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How Much Could You Copy Or Alter?

Posted by: Mary Armstrong on 06/17/2013 - 11:42 AM

I know the copyright issue has been brought up a number of times here on FAA so search and find : Copyright Policy

Yet we see photos and art available FOR PRINT and we need to know if any copyright has been infringed on. Permission for use should be noted in the description area. Reference to the copyright owner should be noted if just showing a certain photo or artwork and it is not for resale in any way.

As we move forward in this digital world on the web it is easy to download almost whatever one wants. It might be for your own personal reference and likely no huge problem as long as not copied for some sort of resale(yet many do say DO NOT COPY!!). Some is even gathered in a larger file and then reused/altered in some way for other purposes. We all need to know more on that part as to the legality or possible actions that could be taken. What are your thoughts/ideas on the reuse/altered photo/art issue? For more on the subject Google and find:

Hope this is helpful to all you artists and photographers who hope to protect your images.


Oldest Reply

Posted by: Roseann Caputo on 06/17/2013 - 12:12 PM

There are plenty of sites that sell images, and depending upon the license, you can alter them however you like and say you created art. If that what makes your boat float, have at it. However, when someone steals an image and makes a few changes and then claims to have created art, and particularly when it's blindingly obvious where the original came from, then I don't support that.


Posted by: Bob Galka on 06/17/2013 - 1:19 PM

Hi Mary...

I think you are probably thinking about those images "found on the internet". If so.. then yea there certainly can be many level of issues to discuss. But (for me) if I do download an internet image and "artify" it, I would have no issues of framing it an putting up on my wall even if it does say "don't copy".

There is certainly no fuzziness about selling someone else's untouched image as your own. That is criminal. BUT... and that is a big but I know, it does become fuzzy where you use someone's image as a source image for a new work of art. It appears that a lawyer and judge may be need to interpret the law on a particular piece. In either case a photo credit should always be given to the original photographer. I think even if it is public domain and technically not necessary. I suppose that if you are planning on selling prints of your work that you should attempt to contact original photographer and get their permission.. but even that requirement may not be required but should be done as a matter or courtesy.

There seems to be a consensus that celebrities are fair game and normally have no issues with their image being used, unless of course it is less than flattering, an not used in a commercial way. In other words.. as an art object fine.. to sell soap.. not so much.

I think in the end if your work is not something controversial (and you can use your imagination to think of what that might be) and again you are not "selling" someone's work as yours, and not commercializing using someone else's work no one is going to come after you.

When are you crossing that line? .... I always think back to those pornography trials where when asked how someone defines pornography... "I know it when I see it".

I know others will disagree with me, but if someone were to use one of my photos that happen to be floating around the internet in one of their works of art., I would be thrilled as long as there was a photo credit. But yea if they were using it to sell soap, then yea... layers will get involved.



Posted by: Mary Armstrong on 06/17/2013 - 2:36 PM

Bob, you make a good point. How others deal with "found objects off the internet/web" and display them is going to reflect who they are eventually. I'm sure there are many viewpoints on what is fair game and sure want to see them given. If you are thrilled with how others may use your photos, that is great, but think again, on who makes the money from them if that should happen. And if you give permission then bravo for you. People then know what they may or may not do with your photos. Yes, again , good publicity when you are given credit and could lead to better sales for you, which would be....good marketing in the end. I agree somewhat about a copy, one finds/copies/prints and hangs on his/her wall, just as long as not copied, then sold under another persons' name. Can't deal with that. Not fair! Or maybe I just want to be.....too fair!


Posted by: Roger Swezey on 06/17/2013 - 4:33 PM

Until fairly recently, I would say, "Why would anyone find it appropriate to "COPY"in any form?"

But Now, as I'm trying to make inroads in selling POD, via, the" Digital Art "route., I'm finding the use of the treasure trove of Pixelized Images available (?), not only attractive, but seemingy necessary.


Posted by: Louise Reeves on 06/17/2013 - 6:48 PM

I have issues with someone who takes another's original, does a tweak or two and passes it off as their own.
Earlier this year, Ovation TV ran an art contest through both their own site and Facebook. Someone took a clipart, colorized it and entered it. It "won". That's when all hell broke loose. A LOT of us went after Ovation for being ignorant of clipart and not following its own rules (must be original art). The person who submitted it tried to defend himself, saying "well it's not a jpeg, it's a silkscreen for my t-shirt business. He didn't want to know or could not understand that in the digital world, silkscreens are jpegs. It took Ovation another month to admit their mistake and rechoose a winner-that happened to be me.

