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Discussion Starter #1
Would I be able to take an image from say, Google Images, fiddle with the contrast, plonk it on a tee, and sell it? Or would I be arrested, beaten, spit-roasted, fined and possibly embarrassed?

Desmond.
 

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Wouldn't that depend on whether the image had a copywright on it?

And changing contrast isn't changing the actual artwork of the picture itself, so I'm pretty sure it's mostlikely some kind of infringement...But I'm no lawyer.

I'd stick with original art, at least that way you know for sure =)
 

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Yeah, I thought as much. Pesky infringement of copyright law! And I would have gotten away with it too.......
 

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Desmond said:
Yeah, I thought as much. Pesky infringement of copyright law! And I would have gotten away with it too.......
If it weren't for you pesky kids!

But seriously, if you need graphics, there are many royalty free alternatives available. Sure, you're likely going to have to make a small initial invenstment, but it is certainly worth it if you don't feel like making your own graphics from scratch.

Cheers,
Chris
 

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How do you know if it is copyrighted or not? I found a large turtle graphic on google and I changed its size, color, and blurred the image. Is that cool?



Desmond said:
Would I be able to take an image from say, Google Images, fiddle with the contrast, plonk it on a tee, and sell it? Or would I be arrested, beaten, spit-roasted, fined and possibly embarrassed?

Desmond.
 

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Doubtful. Once something is made, it is copyrighted to the creator automatically. It is only free to use if it is specifically put into the public domain, released under a license that lets you use it as such, made before 1924 (I think that date is correct, could be wrong...), or perhaps a few other ways that I'm missing.

Simply changing a few things on the original image does not pull you into the clear; neither does parody. Derivite works are still protected for the most part.
 

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Twinge said:
It is [...] free to use if it is [...] made before 1924 (I think that date is correct, could be wrong...)
The date I heard was 31st December, 1922. On the one hand that information could be out of date, and one would expect it to move forward a year per year. 1924 could very well be right. On the other hand governments keep extending copyright duration, and grandfathering in older works (at one stage there was actually a bunch of stuff that went out of copyright, then came back in). At any rate, it's some time in the early 20s.

But... (ah, there's always something... ;)) there are exceptions. In the UK publication of the KJV Bible has to be authorised by the crown. Lily's Latin Grammar has some kind of similar status. More famously the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children has perpetual rights to royalties on Peter Pan performances - this exception is actually written into UK copyright law.
 

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In the U.S., at least, it's not necessary for the copyright symbol or statement to be displayed on the image. All image are automatically copyright protected at the moment they leave the creator's mind to be fixed in any tangible medium. That includes images posted on the internet. In general, if you didn't create the image you will be infringing on the copyright if you use it, no matter how you change it. Better to create your own original images.
 

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Hello - I used to work for a publisher and we followed uk law on copyright which is essentially that you have to wait for 70 years after the death of the person who created it before its in the public domain. For example Shakespeare's caxton folios are in the public domain but if I was to get publish my own version with annotations and images and so on my version would be owned by my estate until 70 years after my death. The Shakespearean text woudl be free. Equally with image something such as Durer engravings that were published hundreds of years ago are copyright free but if I took a photograph of the Durer engraving, no one would have a right to reproduce that photograph without my permission regardless of subject. Here's where British people should go for info http://www.patent.gov.uk/copy/indetail/ownership.htm

If I'm wrong about anything, by all means please correct me but this is my interpretation of where we stand. I'd like to hear how other people have interpreted this.
 

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Hi guys,

I have an image of a stormtrooper helmet that I've found through Google, manipulated in photoshop using various tools. Am I not allowed to sell this even though I have made sigfinicant changes to the image (although it still looks like a stormtrooper helmet). I've also manipulated a 'Mr T' image that I found on Google. I know similar questions have already been asked here but I thought that I would be specific about my case seeing as this issue has such a wavy line between wrong and right.

I've seen so many websites that have t-shirts with images of famous people on them. Including users of this forum so I'm hoping that there is at least some way around the law.

Are there any other good links for finding out if an image has been copyrighted/trademarked?

Thanks guys.
 

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BangBangT-Shirts said:
I have an image of a stormtrooper helmet that I've found through Google, manipulated in photoshop using various tools. Am I not allowed to sell this even though I have made sigfinicant changes to the image (although it still looks like a stormtrooper helmet).
In this case, it's an easy "no" because if it still looks like a storm trooper helmet it will be infringing on Lucasarts copyright - even if you hand-drew it from scratch that would be the case.

