I just want a pretty picture...

Several years ago, I had a Capital One credit card which had Van Gogh's "Starry Night" as the background image.  It was my "Gas" credit card, that I would put all of my gas on, and since I had a 30 mile commute each way, I got to see it pretty often.  My "Starry Night" credit card was a little piece of joy that I got to see whenever I filled up my tank, helping to lighten up my otherwise annoying task of filling up the gas tank.  A few months later, one of my other card companies (Providian) offered to give me a customized card with Seraut's "Sunday Afternoon on the Island..." and thus, I was on my way to having a wallet full of impressionist paintings.

Unfortunately, when my Capital One card expired, they sent me a new one with the plain Capital One background, and when I called to request the Starry Night background again, they said that wasn't available with my card.  I grumbled a bit, but gave up after a while.  The next year, my Providian card followed suit, and so I gave up on my dream of carrying the works of the masters in my pocket.  It was allayed a bit when my wife (then girlfriend) picked me up a "Starry Night" skin for my laptop from Gelaskins but I've still been annoyed about the whole situation for at least 4 years.

Recently however, I noticed in my Wells Fargo account that I could request a custom design on my Wells Fargo bank card.  "Fantastic!," I thought..  "I can finally get Starry Night back on one of my cards again."  Reading over the guidelines, I noted that it would only accept images which you had the rights to personally.  "No problem, " I think to myself, "Van Gogh died in 1890, and copyright at the time extended for the life of the author + 50 years, so Starry Night went public domain in like 1940, before I was even born.  I've got the rights to duplicate it."  I browse over to Wikipedia, which has a photo of the painting, which, according to their licensing information is in the public domain because the copyright has expired, just as I expected.  So I download the image, send it to Wells Fargo, and submit it.  They say they will contact me within 5-7 days to let me know if my image has been approved.  "Horray," I think.  "There's nothing offensive about this picture, it should be a slam dunk!"

Unfortunately, 5 days later, I recieved an email:

Unfortunately, the design you selected does not meet our Image Guidelines. To select a new design, simply sign on at https://www.wellsfargo.com, click the Access Card Design Studio link on the Account Services page, and try again using a design that meets the following criteria.


For all images you must:

  • Own the image or have permission from the owner to use the image on your card

Hrm.  I call the number included in the post, and ask to speak to the person who sent the rejection.  They're unable to let me speak to that person, so I ask to speak to someone else in the card designer department, and they inform me that I can't speak to anyone in that department.  I ask the person who answered why I'm not allowed to use the painting on my card.  They explain that I must have permission from the author of the artwork to have it on my card.  I calmly explain that the author has been dead for nearly 120 years, which makes obtaining permissions exceptionally hard.

"Fortunately," I continue, "Copyright on the image expired in 1940, so it's currently public domain."

"But we need to have permission from the artist to use their image on a card."

"He's been dead for 119 years.  He isn't in a state to give permission to anyone for anything."

A short discussion with her supervisor didn't yield any more progress, so I've decided to just submit the image over and over again until someone from Wells Fargo who is actually involved in the approval process contacts me.  I suspect it may take a while, but I just have to re-upload the image to their site once a week until they do.