Can I use, on the cover of a book, the pictures of a famous painting or must I ask the authorisation of someone?

The author of a work of art, including a painting, can claim copyright on it, therefore, to be able to use it, you need to first ask his authorisation. This must be clearly requested and, almost always, it is granted upon a payment to be given directly to the author. The above said right lasts all the author’s life and for seventy years after his death, therefore, if the author is still alive it is necessary asking him, whilst, if he is dead, it gets more complicated establishing who is entitled to release the authorisation, as it is necessary to investigate to find who the heirs are to whom the rights have been transferred “mortis cause”. However, the situation could be further complicated if the painting has been created on commission by someone else or it s the property of a museum, as, in that case, the authorisation of these has to be asked. Particularly, with reference to the museums the D.M. 31/01/1994, n. 171 art. 18, comma 2, states that compensation established by a listing of charges has to be paid for the right of use, photo-taking or reproduction with any other appropriate instruments. Whilst, until a few years ago, the use of the pictures of works shown in the museums were free of charge, today the only exception to the fees payable is when reproductions are done for personal use and not commercial, apart from some particular prohibitions. Consequently, in this specific case, it is first of all necessary evaluating the type of painting that you want to use, then trace the owner entitled to the rights over it, in order to pinpoint to whom the authorisation must be asked and the payment made, all of this not always easy to do.