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Thread: Reference photo copyright?

  1. #1
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    Reference photo copyright?

    Hello!

    I was wondering whether you can shed some light onto the copyright situation. Of course I know that one cannot just pick a photo from a random website and publish it somewhere else and a permission from the photo owner, not necessarily the author, is needed.

    But what does it look like when it comes to using photos as reference images for art? So far I've been using "random" photos/images found around as reference images (as far as I know free to use, try to look for common creative license etc.), since at the moment it's all for practice. Then however I put some of the drawings/paintings up here/in the gallery/on my blog. Is that in conflict with the copyright of those images in any way? I mean, I'm not reproducing the photos themselves, but I'm just not sure how that works in this situation. If it is a problem, then is it a problem in itself or only if the art is being sold?

    Can anyone explain?

    Thank you!
    Last edited by Mirithiar; 08-03-2013 at 09:54 PM.

  2. #2
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    There is something called "fair use" in the USA.

    But the laws vary from country to country.

    That's about all I know :-)

    Brett
    Visit my gallery here.

    =========

  3. #3
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    Did a search with google
    http://www.htmlgoodies.com/beyond/re...nd-Answers.htm

    Hope it clears thing up..

  4. #4
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    Thanks, I'll keep looking too. It's an interesting thing linked to art - for example are images on pages with free wallpapers (which are free to download and use) copyrighted if it's not stated anywhere on the image/website? Or are they ok to use as reference photos? Things like that. Or are they only ok to use when explicitly stated that there is no copyright etc. (probably the safest option!).

  5. #5
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    NOTE: I am not a lawyer and have not studied law. The following information is just my opinion on the mater, as I understand it.

    Normally, the photos/images are shared with the understanding that they'd be viewed/used "as is". So if you find an image being shared as a "Wallpaper", the right to use the image as anything but a "wallpaper" remains with the original creator. Meaning, the artist has offered you the right to download and paste the image to your computers desktop, but not the right to use the image for anything else, and certainly not be use to create any type of revenue. So you technically shouldn't be downloading any sort of image from the net and using it in any way unless otherwise stated by the artist. If the artist does not otherwise state that it's okay to use, it is to be assumed that the artist does not intend for the image to be used in any way and is simply to be shown on his/her site for display.

    For example. You go to your local store and buy a baking pan mold in the form of Mickey Mouse. Now... Mickey Mouse is a copyright of Disney. Still, the company has allowed you the right to create a cake in the form of its copyright "Mickey Mouse". They did not however give you the rights to the character for anything else. So while they intended for you use the mold to make a cake that looked like Mickey Mouse, they did not intend for you to use the likeness in any other form, nor to use the likeness to generate personal revenue. Make your kids a cake for their birthday; no problem, that's the intended use. Make twenty cakes a day for sale at your bakery; you're pushing it, because now you're making money off of there copyright and they (Disney) aren't getting their cut of the profits.

    Another example; The birthday song sung before blowing out the candles on your cake. I'm not sure how far this goes, but here in the states it's fairly customary to sing the "Happy Birthday" song at a birthday party. Now... While we can all get away with singing the tune at the anniversary of our birth, using the song for public performances is illegal, because it's under copyright. If you hear the song being used on a TV show or movie, you can bet the producers have paid their dues for its use to copyright holders (I can't recall who holds it at the moment).
    Nothing is easy to the unwilling.

  6. #6
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    Thanks Someonesane. Yes, I definitely understand that creating or attempting to create any revenue in such cases is a definite no-no. But the more I read about it the more it looks that even for practice purposes it is breaching the copyright and it is illegal. For example, if one tried to mimic/reproduce one of Picasso paintings, not for sale of any sort, but to study his technique and develop skills, it's still illegal to do this. And it's illegal even if you just keep the file on your computer, whether you display it/publish it anywhere.

    I was always under the impression that such learning/teaching not-for-profit activities were ok, but it looks like they are not!

    EDIT: now that I think about it - I watched your skull WC tutorial the other day (I found it informative, thanks!). If I attempted to follow it and produced a skull painting I'd be doing it illegally apparently.
    Last edited by Mirithiar; 08-04-2013 at 02:52 AM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mirithiar View Post
    Thanks Someonesane. Yes, I definitely understand that creating or attempting to create any revenue in such cases is a definite no-no. But the more I read about it the more it looks that even for practice purposes it is breaching the copyright and it is illegal. For example, if one tried to mimic/reproduce one of Picasso paintings, not for sale of any sort, but to study his technique and develop skills, it's still illegal to do this. And it's illegal even if you just keep the file on your computer, whether you display it/publish it anywhere.

    I was always under the impression that such learning/teaching not-for-profit activities were ok, but it looks like they are not!

    EDIT: now that I think about it - I watched your skull WC tutorial the other day (I found it informative, thanks!). If I attempted to follow it and produced a skull painting I'd be doing it illegally apparently.
    It is not illegal to copy any image for practice (or fun, or whatever reason) and keep it private, even clearly copyrighted material. So far, there are no laws that have that kind of reach. If anyone can reference such a law with its text in context, I'd sure like to know.

    Meanwhile, copyright, fair use, and creative commons laws are complicated intellectual property concerns. Below are some helpful links. But cutting to the chase, it is wise to assume any image is copyrighted whether or not it has a copyright mark, and to find the owner and get their permission before using it, with the exception to fair use variance (see articles to understand fair use which are worthwhile understanding.)