If you had photoshopped it into a generic helmet that didn't look like a stormtrooper helmet, it may well still be illegal. There is no provision in copyright law for changing things "just enough" - if any element is at all recognisable as being from the original it could be considered infringement.

BangBangT-Shirts said:
I've also manipulated a 'Mr T' image that I found on Google.
Again, Mr. T isn't fair game.

BangBangT-Shirts said:
I thought that I would be specific about my case seeing as this issue has such a wavy line between wrong and right.
While it's not always clear, it's also not as wavy as people think. The general rule of thumb is "If in doubt, it could get you sued into oblivion." (I think there's also a corollary "If not in doubt, you should be").

BangBangT-Shirts said:
I've seen so many websites that have t-shirts with images of famous people on them. Including users of this forum so I'm hoping that there is at least some way around the law.
Even users on this forum break the law (I'd be lieing if I said I'd never done it), so unfortunately you can't take what they do and don't do as proof of what is or isn't illegal.

BangBangT-Shirts said:
Are there any other good links for finding out if an image has been copyrighted/trademarked?
I don't know of any, but you can be absolutely positive that any big media (i.e. A-Team, Star Wars) is copyrighted.
 

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BangBangT-Shirts said:
I've seen so many websites that have t-shirts with images of famous people on them.
Incidentally, if you're particularly interested in images of famous people, 1) Politicians are fair game, 2) Parody is considered a grey area (but it's nowhere near as protected as people think).
 

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This site:

djtees.com/tshop/store/index.asp

Sells t-shirts with musicians images on them. They credit the owner of the image or photographer on the site. Would they only have to go to that person to get permission to use it on a tee or would they also have to go to the record company or whoever owns the musician's image rights. Do you think this website actually did this or is it likely that they're just breaking the law?
 

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BangBangT-Shirts said:
This site [example] Sells t-shirts with musicians images on them. They credit the owner of the image or photographer on the site. Would they only have to go to that person to get permission to use it on a tee or would they also have to go to the record company or whoever owns the musician's image rights.
Good question... I believe they have to ask both the copyright holder of the photograph, and whoever owns the rights to images of that person. In a lot of cases this will be the same person (as they will have purchased the copyright to particularly sucessful images of that person). To be honest though I'm not 100% certain. I think this is where 'right to publicity' comes into it, which I think Rodney knows a bit more about.

BangBangT-Shirts said:
Do you think this website actually did this or is it likely that they're just breaking the law?
It probably wouldn't be appropriate for me to speculate on which specific sites are or aren't breaking the law, but in general terms some sites are legal and some aren't. The majority are most likely not (but the bigger the site, the more likely it is that they have gone through the proper legal channels).
 

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I'm not being contrary for the sake of it, or suggesting that circumventing copyright laws is ok, but really, if you take someone else's image and mess around with it and manipulate it to fit your own vision of a Tshirt, providing the source image is not obvious, are your actions truly against the spirit of copyright law? Secondly, however are you going to get "caught" anyway?

The twelve bar blues is a musical format that has been plundered endlessly, even by the early bluesmen, whose originality lay not in the structure itself, but in their interpretation of it and the channeling of their own songs through it. No one questions their copyright. No one questions the originality of Chuck Berry's adaptation of the blues, or that of the Stones and any number of rock and roll acts that have drawn on the blues to produce their original material. I can't see how manipulating an image to serve your own original artistic vision is any different from many thousands of manipulations of the 12 bar blues format that are all recognised as original works.
 

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Ross B said:
if you take someone else's image and mess around with it and manipulate it to fit your own vision of a Tshirt, providing the source image is not obvious, are your actions truly against the spirit of copyright law?
Yes.

Ross B said:
Secondly, however are you going to get "caught" anyway?
That's, of course, an entirely different matter.

The one thing I will say, is that it's surprising how good some people are at recognising infringement. I've seen people look at an image, and point to different elements and say "that's a stock photo from X company, that's from Y company".

I guess if you ran the stats the chances of getting caught are probably quite low - but it's never certain. It's also meant to be beside the point - whether or not you (or I) practice copyright infringement in our own life/business, it's probably not something we should be advocating on a public forum.

