Fine Art America - Art - Prints - Canvas Prints - Framed Prints - Metal Prints - Acrylic Prints

Every purchase includes a money-back guarantee.








Fine Art Discussions

Keyword Search  | Main Menu

Search Discussions


Art, Ethics And The Public Domain

Posted by: Mark James Perry on 11/17/2012 - 5:43 PM

Some questions for you from an ethical point of view.

Is is OK to sign someone else's work if they are dead?

Do I modify someone else's work before before I sign it?

Why should I care about somebody that's been dead for 150 years? Who speaks for them anyway?

Questions of this nature. And, by the term OK, I mean ethical, stand up and strait up in your behavior.

Have at it.......................

( To clarify............. I am not talking about stuff from stock houses or NASA. This thread is about "fixing", with no credit of any kind, the work of artists living or dead and taking it for your own.)


Oldest Reply

Posted by: Vivian ANDERSON on 11/17/2012 - 5:59 PM

Interesting questions, Mark.

Why would any artist with self-respect, sign another artist's work, be they dead or alive? Definitely not straight up, imo.

You sometimes refer to artwork here that has reference to another's work, but which has been modified in a very professional way, I noticed.

To answer this particular question, firstly one must wonder why anybody modifies another's artwork, rather than make an original artwork. But, if an artist does a 'derivative', (many have done so), I'd say it is imperative the artist cite the original artwork from which they derive theirs.....and sign it, as taught........"After ...Artist/name"............that would be straight up. Agreed?


Posted by: Renee Fields on 11/17/2012 - 6:04 PM

Sign someone else's work?
That's not okay.
Modifying another's work SO you feel better about signing it, is also not okay.

Create your own work, then sign your life away.

PS-I'm a photographer, so in some cases, I have photographed another's work (Chihuly Glass is a good example) and signed the photograph, but always give credit where credit is due.


Posted by: Mark James Perry on 11/17/2012 - 6:07 PM

As I was taught as well Vivian. More like yelled at.......................


Posted by: Mike Savad on 11/17/2012 - 6:08 PM

the only thing with chihuly is, he's not the one that made it either.

i think the answer really lies in what you did to it to make it really yours. how different is it? how much of the original is left? what made it yours?

if you did extensive things to make it yours, then you have the right to sign it- but not really call it a 100% yours. since a chunk of it wasn't ever yours.

but this can extend into other things - like if you take a recipe and make it, you can sign the cake because you made it, even though it's not your recipe. doubt that would work in a contest though. if you modify it, then maybe yes you can. but you didn't invent it. but sometimes it doesn't matter.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Robert James Hacunda on 11/17/2012 - 6:14 PM

Half the time I don't sign my own work till someone else signs a check...............................................RJ


Posted by: Isabella F Abbie Shores on 11/17/2012 - 6:29 PM

Great questions!


Posted by: Tommervik Art Prints on 11/17/2012 - 6:32 PM


Posted by: Allen Glass on 11/17/2012 - 6:35 PM

Although it's ridiculous to sign your own name to someone else's work, it's proper to sign a derivative work, since the artist actually owns the copyright of their derivative. There's no clear line that anyone will probably agree on as to how much "new work" is required to become a "derivative." The link above explains the big picture, including this paragraph:

"To be copyrightable, a derivative work must differ sufficiently from the original to be regarded as a new work or must contain a substantial amount of new material. Making minor changes or additions of little substance to a preexisting work will not qualify a work as a new version for copyright purposes."

Try this question: Your neighbor spends a ton of money remodeling and painting the exterior of their house. They spend a lot more with beautiful landscaping, including some imported exotic flowers and shrubs. You, as a photographer or artist, photograph or paint the house and landscape. Is that a "derivative work?" Are you exploiting his labor and expenses?


Posted by: Mark James Perry on 11/17/2012 - 6:39 PM

Allen, I don't think I understand what you are talking about. My questions are about ethics anyway.


