Commercial use of photo of art on Flickr

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  • I'm writing some commercial software for which I would like to use an image I found on Flickr. It is a picture of an old-looking Japanese painting. The description of the painting on Flickr doesn't attribute the artist, or where it was taken. But it does say it was created sometime between 1926 and 1989, i.e. during Japan's Showa era.

    I've sent an email to the photographer via Flicker asking permission to use it, but haven't heard back in several days. Thus far, the Flickr address is the only provided contact information. However, I have found out his name and the name of the company in Japan that he owns or owned. Again, it's a dead end as far as providing contact info.

    I have been able to find that he sold the image on his eBay store which is now defunct, or at least the link doesn't work. The author has a blog which doesn't appear to have been updated since 2008. But the image was sold in 2009.

    So, I have two questions. First, does a photographer have a right to claim a copyright to a photograph which is a simple reproduction of an existing work of art? Secondly, should I be seeking the permission of the original artist (which I have no way of knowing at this point)? Third, if I make reasonable efforts to contact the photographer, and am unable to, do I have a right to go ahead and use the image?

    Thanks in advance. This is obviously a very confusing are.
  • Any thoughts are welcome.

    Some additional information: the photo was sold through ebay in 2009 for about $40. The image of the photo say "Pictures Copyright", gives the name of the company, and the year of 2004. There is an artist's signature on the painting, but it's in cursive Japanese and I can't work it out. Japanese copyright law extend 50 years from the individuals death. I have attempted to contact the photographer via his youtube channel as well.
  • Luckily, the photographer has contacted me and given me permission to use the image.

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