I have done work that I felt was original by photographing motorcycles and digitally enhancing the images. I even digitally and painstakingly (pixel by pixel in Illustrator) painted a 1974 Harley Softail, customized. I also digitally painted a Harley Davidson Sportster and put it in front of an American Flag with the words "An American Original". I put those in Cafepress and soon got a "Cease and Desist" order from HD, saying I was not a licensed Harley artist. When I see the Harley stuff selling here, I get a little mad and a little jealous. I've been red flagged for selling original art featuring Harley's. Harley Davidson doesn't care that it's original art. To them, I crossed the line because something they own was in my work.


Posted by: Mary Ellen Anderson on 06/17/2013 - 11:06 PM

I can see the issue with trademarks like Louise is talking about, but the copy and alter thing...? Why do you need to copy anything? Does it make a difference if the image is of an original oil painting instead of a photograph? Can't you just go photograph the scene yourself. I'm pre-digital but today then photography is a legitimate medium. I truly don't get it, why would you want to copy another artists work as your own? How boring, how unnecessary.

At the same time, then just because a photographer takes a particular scene doesn't mean they patented the spot. I'm sure both parties are equally ridiculous, but 'cheating' artist have provoked this issue. Take the high ground on this and simply do your own work (no copying at all). Ask in advance for licenses and permissions. Be professional. Then when we get slapped around we have moral ground to stand on.


Posted by: Vivian ANDERSON on 06/17/2013 - 11:15 PM

Agree with you Mary. But, people nowadays can rationalize their so-called 'fair use'.......pity ! There've recently been 're-ordered' Turners here, too, claimed as original art....just don't get it.


Posted by: Rose ART on 06/17/2013 - 11:20 PM

Really Roger. Like you don't have enough material to do whatever you want with/to/reconstruct? Let us know how that's working for you.


Posted by: Roy Erickson on 06/18/2013 - 5:42 AM

I'm with Mary Ellen - Why, in this day and age, is it necessary to use someone else's work to create your own. I don't mean like copying a persons style, say Van Gogh - but to repaint one of his pictures in his style. and, I've yet to figure out why anyone would want a picture of a famous "star" in their house as decoration - Sinatra, Elvis, Monroe, etc, etc.


Posted by: Roseann Caputo on 06/18/2013 - 6:07 AM

Something I've been saying for a while now. If you have no imagination or creativity and you "need" something to start you off, there are plenty of places to obtain images legally for just this sort of thing. There is no need to steal from others.

If I want reference material, I have my own camera and I built up a library of reference material over the years. If it's something I don't have, I check with some friends who are artists next. I would be happy to pay them, credit them and work with them. Otherwise there are plenty of sites that offer licensed work for just this sort of thing.

As for famous people - I might make the art, but I wouldn't sell it without their permission. IMHO, if you wish to create art of a famous person to sell it, you should have to do what other professionals do, make an appointment and pay the fee to work with them.


Posted by: Roger Swezey on 06/18/2013 - 7:47 AM

RE: Using someone else's work product

As I've said so many times, what galls me, is the belief by many, that by snapping a picture of someone else's artistic vision and toil, that vision is automatically transferred to the photographer and the creator of that work summarily dismissed.

This happens far too often, as evident by the plethora of photographs of sculptures posted here on FAA


Posted by: Roseann Caputo on 06/18/2013 - 8:06 AM

Roger - I will agree with you on the level of individual artist's sculptures, such as yourself. If I were to take pictures of your work, I'd give them to you. It would be for practice with focus, lighting, composition, etc. Selling the pictures, or prints of them, IMHO, is infringing on your work and unless there is permission given, etc., no I would not do that as that crosses the line.


Posted by: Roy Erickson on 06/18/2013 - 8:49 AM

My total regrets to you Roger - but I disagree. Photographs or paintings of statues or even buildings by famous (or infamous) artists in public places are "fair game". I do agree that, if it is known or can be determined, the artist should be recognized. but how many photo's paintings of Buckingham Fountain in Chicago, the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, the Tower of London, the Trevi Fountain, St Peters in Rome, etc, etc, the Statue of Lincoln or of Jefferson, the Taj Mahal, the Sydny Opera House, etc, etc. What would be wrong would be for me or anyone to duplicate your work and call it my own - although there is nothing to prevent someone from seeing your work and collecting shells from the beach and creating their own to sell.


