View Full Version : References and Permission

06-16-2004, 04:21 PM
this has been bugging me for a while, and i wanted to throw it out there...

if i see a photograph and would like to do an original painting of it--using the photo as a reference only--do i need to seek permission from the photographer? most of the time my final painting *probably* couldn't easily be recognized from the original source, anyway. sometimes it does look similar, but i mostly use photos as basic guides rather than for strict interpretation.

just for clarification, i'm not talking about photomanipulations or photo paint overs or anything that would actually involve the pixels of the original photograph itself.

06-16-2004, 05:27 PM
Good question Amanda I have been wondering that myself.

06-16-2004, 05:50 PM
Hi Amanda and Jean,
Do you mean from WC galleries, or just in general?


06-16-2004, 06:41 PM
Without getting too technical...this is what I do. Often I will use a photo I find on the net as reference material. If I am doing an exact but origional painting of the photo, I would have to have permisson. If it is a landscape and all I want is a reference then I don't feel permission is neccessary. Or, for instance, I painted a cat for a lady that gave me lousy pictures to work with so I looked up several pic on the net and use the ones I found for position and then used the colors of her cat.

06-16-2004, 09:49 PM
This would best be answered in the "legal corner" forum. But, my experience is that most law is based on common sense, which in this case is, is the end product "yours"? (Different enough from the source that it's recreation vs. reproduction?)

Does your reproduction damage the original artist (monetarily, through dilution, or otherwise) and is the offense defensible (I'm a judge, if I decide on this am I going to be overturned and have that on my record?)

Other factors would be: Is the photograph of a sovereign person, who may control the use of their image? Or of a trademarked thing; portraying Satan with a Coca-cola bottle body could lead to a courtroom loss.

In short, if it's a landscape, and you're stylizing it in TheManda style, you are most likely free and clear. If it's a landscape and metiiculously rendered with the appropriate reverence to Ansel Adams, you would be at his agent's mercy. If it's a limited edition series of fine art, that isn't offensive in any way, you're probably cool. If it's a one-shot oil painting, meets the criteria of recreation v. reproduction., your probably way cool.

-kBillTV, opinionated, but not a lawyer.

06-16-2004, 09:57 PM
****Strictly concerning Wet Canvas********

This is what you can find on WC Help!...

Q- Are we allowed to sell a painting, drawing, or some other work of art that was derived from one or more reference images found here?

WC- Provided the image came from our reference image library, yes. All images uploaded to the reference image library are fair game to be used BY OTHER COMMUNITY MEMBERS. However, the community member who uploaded the image still owns the physical image in its photographic form.

Please note: images contained in other areas of the site, including, but not limited to, the message forums, project system, articles and article publisher, etc., are not available for open copying.

Q- So, if I upload an image, am I giving explicit permission for others to use the image as a reference for painting, drawing, etc?
WC- That is correct. However, contributors of images retain general reproduction rights to the image itself (in photo form).

Q- Who owns all of these images?
WC- No one owns all of them. As the library is a collaborative effort between the members of WetCanvas!, these images are considered in the public domain, however, the sole ownership of each image remains with the person who uploaded it to the library.

****Strictly concerning Wet Canvas********


06-16-2004, 10:22 PM
Good explanations here, especially from Kbilltv. Another source for questions and answers regarding infringement of copyrights is, (Am I allowed to mention it?) Artist's Magazine.
I painted my daughter's dog from a studio photograph and it came out quite well. I would like to have shown it, but because I do not have the photographers permission I assumed I could not do do that! Perhaps I should have obtained the OK from the photographer before starting the painting, it would have saved a lot of grief!
Did you read the post about the lady who had painted a picture of the "Soldier smelling his wifes letter", she had difficulties too? Her story was in the pastel forum about a month ago.

06-16-2004, 10:24 PM
This is interesting in how it relates to the "who are you people" thread:

Do I own the the art I created using the martyr's photos? Can I publish/ sell prints? Note: we all posted our photo's with express permission to "do with them as we will", in a public forum. Have we ceded ownership of these images to the public domain?

06-16-2004, 10:28 PM
If it is recognizable as coming from the photo... yes. It would be a copyright infringement if you did not get permission from the photographer... because essentially it is his art...his vision that you are copying. If you are using it to see the shades of a flower or basic makeup of a mountain, then no. That is reference. Your best bet would be to stick with royalty free photos like the reference image library. :) Then you're clear as the photographer has already okayed the use of the photo for art. :)

06-16-2004, 10:31 PM
This is interesting in how it relates to the "who are you people" thread:

Do I own the the art I created using the martyr's photos? Can I publish/ sell prints? Note: we all posted our photo's with express permission to "do with them as we will", in a public forum. Have we ceded ownership of these images to the public domain?

No, just because it is on the net, doesn't mean you have ceded ownership to the public domain. To sell your prints w/o getting in trouble, you would need the permission of probably BOTH the photographer and the person in the photo.

here's a site written by a lawyer:


06-17-2004, 12:17 AM
].....................................A topic we all discuss about...

....................http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/12-Jun-2004/27782-copy.jpg (http://www.copyright.gov/)

06-17-2004, 04:57 AM
For a little more info on using other people's photos, etc. use the link below and then scroll down to teh section titled "Avoiding copyright infringement." That should help a bit.

Click here (http://drawsketch.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?zi=1/XJ&sdn=drawsketch&zu=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.fplc.edu%2Ftfield%2FCopyVis.htm)

06-17-2004, 05:09 AM
-------------------hilarious intermission------------
Michael has told me that to avoid all that when doing a manipulation on a girls picture was,
just to make her fat and she won't ever admit it was her in that picture in the first place !!! :D
---------------------anonymous reply------------

06-17-2004, 04:05 PM
Kbill brought up a good point with the who are you thread. When I started the first who are you over at the Asylum I asked a friend of mine who deals with copyright law about it. She said "People are donating thier Photos for the use in that thread ONLY.". Especially in the case of who are you, since a good many of the renditions could be considered derogatory.

What she said on reference images was that the laws, while seeming straight forward are really convoluted. You can use ANY image you want as a reference as long as you are not using it for monetary gain. Also, you can't reproduce the image as a painting and have it "look" like the original image and then put it forth in a show...It must differ enough that, while maybe still recognizable, it looks like YOUR work. Again you need to keep the monetary gain in mind, then you need permission. ANY image may be used for teaching, learning and critiqueing.

While these are the basic rules the courts will follow, many courts have ruled against artists who have used reference images because they "resemble" the oringinal "in some way". This is where it gets convoluted, because in the end, it will be up to the "opinion" of the courts to decide.

I hope I didn't confuse you more than you already were.