Posted by: Allen Glass on 11/17/2012 - 6:42 PM

I think I understood what you mean by ethics. I just explained it in terms of derivative works, signatures, etc.


Posted by: Robert James Hacunda on 11/17/2012 - 6:43 PM

Allen, no ........ but if some else takes the photo you took of your neighbors and then does another new version of yours that would be "derivative work"..................... once you pushed the button you can claim possession.......................


Posted by: Wingsdomain Art and Photography on 11/17/2012 - 6:45 PM

I don't understand why artists, of all people, would want to create artificial limitations to their artistic creativity and explorations when it is well within the legal rights of the artist to use the public domain to further their artistic creativity. Many would rightly argue that you must protect your copyrights for some obvious good reasons, but copyrights are intended to protect the rights of the artist only for a reasonable period of time unless he/she so feels that there would be value beyond that reasonable copyright period in which case he/she or his/her heir have the right and responsibility to renew the copyrights. But after that reasonable period of time and if the copyright is not renewed, that artwork in question is more than likely dead and forgotten to the world and have little to no artistic value, unless the creative minds of artists are so inclined to further the artistic value of that all but defunct piece of work by using it creatively through the public domain. There are other nonsensical reasons to NOT use the public domain too, and most are created to protect the corporate world and their monopolistic desires, not the artist, that's been brainwashed into society.

Very few artists realize that they must also work even harder to protect their artistic and creative freedom as an artist working well within their legal rights to use the public domain as a artistic palette to enhance the artistic community and remove those artificial creativity boundaries, otherwise the corporate world will be more than glad to take your creative freedom away for corporate greed under the guise of helping the artist. And when you are brainwashed by all the signals driven by corporate greed around you, you will inevitable only help to perpetuate the creative and artistic dearth around you.



Posted by: Diane Daigle on 11/17/2012 - 6:49 PM

I have done a few pieces that are my take on masterpieces but with a twist,, they star my dog Gunther. I have always respectfully given credit for the original piece to it's creator. Having said all that,,, I spoke to an officer (also an artist) the other day who specializes in copyright law with the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and was informed that I am bordering on criminal activity when I recreate their creations for any sort of sale. The only saving grace for me is that the original artists are all well in the grave. When you take another person's creation,, be it a photograph,,, their own personal image or even just their 'idea' and rework or copy it for your own self to sell then that falls under a criminal offence and answerable in a court of law. Makes no difference what changes you make,,,, what you leave out,,,, what you add etc,,, etc. After having a lengthy discussion with this specialist I have decided that I will only take my own personal ideas from now on,,, especially when it comes down to my Gunther series,,, my sense of integrity means everything to me. It is not whether someone can get away with something or not because the most important person who will know is yourself. You can argue all you want but the fact is what the fact is,,,, and THAT is a fact. :>)


Posted by: Robert James Hacunda on 11/17/2012 - 6:49 PM

since when has the law and ethics been equivalent in connotation???????????????????????......................................................RJ


Posted by: Diane Daigle on 11/17/2012 - 6:53 PM

Also,,,, matters not a whit if you officially copyright your images or not,,,, if you pushed the button,,,, if you slapped on the paint,,,, if you came up with the concept it is yours. Not for a while,,,,not for a few years,,,, not for at least 50 or so years after you are dead and your heirs are no longer concerned to push the letter of the law.


Posted by: Anne Norskog on 11/17/2012 - 6:55 PM

Dale Chihuly Glass is like Walt Disney Enterprises: regardless of which artist actually worked on any given piece the credit for Disney Works goes back to Disney. So it is with Chihuly Glass. Giving credit where credit due works wonders. As far as actually signing another artist's work? Nope. One can say, "In the Manner Of", and be all right. Students working in galleries quietly copying what they see is an excellent way to learn. If you cannot actually find a gallery that allows this type of copy-teaching (some do not allow cameras either) working from well photographed books is another way to learn. Always give credit to the original artist and if you are working from fine photography that is accredited, give them credit, as well.