Posted by: Roseann Caputo on 06/18/2013 - 9:00 AM

Roy - I agree with you on architecture and large structures, such as the Statue of Liberty, only because where would it end? The architect who designed it? The contractor or construction company that built it? The individual workers who did the work? The list would be endless. Not to mention with this wonderful source of information on the internet, anyone can search for these large structures and see who designed and built it. But when it comes to an individual's work or something in a gallery or museum, I draw the line. YMMV.


Posted by: Roy Erickson on 06/18/2013 - 10:07 AM

You know what's wonderful about this - we can disagree - I'll go along with a gallery - maybe - museums - no. I'm not talking about photographing paintings and then selling prints as your own - but there is a huge long tradition of artists going to museums and copying famous works of art - both to learn and to sell. What is wrong - is to take a Charles Russell and copy it and pawn it off as the real deal - a few years back there was a plethora of that being done.

Frank Lloyd Wright and his architectural work is no different than Rogers vulture sculptures - photographing them and selling prints - pray tell exactly what is the difference? size? or is it that Roger can object and FLW cannot.


Posted by: Roseann Caputo on 06/18/2013 - 10:34 AM

Roy - This is for me personally, no one else needs to follow suit. It's not always black and white, but can vary from situation to situation. From the perspective of a photographer or artist taking a picture for reason's other than selling a print, would I photograph an individual's work? Possibly. I might do it for practice. From the perspective of taking the picture for something I wish to sell? No I would not. Unless - the person has sold the work and been compensated for it and it's in a public place/display that allows this. Then I'd have to see if I find it interesting enough to work with. Example: Sculptures at the Public Library in NYC.

As for galleries, no I wouldn't. Again, if you had one of your abstracts on display at a gallery, and there are a number of them I like, I wouldn't photograph it, unless it was to give to you or the gallery. That's your work, you should be the only one making money off of it.

Museums, same thing. I don't take my camera to galleries or museums, unless I'm asked to photograph an event.

As for the larger structures, the architects/designers are paid for their designs. I have pictures of the George Washington Bridge for sale in my shop. The designer, architects, builders, et al, were all paid, so I am not stealing from them or infringing. It's a public place and according to the law, it's fair game.

As for FLW, I don't have any pictures of his things. As for if I would or not, depends upon the subject matter.


Posted by: Roger Swezey on 06/18/2013 - 12:03 PM

When a photo depicts another's work of art, without adding anything new to the image, That photo is just pure documentation,and even if the photo meets the standards of fine photography, It's still just a photo of somebody else's Art..


Posted by: Bob Galka on 06/18/2013 - 12:52 PM

As far as photography... I have always thought that if something is visible from a public place it is fair game.. except "maybe" people's faces. An I think that I will continue in that belief. If it is a famous "thing" then what's of point of stating the obvious. If it is not a famous 'thing" then possibly giving a description of what you happen to know about the "thing" that makes the subject interesting is worthwhile.

If this were a tock photo site then there may be more restrictions necessary, but I keep coming back to the point that what we are posting here for sale is supposed to be about decorative art.. Stuff to hang on walls of people's homes. Sure some of it goes into public buildings.. hospitals, restaurants, etc.. but still mostly as decorative art. And for the most part each image that does sell.. sells in very small quantity, to be seen by a very small number of people. And if we stay away from featuring corporate logos and such in our works I don't see that we are stepping on anyone's rights.

And to state the obvious again.. taking someone else's photo and selling it as your own photo is just criminal. Using someone's photo as a source image for a new work or art.. well we aren't going to change anyone's mind here one way or the other.



Posted by: Dan Turner on 06/18/2013 - 1:59 PM

"It's still just a photo of somebody else's Art."

Roger, how many photos of sculpture have we seen, right in this forum, that are just terrible photos? A lot!!! Those pieces are never going to get a second glance based on the photos.

But show an outstanding photo of a mediocre sculpture and it's chances of selling go through the roof.

I've said it many times: A photo is not a sculpture, and vice versa. You can argue that "the sculptor made it possible" all you want. Unless the photo is being used to promote the sculptor, credit is irrelevant. The sculptor didn't take the outstanding photograph.

