject, treatment, or intent. This means that some illustrations might be deemed offensive, disturbing, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. We do not endorse views or opinions the Illustrations may express, neither do we guarantee that the information conveyed by any Illustration is accurate.

OBI is provided to you on an as-is basis. You agree that your use of the site and of its content is at your sole risk. You understand and agree that OBI makes no warranty or representation regarding the accuracy, completeness, reliability, or usefulness of its content, that the site or its content will meet your requirements, that access to the site will be uninterrupted, timely, secure, or error-free, or that defects, if any, will be corrected. We make no warranty of any kind, either express or implied.

On Copyright and Public Domain Information

For every illustration presented on OBI, we try to offer some information regarding its copyright status, and help our visitors determine whether or not the artwork they are looking at is in the public domain. It cannot be stressed enough that these assessments are conjectural and shouldn't be considered authoritative. They merely reflect our best guess at the probable copyright status of a particular illustration. By no means are they intended to be relied on to replace professional legal advice.

In order to make it easier to understand how these assessments are made, we'll provide here some insight into our sources, our logic, and how we deal with gray areas where a decision has to be reached despite fragmentary information.

The statements as they appear on illustration pages are automated, which means illustrations are not individually introduced to human perplexity and we don't manually check boxes. A custom script is run instead, which is informed by the following documents:

To put it as simply as possible, as of 2023, we use 1928 as the publication date of reference for assessing public domain status in the United States. Anything published before that date is understood to be in the public domain.

To assess public domain status in the EU and countries where copyright protection lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years after their death, or fewer, we subtract 70 years from the current year to get what we'll call the public domain edge date, i.e. 2023 - 70 = 1953 at the time of writing.
If the death of the artist occurred before that year, their work is understood to be in the public domain.

But of course, one of the two necessary references is often missing, and sometimes both are. Such cases are too many to just be ignored. Besides, it often happens that despite some information missing, we still have enough indirect evidence to show that an illustration is, most likely, in the public domain. To deal with this, we have devised two degrees of (un)certainty: inferences and assumptions.

Inferences have a high degree of certainty. An inference happens when we don't know the date of death of an artist, but we know their date of birth. If that artist was born in 1830, for instance, there is not much doubt that their work is now in the public domain in the EU, even if they lived to be 120. Inferences come with the caveat "inferred from..." in parentheses.

Assumptions are highly probable, but not as certain as inferences. An assumption happens, for instance, when the date of publication can't be found in the book. Sometimes it is known from other sources (as indicated by surrounding square brackets), sometimes it is known with some degree of imprecision, made apparent by the use of "ca." or question marks.
Given such a case where the publication date is only known second-hand, often approximately, and we have no easy way to ascertain its accuracy, we have to call our statement an assumption. Assumptions come with the caveat "assumed from..." in parentheses.

Other assumptions we make:

  • When an artist died before 1900, we assume their work is public domain material in the U.S.
  • When a publication date is formally stated on the title page, we assume that date to be the reference from which assessments should be made, regardless of whether the copy is a reprint or not. In some cases, this might lead to discarding illustrations which could actually be in the public domain.
  • When a publication date isn't formally stated but given as sometime in the 1900s or 1910s, we assume it to be public domain material in the U.S.
  • When a publication date isn't formally stated but given as sometime in the 1920s prior to 1928, we assume it not to be public domain material in the U.S. The lack of precision invites caution.
  • When a publication was released prior to 1890, we assume the illustrator's work to be in the public domain in the EU and countries with similar or more generous terms.
  • When a publication is mentioned as released "after" a certain date, we assume "after" to be similar in effect to "ca.," and not mean decades after the stated date.

Please be aware that some edge cases are not addressed by our script. Exceptions exist, and some countries, for instance, have extended copyright protection to account for world wars and such disrupting events. Other countries have exceptions for particular pieces of work: a famous example is Peter Pan, which is indefinitely protected in the UK to the benefit of Great Ormond Street hospital. And we don't take into account what is known as the rule of shorter term: this, again, can lead to discarding works which would be in the public domain. To deal with these edge cases would require a sort of professional knowledge we are not in a position to offer.

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