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Old 02-28-2011, 05:03 PM
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zunisong zunisong is offline
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Painting celebrities, is it legal?

Hi. I was just wondering can artists legally paint a celebrity? Aren't there copywright laws etc? I have a friend that is doing a series of iconographic type artwork... without a license. Isn't that a risk?

The work is artistic original in nature, not a repro of a photo.. but it's definetely clear who the subject matter is on each painting.
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Old 02-28-2011, 05:46 PM
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Re: Painting celebrities, is it legal?

There would definitely be a risk selling prints of a celebrity portrait or trying to sell it in a gallery or art show (doubt the gallery or show would take it) but I don't think there's a lot of risk in just doing the portrait as long as it's just shown on their blog or website and is overall a pretty low-key project. (Full disclosure, I've done this myself.) There are so, so, so many of these celebrity portraits floating around (including on Wet Canvas!) and most of the time they seem to go unnoticed.

Technically, though, I think that anything copied from a particular photo (even if it is artistically very different) is a no-go. For example, the artist who painted the Obama "Hope" portrait was sued by the AP because he used their photo as reference.

However, I can't imagine getting in trouble for doing a portrait of Obama, for example, if the artist used a combination of photo references (unlike the one picture used for "Hope"), as long as the resulting portrait was unique enough that no one could even recognize which photos were used as reference. There might be exceptions to this as well, though. Not really sure.

Last edited by mariposa-art : 02-28-2011 at 05:48 PM.
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Old 02-28-2011, 06:08 PM
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Re: Painting celebrities, is it legal?

If the image was done from a still from a movie (clip shot) that the artist did themselves would it be as liable? I imagine the film company owns the right as well to any stills from a particular movie..

I know it's touchy..

This person is planning on showing work in an exhibition.. that's why I was wondering. I would be nervous myself.
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Old 02-28-2011, 06:23 PM
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Re: Painting celebrities, is it legal?

I agree with you; I would not risk it personally for an exhibition. Maybe if it was a small movie memorabilia convention or something, they might welcome such art and then no one would think twice. But for the most part, I personally would not risk it. It might be considered "fair use" but I sure would not be willing to test this out to see if it would hold up.

As for using a screenshot as a reference, that could be less risky merely because it would be the movie studio that would have to take notice and protest, and the odds of them going to the trouble would be slim. (On the other hand, an individual photographer might be more apt to go to the trouble to protest if they see their photo used as a reference for some art.) But if either copyright holder (film studio or photographer) took notice, it would not be good for the artist.
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Old 02-28-2011, 06:28 PM
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Re: Painting celebrities, is it legal?

If it's not done from a photo, I don't think there's anything to worry about. If that were the case, paparazzi would have been out of work long ago. As long as you don't get into defamation sort of grounds, I don't believe that celebrities can "own" an image (not meaning pictures or photos) that is out in public.
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Old 02-28-2011, 06:44 PM
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Re: Painting celebrities, is it legal?

These days with youtube anybody can get a screen shot from film or any media. At least the composition would be unique to the art. I still would be worried about some sort of remification if the art became famous or people started to take notice. I think the more stylistic probably the better too, so it really doesn't rememble a photo
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Old 02-28-2011, 06:56 PM
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Re: Painting celebrities, is it legal?

"Except in special "Fair Use" cases, before you can use movie stills or film clips from classic movies, or host a public screening of a classic movie, either for commercial or non-profit purposes, you must first get permission from the copyright owner. "
http://www.reelclassics.com/Buy/licensing.htm
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Old 02-28-2011, 06:59 PM
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Re: Painting celebrities, is it legal?

I also found this:
http://www.avvo.com/legal-answers/ho...t--230146.html
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Old 03-01-2011, 12:52 AM
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Re: Painting celebrities, is it legal?

Yes, there are definite legal issues, even if you are altering the work. I am by no means a legal expert, but I do know that Shepherd Fairey was absolutely screwed for "referencing" an AP photograph for his Obama Hope poster.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shepard...and _fair_use

There are articles on it all over the internet. Definitely a serious issue to be concerned about.

Keep in mind, he only looked at the AP photograph (he alleges he did not) and spray painted it onto a canvas. It's a definite possibility to get in trouble for it. You might want to read up on his case, it's still on going, but may be of interest in regards to your problem.
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Old 03-01-2011, 01:39 AM
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Use to denote nudity/mature subject matter Re: Painting celebrities, is it legal?

