For those who feel it's necessary to chastise others for "copying", please look at yourself. Unless you're starting from a blank universe (no planets, no suns, no galaxies) you are building on the shoulders of others. ALL of us are building on what has come before.

Dan Turner
Dan Turner Fine Art
Dan Turner's Seven Keys to Selling Art Online
To Enjoy Dan Turner's Pinterest Boards, Click Here


Posted by: Roseann Caputo on 06/18/2013 - 3:05 PM

Nature is what put us all here. As far as I know, I'm representing what I see around me. I'm not stealing from mother nature or infringing on her rights. Unless I missed something?''

Oh and my abstracts started with a blank canvas.


Posted by: Roger Swezey on 06/18/2013 - 4:58 PM

Since my last posting here a few hours ago, I walked to the center of my new adopted town , with a prime purpose....I wanted to get permission to photograph this apparently funky old motor cycle, leaning casually against a stone all in somebody's driveway....I had seen it a few days earlier....What peaked my interest was those unique wheels!...I thought the image would be a great addition to Phyllis Wolf's thread on "Wheels".

As I started to walk down the driveway, I saw the garage door open, with a light on, Saying "Hello! Hello! I continued, when I got by the motorcycle I noticed that it was not "Casually Leaning" it was staged with a spotlight aimed at it...And it wasn't just some "Funky" bike.. It was a conscious Sculpture....As I continued down I saw more copper and iron sculptures..It became obvious that the occupant was a Sculptor...particularly with a sign hanging there saying so, with his name on it.

But, there was no one there, when I finally got to the garage,so, I turned around and walked out with no longer any desire to take my own picture of that Bike.

When I got back here, I Googled his name, It came up, and there was a photograph of that full size sculpture of a motor cycle, properly credited to that gentleman.

I would love to meet him.


Posted by: Philip Sweeck on 06/18/2013 - 5:30 PM

I took this photograph in the Pompidou from a work ( Yaacov Agam Room ) in its permanent collection. I didn't copy the sculpture and take it home with me and then uploaded it here, obviously.

Photography Prints

Here's a youtube vid I found showing the complete sculpture. The sculptor is Yaacov Agam.


Posted by: Roy Erickson on 06/18/2013 - 7:01 PM

Of course it is a photo of someone else's art - of that there is no question - and that may be the ONLY opportunity someone has of being able to look at whenever they want. I doubt it would ever bring great big bucks - but then there are a quadrillion post cards that more than likely were never permitted by any artist or architect. I'm off this subject. Each has his own karma to work out. If it is stealing to you - it's bad karma - if it's perfectly fine - then it is perhaps zero karma - if it does another good - it is positive karma - live with your conscience.


Posted by: Roger Swezey on 06/18/2013 - 9:21 PM

Try to tell a mother, that it's the skill of the photographer that made a picture great, not the baby photographed.


Posted by: Philip Sweeck on 06/18/2013 - 10:43 PM

"Try to tell a mother, that it's the skill of the photographer that made a picture great, not the baby photographed."

Try to tell a photographer that it's the 'beauty' of a baby that made a photograph great and not the skill of the photographer.


Posted by: Dan Turner on 06/18/2013 - 10:47 PM

Mom's opinion aside, both pretty babies and pretty girls can be turned into mediocre, forgettable snapshots by the wrong photographer. But good photographers can turn them into stunners.

Dan Turner
Dan Turner Fine Art
Dan Turner's Seven Keys to Selling Art Online
To Enjoy Dan Turner's Pinterest Boards, Click Here


Posted by: Philip Sweeck on 06/18/2013 - 10:58 PM

Roger, why not make interesting photographs and images of your sculptures besides of just documenting your interesting sculptures in photographs, like you're doing now. Surely you can have a gallery here of photographs and images that are art in themselves and based on your sculptures and a gallery that simply depict your sculptures as being the work of art. After all, that should be easy, right?, since according to you only the sculptures are what's needed to make the photographs of them great and artistic works in themselves. So do it!


Posted by: Roger Swezey on 06/18/2013 - 11:22 PM


If I wanted to have images of vultures and the other of my sculpture subjects, I would either bother to photograph actual subjects, or make a drawings or paintings of the same

Actually I DID create and image from one of my actual 3 D pieces


Photography Prints

From one of these:

Art Prints


Posted by: Mary Armstrong on 06/19/2013 - 6:19 PM

Thank you everyone for all the opinions and sure see they vary. I love your bike story, Roger, which goes to show we need to ask when in doubt or look it up.

