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Old 07-31-2018, 03:11 PM
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creativevintage creativevintage is offline
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Altering another artists work

I have a question. I will probably turn down this commission, but what are the ethics of altering another artist's work?


I was recently approached by a local church who has an acrylic painting of Pope John Paul that they want altered. They have been very secretive about showing me the painting and about what they want added/aletered, so that right there makes me a little leary.



When they approached me, I asked them to send a photo of the painting, along with the changes they wanted and their budget for the work. I got none of what I requested.



I have since told them that I think that the work is beyond the scope of my abilities and I did not even broach the subject of altering another artist's work, but I am curious...I know I would not want someone altering one of my paintings....
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Old 07-31-2018, 04:59 PM
DaveCrow DaveCrow is offline
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Re: Altering another artists work

If they are not willing to show you the painting and tell you what alterations they want done that is a huge red flag to me. Your asking for a budget seems reasonable to me, although I suppose they might have been afraid you would use their budget to set your price.

I would pass on this job.
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Old 08-01-2018, 08:49 AM
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Re: Altering another artists work

I sent them a note saying no thank you. I wonder if the secrecy is because they have not paid the original artist for the work...anyway, it's over and done with.


I may actually know who the original artist is, and I vaguely remember her talking about the work. If that is the case, I definitely would not take the job...
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Old 08-01-2018, 10:19 AM
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Re: Altering another artists work

I do not see what the problem is. Once you sell a painting, the work becomes property of the buyer, and if he wants it modified, altered, he has the right to it.

I read about a modification performed to an old dutch master work, the painting was property of the queen of Ingland:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart...ing-180957156/
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Old 08-01-2018, 11:33 AM
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Re: Altering another artists work

Well, this is not a Dutch Master, but a contemporary, living artist and probably someone I know. I deeply suspect that something is just not right about the situation and do not feel comfortable altering a living artists' work. I just wondered about the ethics of it.


I understand ownership, etc...


thanks for you input!
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Old 08-01-2018, 12:20 PM
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virgil carter virgil carter is online now
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Re: Altering another artists work

Well...the entire situation appears very suspicious. I would not get involved.

As to the copyright, that depends entirely on the agreement between the artist and the purchaser. It is entirely possible that the artist retains the copyright, despite selling the original. This situation is one reason why an artist would retain her/his copyright.

This is yet another good example of why a written contract (simple, one page) between seller and buyer is always a good idea.

One must wonder why the original artist was not contacted...or if contacted, refused to make changes. Very suspicious.

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Old 08-01-2018, 03:31 PM
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Pat Ryan Pat Ryan is offline
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Re: Altering another artists work

Debbie, you're wise to hesitate before altering another artist's painting. The owner of a painting does not have the right to change it, because that person does not own the copyright to it. The artist does, for her lifetime plus 70 years (for works produced after 1977).

So I suspect any alteration of that painting would be a violation of copyright law. Although copyright protection is automatic from the moment a work is created, the original artist would likely need to officially register her copyright before suing you, but you can do that online pretty easily.

To me, it's also unethical, which is probably what your gut was telling you. Think about it, guys--would you want another artist messing with your work? Would the final painting still bear your signature? Would you want it to?

I also find it ethically questionable that a Dutch master painting was altered to conform to priggish late-Victorian sensibilities. No, the painting was obviously not under copyright, but still... Restoration and cleaning is one thing. Replacing a human with a bush is another.

Okay, jumping off the soapbox...

Pat
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Old 08-02-2018, 09:32 AM
IanBertram IanBertram is offline
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Re: Altering another artists work

I'm not convinced there is a copyright issue, but certainly an ethical one. The fact that those making the request are so secretive rings alarm bells for me. Clearly something is going on that they are not being open about.
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Old 08-02-2018, 09:08 PM
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Re: Altering another artists work

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pat Ryan
Debbie, you're wise to hesitate before altering another artist's painting. The owner of a painting does not have the right to change it, because that person does not own the copyright to it. The artist does, for her lifetime plus 70 years (for works produced after 1977).

So I suspect any alteration of that painting would be a violation of copyright law. Although copyright protection is automatic from the moment a work is created, the original artist would likely need to officially register her copyright before suing you, but you can do that online pretty easily.

To me, it's also unethical, which is probably what your gut was telling you. Think about it, guys--would you want another artist messing with your work? Would the final painting still bear your signature? Would you want it to?

I also find it ethically questionable that a Dutch master painting was altered to conform to priggish late-Victorian sensibilities. No, the painting was obviously not under copyright, but still... Restoration and cleaning is one thing. Replacing a human with a bush is another.

