Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What does personal integrity dictate?

To my friends in blogworld who are artists or anyone who may have an informed opinion on this:

Is it acceptable to make a drawing that fairly closely resembles a portion of someone else's original photo, and then display that artwork? Does one have to get permission from the photographer before using for one's own purposes (which happen to be in no way monetary) the drawing inspired by the photo, or does the art belong to the maker, no matter the source? Is it enough to credit the source of inspiration? What does personal integrity dictate? And if there is a legal answer to this, what might that be?


  1. My gut tells me that recognition of the source should be enough, but that's just my gut. It probably depends on who created the source as well.

    Beautiful blog. :)

  2. You've asked a complicated question and tomes have been written in on this subject! I'm far from expert but here's my understanding in a nutshell: The copyright remains with the artist, and you should ask permission before you use your drawing of the photo publicly in any way. If it's only and always for your personal use then you probably don't have to ask permission, but I'm not positive about that - maybe someone else can correct me on that. As far as making the drawing - a lot depends on the degree of similarity, and that may determine whether it's OK just to credit the source of inspiration. I don't know exactly how that's judged. Sorry my answer isn't clearer, but the subject is so nuanced...
    Here's a fairly user-friendly site about copyright law that might help:

  3. I am really undecided about this kind of thing. In your example, I think that getting permission from the photographer would be at the very least a nice gesture, and I think that the fact that money would not be an issue might also be a major factor.

    When Shepard Fairey made his amazing Obama Hope poster, he took what was a great photograph and he definitely added his own talent and made it into something completely different, yet it was still easily recognizable as a new version of the original photo.

    That particular case was made much more complicated by the fact that the AP thought they owned the photo, the photographer thought he owned the photo, and Shepard Fairey was dishonest and submitted false documents.

    link =

    Still, it's a similar situation. I think the artist who made the drawing should look at it from the photograher's point of view: if they had been the photographer, what would they feel would be fair?

    Fair use law might cover this, and if you can understand exactly how it works and whether it would apply, you are a smarter woman than I. :)

  4. I'm anxious to hear what folks have to say....

    I only have personal opinions, which basically boil down to the following:
    a) we live in a litigious society and unfortunately people can get 'in trouble' over the smallest things - this incenses me!

    b) people get their panties in a bunch way too often and way too easily - an ironic statement give (a) above

    c) as long as one isn't claiming someone's actual work as one's own, inspiration happens - do we really need to articulate all the sources of our inspiration..... geez!

    I think if I had to articulate all the sources of inspiration for whatever I "create" I might be so paralyzed I would be hesitant to create anything ever again....

  5. Thank you all for your thoughtful comments.

    scarlethue, thanks so much for visiting and the kind words. I hope you come back often. love your blog!

    deborah, so appreciate the website link, and you. A question: Is a public blog considered "personal use"? I'll have to research that.

    ellen, you speak right to the personal integrity question when you say to look at it from the photographer's point of view. that's a great test. hope your novel's cooking along nicely!

    mouse, i so agree with your about the nature of inspiration. it is everywhere! i hope you just keep right on creating because I, for one, find so much inspiration in your creations.

  6. Hmm - public blog = personal use? I really don't know! I'd say if you want to publish a photog's work, or your derivative thereof on your blog, best to ask first and credit him/her for the inspiration. I'd think they'd be glad for the added exposure!


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