Welcome to my Art Blog! I paint or draw most weekdays and sometimes finish a painting a day. I fondly call them my "Postcards from Paradise" because it's such a beautiful place the Lord made here for us.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Copying Someone's Art: Don't Do It!

All the artists I know work very hard. We labor day after day and often night after night to create original work. This is our livelihood, our legacy, and much more. Our efforts are also our property. Intellectual property rights (copyright) belong to the author (creator) of the work unless sold or expired.

For instance, anything published before the 1920s would now be in the public domain because copyright has expired. However, there can be exceptions, so one should be cautious about copying work even that old. A museum, licensing company, or individual may own rights to that image.

I tell my students (and anyone else who will listen) to do their own work. Don't copy. Use your own photo references unless you have permission to use someone else's. Don't work from someone else's painting, whether from direct observation or from memory.

Although it is a long-standing tradition for artists to learn by copying, to avoid copyright infringement, an Old Master work can be used. The student should label the copy as such, by including the words, "after So-and-so" naming the artist copied. And never, ever, pass off a copy as something original you did.

Nowadays, there is so much beautiful art to see online. It is tempting for folks to copy someone else's work. Don't do it.

Copying another artist's painting or sculpture, even if it is changed somewhat, does not constitute an original work. The copy is actually a derivative work. Copyright law gives only the original author/copyright owner the right to make copies and derivative works, or grant permission for others to do so.

So unless you have permission to copy, don't do it. That goes for images (also writing) you find online, articles you read in magazines, books, advertisements, etc.

Students who don't know any better and even artists who should know better mistakenly believe that if they change it a little, it's somehow an original work. It isn't. Chances are, if your piece looks a lot like someone else's art, it's a derivative work, and it's copyright infringement.

Fellow artist and blogger Susan Roux touched on this sticky situation in a recent post. She commented on an artist's painting that looked like another artist's work: a woman with an umbrella in the same format, composition, colors, and model position, as the other painting.

While no one owns exclusive rights to paint women with umbrellas, it is absolutely vital that, if you want to paint a woman with an umbrella, you do your own work, from conception to final brushstroke. Pose your own model, take your own photos. Don't copy. It's risky, legally, and can be really embarrassing. The artist whom Susan Roux wrote about perhaps thought no one would notice that she copied. Maybe she excused copying by thinking she'd changed it enough. She didn't. The piece is very recognizable. I'm embarrassed for her, as are others.

Just last week I explained about derivative work to a student and she responded, "Wow it's like stealing."

Yes, it is like stealing because it IS stealing.

Copyright notice (such as I usually post on my paintings you see here at this blog) reminds viewers that the work is not up for grabs. I own the rights. However, copyright notice is not required by law. If an image does not have the copyright notice posted, it is likely still a copyrighted image. So don't copy it.

Artists work very hard to create original and outstanding work. We should be asked for permission if someone wants to use it, and yes, paid for it. And yes, legally, as copyright owner I have the exclusive right to reproduce or grant others a right to do so.

I've stated this at my sidebar, but let me make it clear. Art, photos & text on this blog are copyrighted and may not be used in any form without my written permission. All rights reserved. So if you are interested in reproducing something of mine, please contact me and I will get back to you with
information on usage.


hmuxo said...

It's hard to believe that anyone would want to copy work from another artist, when reference pictures are everywhere, all for the taking! All we have to do is "look"... Great post, Diana.

Diana Moses Botkin said...

Be sure to have permission to use someone else's photos. "Reference pictures" are not "for the taking" unless you're talking about something in the public domain. The copyright to a particular photo is probably owned by someone, either the photographer, or a company that bought the rights.

Just because you find it doesn't mean you can use it. If you don't have permission to use a photo taken by someone else, use your own.

suzanneberry said...

amazing post diana! and very timely for me in particular. thank you, this needed to be said!

Diana Moses Botkin said...

Thanks, Suzanne. I think we all need to raise awareness about these issues more often.

vickiandrandyrossart said...

And never, ever, never use someone else's photo (whether or not you have permission) and enter it in a judged competition! Talk about embarrassing if you win and someone recognizes it. Public humiliation, removal of any signature status. Just happened with Pastel Society of America...a master circle sig member was stripped of it all!

Reason? Other than not being 'original' which is a requirement of most if not all shows...but the photographer already solved the composition issues for you...

Dianne Mize said...

Thank you, Diana, for so eloquently, directly and passionately addressing this most important issue.

Diana Moses Botkin said...

Vicki: Indeed! Same goes for composition, etc. with copying paintings or drawings.

Dianne: Thank you for dropping by. It is good to hear from you.

mary maxam said...

This is such a thoughtful, timely and valuable post. All of us probably know someone who's been ripped off in some small or large venue. Thanks for posting, it needs to be said.

Carrie'sCreations said...

Great post, Diana!! I'm friends with an artist in California and I live in Alabama. Last year I participated in a very large show--very hard to get into--and when I walked into the gallery I immediately noticed my friends painting. I was confused because because this show was for Alabama residents only, so I walked over and it wasn't her name on the painting. Someone had copied her painting exactly. I mean exactly. The copied piece sold in this exhibit. I took pics and grabbed the exhibit catalog and sent it to my friend in CA. My CA friend new her, she had taken a workshop from her. My CA artist friend took the matter into her hands. I was shocked that someone would blatantly steal someone's work.