Ross B said:
I can't see how manipulating an image to serve your own original artistic vision is any different from many thousands of manipulations of the 12 bar blues format that are all recognised as original works.
Music and visual art clearly aren't the same thing. Besides that... they're not all recognised as original works... that's sort of the point.

12 bar blues format is like the 256 colour palette - it's a medium in which to create something from scratch. You're not meant to take someone's composition and change a few notes, or take someone's image and change a few pixels.
 

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I recognise most of the 15,000 sounds from the stock sound effect files nearly 90% of films, adverts, and tv use. I can pick out a couple of dozen per hour of US primetime drama, usually.

Someone is the graphics field can easily do the same. You will get caught.
 

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My comment: ...if you take someone else's image and mess around with it and manipulate it to fit your own vision of a Tshirt, providing the source image is not obvious, are your actions truly against the spirit of copyright law?

Yes. (Somu's response)

I wasn't actually asking the question, Solmu - it was rhetorical. I was coming from a philosophical angle, not a legal one. I understand your points about copyright law (although I don't think it's anywhere near as black and white as you are insisting - the law rarely is with such matters).

Solmu and Monkeylantern,

I have no doubt that you are both correct in your assertions that it is easily possible to identify manipulated art and its original source. My point, though, is that with many thousands of little Tshirt companies out there, the odds of anyone in the know actually seeing manipulated art in the first place to identify it are very tiny. Not that I'm advocating breaking the copyright laws...

Solmu: "Music and visual art clearly aren't the same thing. Besides that... they're not all recognised as original works... that's sort of the point."

No, it's not the point I was making at all. Of course, music and visual art aren't "the same thing", but my ANALOGY between the use of the 12 bar blues structure as a foundation for endless varieties of original songs and a source image as a foundation for the creation of a derivative, but variant image in the service of a new, original design vision holds true for art design, at least in the context in which I was writing.

Solmu goes on: "12 bar blues format is like the 256 colour palette - it's a medium in which to create something from scratch. You're not meant to take someone's composition and change a few notes, or take someone's image and change a few pixels."

With respect, this is nonsense. The 12 bar blues structure is nothing like the 256 colour palette. The western scale of notes equates to the 256 colour palette. 12 bar blues uses a chord progression derived from the western scale, then the melodies that arise from that chord progression complete the blues song (performance factors aside - but we are talking pure theory here, because in blues the performance is integral to the art). The 12 bar structure is not "a medium in which to create something from scratch". It is a progression that has already been created from "scratch", "scratch" being the western scale.

Similarly, I would argue (philosophically, not legally, although I really do not think the two can always be neatly separated) that just as there are thousands of blues songs that vary very little on paper, all sharing exactly the same chord progression, and many sharing almost identical melodies, the points of differentiation being in the performance and lyrics, there can be designs that share the same representational form, while retaining a sense of originality that derives from the artist's unique vision and the treatment of that representational form in the service of that vision.

I disagree, also, with your declaration: "You're not meant to take someone's composition and change a few notes, or take someone's image and change a few pixels." That is clearly not supported by the evidence in music. Many, many blues songs barely even change "a few notes" - all that changes in many cases is the vocal and instrumental interpretation and the lyrics. Change those things enough and you move to a completely different genre - rock and roll - while retaining very similar melodies and the exact chord progression of hundreds of blues songs that came before.

I would contend that representational art should not be copyrightable at all. The form of an apple, for example, comes from nature - it just is. If an artist draws that apple purely representationally, where is the art? There is craft, certainly, but I would contend that there is no art. Can you copyright craft? I think not.

Even non-representational art is a grey area in terms of "originality". Someone like Picasso has an original vision, and with Braque, kicks off the cubism movement. Other artists "see" differently for the first time thanks to Picasso, and start creating their own interpretations of that original vision. Can Picasso copyright his vision? No. So, even non-representational art is a grey area in terms of originality and therefore, copyright.

Philosophically, I don't see why it is not valid to take a design, manipulate it in pursuit of your own, unique vision, and end up with a new design, and I do not see why any infringement of copyright has taken place. Passing off another artist's actual work as your own is quite clearly, of course, an infringement of copyright, but the manipulation of a design to arrive at another design? This is territory that invokes the charge that the law is an ***, since the law denies the unarguable truth that ALL art is allusory in its basic nature.
 

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Would you like it if someone took all your designs, spent 10 minutes in Photoshop tweaking them, and then sold them as their own?

C&D letters are a lot more common than you think.
 
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