Posted by: Mark James Perry on 11/17/2012 - 6:55 PM

Well said Diane.......... RJ We are making the law right now. There is a more important court than the one full of lawyers. That court being history.


Posted by: Diane Daigle on 11/17/2012 - 6:57 PM

Yes,,,, you can say 'In the Manner Of' and keep it for your own viewing pleasure,,,, just don't profit from it. They are studies and not meant for sale or distribution.


Posted by: Diane Daigle on 11/17/2012 - 7:06 PM

As far as Chihuly Glass or Disney Enterprises,,,, when under contract whatever you touch it is as if your hands are their's,,,,,,, push a button,,,, it is them pushing the button. They own it,,,, not the artist involved who actually did the work.
He also informed me that if you take something off Facebook to paint or recreate from thinking that it is ok since it is in the public domain,,,, nah,,,, criminal.
Thanks Mark! :>)


Posted by: Anne Norskog on 11/17/2012 - 7:13 PM

Sometimes that contract can be very ugly--like anything created by an artist in their own studio becomes property of the giant...sometimes for years afterwards! Ouch!


Posted by: Diane Daigle on 11/17/2012 - 7:30 PM

Yes,,, that is one road I don't ever think I would want to go down for sure,,,,, I think,,,,, haha,,,,, make me an offer then I'll see. ;>)


Posted by: Mike Savad on 11/17/2012 - 7:39 PM

it also depends how you define ethical. whether your caught in the act of not making something original. or risk your reputation for using someone else's idea. but then again one can then wonder how far that goes. because almost every idea has been done already at least once.


download a picture of space from nasa and sign it as if you did something more than uploading it - that's wrong in my eyes.

download a picture of something public domain, and legally ok to use - if you didn't do anything, that's wrong. if you did something major, you can sign it, but still can't call it totally yours.

if the theme is something and you made your own image based off of it, like you drew ET or something, then that would be ok because it was yours.

it all becomes kind of confusing.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Mark James Perry on 11/17/2012 - 7:44 PM

You know Mike, none of my teachers were confused and I don't think I am either.


Posted by: Roseann Caputo on 11/17/2012 - 7:53 PM

Is is OK to sign someone else's work if they are dead? - In my opinion, no.

Do I modify someone else's work before before I sign it? - Why would you want to?

Why should I care about somebody that's been dead for 150 years? - I have no idea, why would you?

Who speaks for them anyway? - I have no idea.


Posted by: Diane Daigle on 11/17/2012 - 8:09 PM

Mike there is absolutely NOTHING confusing about the internationally recognized law of copyright and ownership.
If you play in mud,,, you may or may not get dirty,,, but YOU will know you were playing there.

For me,,, I have learned there is no grey area,,,, just black and white,,, it is so simple. On that note,,, I'm off to paint an ORIGINAL piece that I MYSELF came up with,,, that I might (hahahaha,, or might not) be proud to share in a while. Good night everyone. :>)

Big Skip

This is a very popular discussion with 775 responses.   In order to help the page load faster and allow you to quickly read the most recent posts, we're only showing you the oldest 25 posts and the newest 25 posts.   Everything in the middle has been skipped.   Want to read the entire discussion?   No problem: click here.


Posted by: Dan Turner on 12/05/2012 - 7:43 PM

RJ expressed that he prefers the original films to the "updated" versions. I said he (and everyone else) should soon be able to have it both ways. Then you both fell apart. Maybe comprehension and communication aren't your thing.


Posted by: Penny M on 12/05/2012 - 7:49 PM

How will I be able to watch an original when the hd takes hold of my technology? (not falling apart over this, since I don't watch that much TV or movies). What motivation will there be to show 'old' original movies?


Posted by: Dan Turner on 12/05/2012 - 7:54 PM

Thus we come full circle. My 4:28 post: "I bet we'll soon see both versions of classic films being put on Blu-Ray; the new hi-def and the "as originally seen in 1938" version."