Okay, jumping off the soapbox...

Pat

Pat -- I think you are too humble -- "Jumping off the soapbox?" I'd say that getting up on the soapbox is justified. Of course it's unethical to change another artist's work. If I walked into a room and saw that a sunrise had been added to one of the landscapes I had sold I'd blow my top. The problem is that most of us can't afford a lawsuit. Years ago there was a big case in Chicago I think -- a portrait was "corrected." I'm going to look for it and will get back to you in a few days.
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Old 08-03-2018, 01:59 AM
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Re: Altering another artists work

I am no fan of Hitler, but we all know he wanted to succeed as an architect, and he was rejected. I wonder if he had become and architect, maybe he would not have bothered trying to start WWII. Anyway, I got thinking about his art one day, and I looked it up. It turns out that someone bought a lot of it up and drew rainbows and happy faces all over them, titling them, "What if Hitler was a hippy? As terrible a person as Hitler was, I was upset to find out his work was defaced like that. I am against altering or "improving" on anyone's art (unless you are a genuine restorer hired to repair the art).
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Old 08-03-2018, 06:48 AM
Harold Roth Harold Roth is offline
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Re: Altering another artists work

Well, I personally enjoy the Thomas Kinkade modifications. But those are actually parodies, and that is allowed under copyright law. As it should be. https://i.pinimg.com/600x315/da/28/e...78fdfc28f4.jpg

There are also people who buy old paintings from second-hand stores and modify them, usually in a parodic way.

Last edited by Harold Roth : 08-03-2018 at 06:55 AM.
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Old 08-03-2018, 10:25 AM
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MarialenaS MarialenaS is offline
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Re: Altering another artists work

Quote:
Originally Posted by creativevintage

I was recently approached by a local church who has an acrylic painting of Pope John Paul that they want altered. They have been very secretive about showing me the painting and about what they want added/aletered, so that right there makes me a little leary.

When they approached me, I asked them to send a photo of the painting, along with the changes they wanted and their budget for the work. I got none of what I requested.

.
As you describe it I think that they probably commissioned the painting to an artist, which in his turn made it differently than they had agreed and now they are looking for someone else to alter the painting.

That is the reason why they are secretive, because they don't want this to become publicly known as they might have troubles with the artist that they commissioned or lose perhaps those who funded the project.

Regarding copyright. The copyright belongs to the artist, but the artist has to comply and deliver the artwork according to what was agreed from the very beginning.
The fact that they are looking for someone else to make alterations on the painting, indicates that the final painting is not what they asked and they agreed to pay for.

Better avoid to get involved, not that much because of the violation of copyright, ( there is probably a violation of the original agreement for this commission in the first place) but because you are going to get in the middle of a dispute between the church directors and that artist, that has nothing to do with your own work as an artist.

Last edited by MarialenaS : 08-03-2018 at 10:27 AM.
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Old 08-03-2018, 11:51 AM
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Re: Altering another artists work

Quote:
Originally Posted by MarialenaS
Regarding copyright. The copyright belongs to the artist, but the artist has to comply and deliver the artwork according to what was agreed from the very beginning.
The fact that they are looking for someone else to make alterations on the painting, indicates that the final painting is not what they asked and they agreed to pay for.

Right, but then why did they pay for it, if it wasn't what they asked for?

An artist's copyright is a legal bundle of rights independent of a contract with a buyer, except in the case of a work for hire, in which case the artist might have granted his copyright to the buyer in return for remuneration.

Assuming this artist retained her copyright, I believe the buyer would have no right to alter the painting even if it depicted the pope in clown makeup. If the buyer didn't like it, he shouldn't have paid for it (or he should have just paid the kill fee, if that was stipulated in the contract). Having paid for it, if he wants something different, he should commission a brand new painting.

Pat
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Old 08-03-2018, 02:23 PM
theBongolian theBongolian is offline
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Re: Altering another artists work

when you buy a painting you own it and you can do anything you want to it, just like your car or refrigerator. The only thing you can not do is make a copy of it - that is protected by copyright law. Conservators paint on top of paintings all the time. people spill coffee on their paintings. and some people paint over them. no copyng -- no copyright violation.

copyright protects your right to make a copy of the image - it does not give you the right to tell me what i do with the painting i bought (other than not make a copy)
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Old 08-03-2018, 04:40 PM
Harold Roth Harold Roth is offline
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Re: Altering another artists work

^^^That is a good way of putting it.
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