    Three points: 1) Never pass off or even leave an impression that someone else's work is your own: always give attribution. 2) if there is a chance you'll earn even a penny using someone else's work, get their permission. 3) When in doubt, even the slightest, assume the work is copyrighted and subject to all the laws of copyright, fair use and creative commons.

    But again, privately, you can do whatever you want with anyone's work in the privacy of your own home. It is making something public where the range of intellectual property rights begin, and especially where there is an intent to profit whether financially or for "esteem".

    Consider these links, all useful:

    http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/c...online-images/

    http://lifehacker.com/5992419/the-be...-online-photos

    http://libguides.mit.edu/usingimages

    http://www.stockphotorights.com/faq/

    http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-fairuse.html

    http://website-tutorials-review.topt...eb-images.html

    http://www.htmlgoodies.com/beyond/re...nd-Answers.htm
    Last edited by byroncallas; 08-04-2013 at 04:01 AM.
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  8. #8
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    Well... That's the gray area, really.

    Someone paints a picture of a building. Did they ask for the architects permission? Say the person didn't paint the building, but took a photo of it. The next day someone comes along and sits in the very same spot the photo was taken and paints the building? Who could say whether they painted the building based off the building itself or the photo taken the previous day? Who should be more angry; the architect who designed the building, the person who took the picture, or the person who painted the building stroke for stroke, but now has to answer for it?
    Nothing is easy to the unwilling.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Someonesane View Post
    Well... That's the gray area, really.

    Someone paints a picture of a building. Did they ask for the architects permission?
    Byron:Wonderful example. In THIS case, however, they don't have too. Actual buildings are not copyright protected. But a painting or photography hanging on a wall that is copyright protected would be. Taking a picture of it and passing the subject material off as your own would be an infringement. The issue here is if the thing being photographed is itself already copyright protected.

    Say the person didn't paint the building, but took a photo of it. The next day someone comes along and sits in the very same spot the photo was taken and paints the building? Who could say whether they painted the building based off the building itself or the photo taken the previous day?
    Byron: This might be gray, but the onus would be on the photographer to prove a real infringement - to illustrate a painting of a public building was materially stolen in a way that the photograph was a work of art that clearly and materially makes it different than any of hundreds of other photographs that might be taken or could have been taken by the artist or anyone else. Yes, it is gray, but the photographer in this instance really has his work cut out for him. If he has an iconic photograph already attributed to him that is clearly mimicked he will certainly stand a better chance. Or if there are elements in the picture, that are unique to the instant of the shot that illustrate it was clearly a direct copy of a specific photograph (lighting or some dog walking along the sidewalk, etc. ) His case will have to be clear in this interesting and gray example providing elements of proof. The plaintiff has the burden of proof. Defending copyright can be a messy chore and expensive. There are always gray areas, though most of the time it isn't. The wronged party has a job to do to prove infringement and damage. When it is gray, he might want to think twice about the value of investing in his claim and defending it. [/I]

    See inserts above.

    Regarding "Happy Birthday", what a complex story. Read this: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/...happy-birthday.
    Last edited by byroncallas; 08-04-2013 at 05:07 AM.
    // "Appreciation fosters well-being. Be well." - Byron
    //
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    // My Comprehensive AR4 & 3 Thread Here
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  10. #10
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    Thanks for the contributions, I find this interesting. Will have a look at the links too.

    Quote Originally Posted by byroncallas View Post

    Three points: 1) Never pass off or even leave an impression that someone else's work is your own: always give attribution. 2) if there is a chance you'll earn even a penny using someone else's work, get their permission. 3) When in doubt, even the slightest, assume the work is copyrighted and subject to all the laws of copyright, fair use and creative commons.
    This is clear to me and this is not what I'm thinking about here, I went through this while securing photos and their permissions for a book - giving attribution is not enough in such case (non-profit book by the way), you need a rather specific written permission. Taking a photograph of a photo/painting and passing it as your own is of course unacceptable. To make it clear: I am not talking about taking a random photo and posting it on another website without permission. That is illegal in most cases, even if you provide the source and author of this photo.

    I am specifically wondering where is the line with reference photos on which art is based - especially when we talk about purely non-commercial use.

    Lets say I follow a tutorial, use a photo, illustration or any other image as a reference. Of course if the images are mine or not copyright protected then it's fine. However, I wonder how it works when they are protected - is it ok for me to keep a file of my art based on this photo/physical copy of my art in my sketchbook? Is it ok if I post it on a blog or on a forum like this one? Again, non-commercial purposes, purely learning exercises. Posting on a blog or forum would have a purpose of getting some feedback. If I found a painting which shows a specific effect I want to learn to create and then used that painting as a reference? The aim is not to create a copy of the image for commercial purpose/to fool anybody that this is mine, but rather to develop skills and learn new techniques. It also obviously wouldn't be a duplicate of the reference painting/photo in a strict sense.

    If I followed Someonesane's WC skull tutorial and posted my skull created that way here would I be breaking the law? I could say it was based on the tutorial and give credit, but that doesn't change much.

    The example with photo/painting of a building is also interesting, especially that there will be many objects/places that are famous - Sydney Opera House, Machu Picchu, Statue of Liberty, you name it, there will be things which were photographed and painted over and over again. It must be tricky legally, I've seen dozens of pictures that look stunningly similar - and some of them are probably copyright protected while others, looking almost the same, will be free to use.

    EDIT: Apparently the Sydney Opera House is also a registered trademark... All this is slightly crazy!
    Last edited by Mirithiar; 08-04-2013 at 06:04 AM.

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