Posted by: Penny M on 12/05/2012 - 7:56 PM

I guess you didn't watch the whole video, were it states that the industry has to come out with something new to make money and old is not new. So to get something on prime time it needs to be re-worked to make a buck, at a big loss to me, (the viewer)


Posted by: Robert James Hacunda on 12/05/2012 - 8:02 PM

Maybe comprehension and communication aren't your thing.

Dan,being wrong or bad is really traumatic for you so you resort to nitpicking and attacking others competence with your platitudes


Posted by: Mark James Perry on 12/05/2012 - 8:13 PM

Wonder what Ingmar Bergman would think about this.


Posted by: Dan Turner on 12/05/2012 - 8:13 PM

Both of those are my things. I make a living with them. I know the odd man out when I see 'em!


Posted by: Robert James Hacunda on 12/05/2012 - 8:20 PM

You really do believe your own BS...


Posted by: Dan Turner on 12/05/2012 - 8:30 PM

Oh c'mon. I'm just not as obtuse as you highfalutin' elitist artists.


Posted by: Robert James Hacunda on 12/05/2012 - 8:38 PM

Ok hero of "the everyman" how do you feel about changing classic films into new blue ray? forgive my lacking your levels of acuity


Posted by: Mark James Perry on 12/05/2012 - 8:58 PM

" highfalutin' elitist artists"? What in the hell does that actually mean Dan? Do you have any kind of a clue? Your idea of an insult? What?


Posted by: R Allen Swezey on 12/05/2012 - 9:35 PM

To whom it may concern,

This is probably the time for this:

Art Prints

By the way, I had to scroll down the entire thread to make sure I hadn't posted this earlier.


Posted by: Dan Turner on 12/05/2012 - 10:06 PM

"how do you feel about changing classic films into new blue ray?"

I haven't seen any of those yet, but I DO love hi-def and I like the idea of seeing every freckle on Katherine Hepburn's face. Some films are going to be helped by the process, some probably not. But all of us can have it both ways! The original (for the third time in this thread) can be included on the same Blu-Ray disc as the hi-def version. You could probably watch them in split-screen and compare. There's no need for anyone to suffer. Everybody can win.


Posted by: Robert James Hacunda on 12/05/2012 - 10:41 PM

thats really a good IDEA Dan and as you said it CAN be done or in other words SHOULD be done in your way of thinking..I got that the first time and perhaps I didn't make it clear but that is an ASSUMPTION and my question was what would be the motivation to offer both? Because you think they SHOULD do it that way? I think they SHOULD use their new technology and create something NEW and UNIQUE with the medium in mind and not always go for the tried and true because the masses seem to want it or they know they will buy it.. .


Posted by: Dan Turner on 12/05/2012 - 10:56 PM

I don't understand the vigor in your response, RJ. This is a casual discussion. There is clearly a market for both things and I have no doubt the market will be satisfied. Whether they should do it, or whether it's art, or whether it's disturbing anybody, honestly, I couldn't care less about that part of the discussion.


Posted by: Mark James Perry on 12/05/2012 - 11:16 PM

"Whether they should do it, or whether it's art, or whether it's disturbing anybody, honestly, I couldn't care less about that part of the discussion." That Dan, is the entire point of this thread. You missed it.


Posted by: Dan Turner on 12/06/2012 - 12:08 AM

No, it's not the entire point of the thread, Mark. The thread wanders all over creation and has gone off the rails a number of times. The OP has been vague and obtuse throughout, only occasionally popping in with unrelated quotes from other people. "I couldn't care less" doesn't apply to everything in my life or even to everything in this thread. It applies specifically to the areas RJ and I have been discussing this evening.


Posted by: Robert James Hacunda on 12/06/2012 - 9:02 AM

"Whether they should do it," ....... Meaning you have no ethical opinion or do you just think it's a good idea because there is a market for it?

or whether it's art, ............. Meaning you have no aesthetic position on it ?

or whether it's disturbing anybody ........... this I can relate to...


