Up for auction in Canada is a series of almost 200 photographs and negatives of Marilyn Monroe taken during the making of the 1953 film Niagara. What makes them especially attractive to bidders is that they are being sold with copyright, which means the buyer has the opportunity to exploit them commercially. Hence the estimate of $50,000.
It’s not often that photos or artworks come up for sale accompanied by copyright, but when they do they tend to be fought over enthusiastically. Remember, copyright remains active until 70 years after the year in which the artist or photographer died, and this also applies to musical compositions and other creations. The extent of copyright used to be different for different artistic forms, but it has been put on a level by the European Union over the past few years.
Even if you do manage to secure copyright to something you buy, there’s something else you mustn’t forget: moral rights. These give the artist further protection, meaning that even if you do hold the copyright to their work, you can’t use it in any way that the artist or their heirs might deem derogatory or damaging to the reputation of the artist or the work itself.