The answer is: it depends. Artist have long drawn images from popular culture. Employing another artist's photograph is always laden with potential legal (and ethical) issues. Alfreda mentions "fair use". Under "fair use" laws an artist is able to employ pre-existing images for social commentary and criticism. It is under this law that Saturday Night Live and Mad Magazine are able to do satires of movies and celebrities. One would assume that the paintings (above) all fall under the protection of "fair use"... but ultimately the copyright owner of any image can sue and the burden of proof (and costs of legal defense) is upon the artist. A simple painting based upon another's photograph of a celebrity that doesn't really change the intention of the image would be quite open to challenge. A painting, on the other hand, that utilized an image of a famous celebrity or even cultural icon like Mickey Mouse or Charlie Brown or Guernica as part of a work of social commentary... in which the image of a given celebrity or cultural icon was central to the meaning would be far less vulnerable to challenge.
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Old 03-01-2011, 02:18 PM
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Re: Painting celebrities, is it legal?

I agree, -it depends. And to complicate matters further, it's not solely an issue of copyright regarding where the reference material may have come from that could bring legal problems, there can also be right of publicity which I believe varies from state to state here in the US.

Some actors, musicians, athletes, etc, do seek to protect the use of their image and the courts have ruled on their side. Other times not.

This article, "Tiger Woods -- The Use of Celebrity Images In Works of Art : The Right of Publicity v. The First Amendment", may be of interest to you:
http://library.findlaw.com/2003/Dec/1/133182.html

FWIW, in June, 2003 ETW corp (Woods' licensing) lost the case on appeal.
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Old 03-01-2011, 08:30 PM
Marty Lenhart Marty Lenhart is offline
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Re: Painting celebrities, is it legal?

I have a friend that paints icons of celebrities. Demtrie Kabbaz, out of St Louis. Most of the people he paints are long dead (Marilyn, James Dean, etc).
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Old 03-08-2011, 02:40 AM
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Re: Painting celebrities, is it legal?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marty Lenhart
I have a friend that paints icons of celebrities. Demtrie Kabbaz, out of St Louis. Most of the people he paints are long dead (Marilyn, James Dean, etc).

Even so there can be issues, the estate of the dead actor/politician or the movie production company can have rights to a certain scene or movie still.

I think it's a sticky subject. In the instance I am talking about.. someone I know is copying images of stars or famous figures, with a bit of photoshop filters added (projected on a canvas). It's obvious who it is where it is from..

I am keeping my mouth shut with him.. it's his deal.. I was just curious if it was in fact illegal or what could happen if it were in a show, and lots of people saw it.

It's tempting to do it, to make money off of a famous face.. paintings of Clint Eastwood certainly will sell better than one of any old person... but for me I think it's just a copy of another person's work.. albeit a photographer or a movie company. The images he's using aren't original at all.

It rubs me the wrong way to do that... I myself try to paint original subjects or if i use a photographer's photo as a reference I get permission... period, but that's me.
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Old 03-08-2011, 11:14 AM
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Re: Painting celebrities, is it legal?

Quote:
Originally Posted by zunisong
I think it's a sticky subject. In the instance I am talking about.. someone I know is copying images of stars or famous figures, with a bit of photoshop filters added (projected on a canvas). It's obvious who it is where it is from..
That sounds very risky. Just projecting the pictures onto canvas, after a bit of Photoshopping? No . . . *shakes head*

Quote:
I am keeping my mouth shut with him.. it's his deal.. I was just curious if it was in fact illegal or what could happen if it were in a show, and lots of people saw it.
I think he's asking for trouble, but as you say, it's his deal. I can't believe he doesn't anticipate that this could backfire on him!

When I was a teenager, I did a LOT of celebrity portraits and sometimes sold them to collectors or sold them to a friend of the actor or whatever. It was a great way to learn how to get a likeness and I found that because of the medium or colors used, I would put a lot of creativity in it. (It was far more time-consuming than just projecting the photo onto the canvas! ) But it didn't take too many years for me to figure out that there was more to art than celebrity portraits and that there were copyright concerns.

I still sometimes enjoy doing a celebrity portrait for fun or to "show off" to my friends (if they are a fan of the celebrity, for example), or even selling the original to a collector—but I cannot fathom thinking I could get that art into a regular art show!
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Old 03-27-2011, 11:32 PM
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Re: Painting celebrities, is it legal?

Painting a celebrity as an original work of art, whether referencing a photo is definitely fair use in my opinion. It's when the artist tries to profit off the celebrity by selling prints that things can get sticky, since the celebrity is entitled to his/her rights to publicity (politicians not included) and the photographer his rights to reproduction. The main argument for fair use is so that it doesn't end up stifling the artist. Selling an original painting usually isn't considered as affecting 'rights to publicity' since only a single instance is sold. Just my 2 cents.
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