View Full Version : is Plagiarism defined?

11-03-2006, 02:51 AM
Not sure if this is the correct forum but as a beginner i have been pondering the principal of a painting "style". I have been copying some of the old masters art pieces and tried to reproduce them. I have done this not for profit but as a learning process.
I have also completed 1 piece i got from a magazine photo and adapted it to my liking.
I would say the former would be considered plagiarism, but would using ideas or settings from published books and magazines ( not artworks) be considered the same?
Also moving forward from this if a person uses a style of say one of the old masters but paints his original compostions - would this also considered plagiarism?
I guess there is a line drawn somewhere (haha excuse the pun) but is there anything definite?

11-03-2006, 05:58 AM
I don't think copying an artist's style is plagiarism. But if you copy one of the artists pictures, in the style of the artist, then that is plagiarism.

Does it matter ? Yes, if you intend to sell your painting or enter it in a competition. On the other hand, if you are only copying for your own enjoyment, or education, there's no problem.

Copying the work of an established painter is a common exercise if you enrol in an art class.

11-03-2006, 12:15 PM
Plagiarism is a term normally associated with literary/academic works. The more common term for plagiarized art work is "forgery" or copyright infringement. In any event, here is what the online Merriam Webster's says:

to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (another's production) without crediting the source

When it comes to works of art, copying from copyrighted sources can get you sued for "copyright infringement." OTOH, it's quite common practice for novice artists to copy from such sources and I've never heard it referred to as "plagiarism" when they do so. It's when the copied work is turned into a commercial product or publicly displayed that trouble starts.


11-03-2006, 12:20 PM
Namely, don't copy "The Scream" and put yer name to it.....:lol:


Lady Carol
11-03-2006, 01:42 PM
They just recovered that painting after goodness knows how long it was missing.

Actually you could if Munch has been dead for more than 70 years copyright infringement ends at 70 years after the death of the painter. A forgery is when you have copied something and then try to pass it off as the originating artists work. If you put your own name to it then it is not a forgery.

11-03-2006, 03:58 PM
That all makes sense-

11-04-2006, 10:13 AM
Damien Hirst did a huge sculpture in painted bronze similar to a small plastic model of the human body available in toyshops. I believe the designer of the model complained and there may have been compensation paid.

Last week in the Times there were allegations that Hirst had copied an intricate circular dot pattern first conceived by another artist in the 1980's.

I'm not criticising Hirst, I'm just suggesting that art feeds on and is inspired by other art. In extreme cases the inspiration may so derivative that it is infringement of copyright.

11-04-2006, 11:02 AM
You can find some more information on this topic in the Legal Corner which is found in the Art Business Forum.

11-04-2006, 01:24 PM
There's a copyright infringement case going on here in Hawaii right now. We have a famous photographer who is known for his hula dancer pictures. someone else did a hula dancer in stained glass that is the same pose he used in one of his photographs, and he is sueing for copyright infringement. The case has not been settled yet. Apparently it is a common hula pose... the background is different in the stained glass as well.

11-04-2006, 11:05 PM
Interesting, i think i understand that a close copy of a painting and passed off as your original is not the way to go- and using other someone elses ideas may also get you into hot water depending on how closely you copy them for your own work.
I have briefly read the legal section and didnt see anything re copying another artists style so i made me wonder about it.
I guess before worrying about this all too much and giving myself such a big headache i should get back and do some more experimenting. thx for the info.

11-05-2006, 06:01 AM
I think it's copying an idea, a pose, or a scene that's the key to the issue.

I don't think copying a style of painting is an infringement.

11-05-2006, 08:03 AM
Style cannot be copyright. So for example if you wanted to do a nude figure in the impressionist painting style of Degas you could, using his lines and brushstroke style. If you wanted to do a painting or screenprint in the style of Warhol you could, say a pop art painting of your mom or dog. If you wanted to do a painting in the style of the old masters, okay again.

Copying an image, even if you change it somewhat, from an image in a magazine is not a wise move. Photographs and advertisements in magazines are copyright, either to the publication or the photographer. The photographers are, in essence, artists remember. So using their images as the basic for your work is only okay if you're doing student work and not showing it anywhere, including online.

Did you know there is a huge copyright free library of images here on Wetcanvas? This is a great source of inspiration and stock images that you can paint and even sell, the images have permission for you to do this! :) It's the Reference Image Library and you can find it here:
Or you can always find it in the 'Content Areas' menu at the top of the page.


11-05-2006, 08:05 AM
by the way, going back to your original post: you were more worried about your first example, when in fact the second (using the magazine) would be the one that could potentially get you in trouble. But again, probably not if you're just practicing and learning. :)

Copyright only exists, in most cases, for 70 years after the death of the creator. So old master paintings can be copied anyway.


11-05-2006, 12:03 PM
There's a copyright infringement case going on here in Hawaii right now. We have a famous photographer who is known for his hula dancer pictures. someone else did a hula dancer in stained glass that is the same pose he used in one of his photographs, and he is sueing for copyright infringement. The case has not been settled yet. Apparently it is a common hula pose... the background is different in the stained glass as well.

This points up the truth of the matter when it comes to copyright infringement. The claimant has to be willing AND ABLE FINANCIALLY to sue in court - ie; The litigant better be prepared to pay the legal expenses of BOTH parties if the case is lost! This "hula dancer" case would seem to be a classic example of putting one's self at the mercy of a jury for a not-so-certain outcome.


11-05-2006, 08:28 PM
My personal opinion is that a lot of the "plagiarism" lawsuits are a lot of times just excuses to make some money....


11-05-2006, 08:50 PM
If you reproduce a painting--famous or not-- and call it your own, the that is, IMO, plagiarism.

china doll
11-07-2006, 08:19 AM
My first art teacher (Russian gentleman) insisted that when we copied masterpieces we either did not sign on the painting's front (but we could sign the framing on the back) or sign it as apres (original artist), then our own names. He was a stickler for stuff like that.

As for reference photos, if I plan to possibly exhibit or sell them, I always get permission first. Many photographers want $$$$ for the rights and I just skip those. There are zillions of images out there. I have actually had a number of people graciously say "yes" without a problem. And I DO SAVE their permission e-mails for my own files, just in case.

This is just one way of approaching these issues and certainly not the only way. Jill

11-08-2006, 02:00 AM
Excellent comments thx- i hadnr really thought about using the ideas from magazines as an infringement- but makes a lot of sense, i think ill focus on my own ideas and pics i have gathered. plus as a learning process the occassional copy of a master i like. and the reference library sounds good.

Marge Wms
11-09-2006, 07:16 AM
Whoa! I've been finding such lovely photographs in magazines and have a stack of them I wanted to try painting! Guess I'll have to go back to my OWN photographs and my trusty digital camera for my material! What a rotten shame....
Marge "Gig"

11-09-2006, 12:48 PM
Vanish, unless you want to sell your copies of photos, you can paint and create a copy for your own enjoyment without infringing the copyright