Posted by: Penny M on 02/09/2013 - 12:31 AM

Thank you Mark for all the threads of distinction, hit by so many, you stirred the passion on the board...

I will miss you, you were a great teacher!


Posted by: Robert James Hacunda on 02/09/2013 - 12:54 AM

It feels like so many times it was a battle to have meaningful exchanges here on FAA, I don't think I have the heart left to continue ..


Posted by: Christine Till on 02/09/2013 - 12:59 AM

Robert, if you don't have the heart left to continue ... then leave. In any case: Follow your heart. We'll see where it leads you.

I will miss Mark. We never exchanged a word, but he stood up for what he believed instead of "talking nice", which is a big PLUS in my books.


Posted by: Vivian ANDERSON on 02/09/2013 - 1:13 AM

Vale, Mark Perry........enjoyed your company and our 'exchanges' so stimulating. RJ:::::take heart......


Posted by: Andres Leon on 02/09/2013 - 1:32 AM

I know i am a little late to the conversation but here is how I look at it. Let's replace the word "dead" or "someone else" with "me" or "I" and, as long as the message is understood, let's disregard proper grammar for a moment:

Is is OK to sign someone else's work if they are dead?
Would become more or less...
Is it OK for someone to put their signature on MY work now that I am dead?

Do I modify someone else's work before before I sign it?
Would be...
Would someone else need to modify my work before they can sign it as theirs?

Why should I care about somebody that's been dead for 150 years? Who speaks for them anyway?
Would be changed to...
Why should I care if I have been dead for 150 years? Who speaks for me anyway?

Bottom line is, would you be ok with someone else taking ownership and credit for YOUR work 150 years from now? In my opinion, the answer to this question is the answer to all the others.


Posted by: Xoanxo Cespon on 02/09/2013 - 5:23 AM

Thank you Mark!!! You will be missed!!! I would like to share in this thread the closing post of my "Your art? your purpose?" thread, which in many ways was inspired by Mark Perry...

Well, the time has come to close this thread, but before I do so, I would like once again to thank all contributing artists as well as, Mark Perry, Roger Swezey and Arthur Robbins for opening their "inspiring threads":

"Ethics and Art" & "High Art" (M.Perry),
"A Photography Question" (Roger Swezey)
"The Purpose of Art" (Arthur Robbins)

For those who have followed this debate, I would like to share the beautiful words of Khalil Gibran on "Giving"

Then said a rich man, "Speak to us of Giving."

And he answered:

You give but little when you give of your possessions.

It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.

For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow?

And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the over-prudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?

And what is fear of need but need itself?

Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, thirst that is unquenchable?

There are those who give little of the much which they have - and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.

And there are those who have little and give it all.

These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.

There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.

And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.

And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;

They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.

Though the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.

It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding;

And to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving

And is there aught you would withhold?

All you have shall some day be given;

Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors'.

You often say, "I would give, but only to the deserving."

The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.

They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.

Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights is worthy of all else from you.

And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.

And what desert greater shall there be than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving?

And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?

See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.

For in truth it is life that gives unto life - while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.

And you receivers - and you are all receivers - assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives.

Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings;

For to be over-mindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the free-hearted earth for mother, and God for father.

"On Giving" from the Book "The Prophet" (1923) by Khalil Gibran


Posted by: Wendy J St Christopher on 02/09/2013 - 5:26 AM

Safe journey, Mark -- my thoughts are with your loved ones.


Posted by: Semmick Photo on 02/09/2013 - 6:31 AM

The amount of stolen work sold here is sickening. I really think the curators need to do something about that. And I am not talking about public domain, but copyrighted photographs. Blatant copyright infringement, sold here for big dollars and it seems no one is doing anything about it. If you report stolen work there is no reply as if its being condoned.


Posted by: Isabella F Abbie Shores on 02/09/2013 - 6:36 AM

I still have to get a complaint in tech support from you

I am dealing now with two copyright infringements and neither cease notices are from yourself

EDIT Mark will not be coming back and so this thread is now closed


This discussion is closed.