Just read about the BuzzFeed lawsuit. If it is true, cause I am not really sure, the outcome may mean another standard of some sort on photo usage. I am not sure I agree with the whole idea nor the amount of the suit, which appears absurb, but then someone was pretty angry to go this far ( or a lawyer had a hand in it). If one of you knows more about this story, please post!

If my copy here does not open, look it up, I guess. And many of you may have already read this:
Photographer Sues BuzzFeed for $3.6M for Using Photo Without Permission - PetaPixel
A photographer is suing the popular viral content aggregation website BuzzFeed for a whopping $3.9 million after he discovered that BuzzFeed had used o


Posted by: Mary Armstrong on 06/19/2013 - 6:32 PM

This is the "" article which also will show a copy of the written lawsuit.(so please look them up ) per the BuzzFeed lawsuit. I think a key sentence is the last one of " use for profit" Of course this more than likely is a rare instance of such an incident :

Photographer Sues BuzzFeed for $3.6M for Using Photo Without Permission
A photographer is suing the popular viral content aggregation website BuzzFeed for a whopping $3.9 million after he discovered that BuzzFeed had used one of his Flickr photos without permission in a comedy “roundup” article.

The controversy started when Idaho photographer Kai Eiselein came across an article on BuzzFeed titled “The 30 Funniest Header Faces.” It was a collection of 30 photographs showing soccer players photographed with contorted faces as soccer balls collided with their noggins,
One of the photographs in the original article was an image that Eiselein had uploaded to his Flickr account. The image was marked as “All Rights Reserved.”
As you can see from the screenshot above, the title has since been changed to “The 29 Funniest Header Faces” after Eiselein’s photograph was removed (the photographer sent BuzzFeed a DMCA takedown notice).
Shortly after the original post was published, the photograph began to appear on websites across the web (many of which source, steal, or syndicate BuzzFeed’s content):
Unhappy about the fact that his photo was published without his permission, Eiselein filed a massive $3.6 million lawsuit against the publisher in New York earlier this month. Why the massive amount for a single photo? Eiselein argues that BuzzFeed is responsible not only for its own copyright infringement, but for the damages that resulted from the photo subsequently appearing on dozens of other websites:
Buzzfeed, Inc. actively encourages its users to share content, regardless of whether or not that content is owned by, or licensed to, Buzzfeed. The plaintiff asserts that Buzzfeed, Inc. is responsible for 61 contributory infringements upon his photograph.
This lawsuit is a major challenge to a business model that many websites are adopting these days: one that is based on finding photographs online, publishing them on a website (both with and without credit) next to advertising, and profiting from the resulting pageviews.
Jeff John Roberts over at paidContent writes that BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti defended the business model to The Atlantic last year:
[BuzzFeed] pays to license images from companies like Reuters and Getty, but that it also pulls from amateur sites like Tumblr and Flickr. In these cases, the provenance of the images can be unclear — in some cases, the photographer has made them available for public use while other times the author is simply unknown.
Peretti also claims that, in any event, BuzzFeed’s photo montages are fair use under copyright law because they are “transformative” (which is one factor in the first part of a complicated four-part fair use test).
This isn’t the first time BuzzFeed has been on the receiving end of a massive copyright infringement lawsuit. Last October, the website was sued for $1.3 million for publishing 9 celebrity photos without permission.
As with that case, this new lawsuit will be a big test for whether or not new media websites can grab photographs from across the Web and use them for profit without the photographers’ permission.


Posted by: Roseann Caputo on 06/19/2013 - 6:34 PM

Hope BuzzFeed gets fried.


Posted by: Dan Turner on 06/19/2013 - 6:51 PM

$3.9 million? That's attempted extortion. I believe there are laws against that. When a photographer willingly, knowingly places his photos on the Cut and Paste Highway (aka Internet) he should automatically give up his right to complain about anyone who cuts and pastes his images.

Dan Turner
Dan Turner Fine Art
Dan Turner's Seven Keys to Selling Art Online
To Enjoy Dan Turner's Pinterest Boards, Click Here


Posted by: Roseann Caputo on 06/20/2013 - 7:12 AM

Dan - you know I disagree with that. I put my art on here to sell it. I put it on my website to promote it. I'm not on flickr or any of the others. People need to learn self-control, you can't take it just because it's there; and copyright laws.


This discussion is closed.