Art with intent to sell, copyright question

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  • Bear with me here as I try to explain this. I've not received a straight answer from anyone and I hope I can here.

    I am an artist and photographer. I am not worried about my photography as I do my own and can turn it into my art without problems. Where I run into problems is with my art. I am including links ONLY to convey the points in my question.

    I was always told that you could not paint/draw/digitally manipulate ANYthing that is copyrighted--this obviously is not entirely true, but after seeing this (!/album.php?aid=46851&id=568352484 --link takes you to an artist's page that is relevant to my question) I am now questioning something. As you can see by the link, he obviously paints/draws very famous people--people who have characters that are copyrighted to them (or so I thought); such as Elvira. He sells his paintings as well. Some of those images are drawn directly from photographs (the Elvira one specifically is a famous pose of hers). Could he have gotten permission? Sure..but did he, I don't believe so.

    Which leads me to my question. I've taken some images that I own (and some I've found) and have drawn them. Several are here:!/album.php?aid=14535&id=138725349498080 --specifically, Chianna, Morticia Addams, Emmett Kelley, The Phantom (and if you go to another folder, you will find one I completed of Barnabas Collins).

    So the obvious question is this: if the artist linked above is doing it, how is he doing so (assuming we don't know if he got permission) and considering I have a few things I would like to sell (I'm redoing my Morticia, just to note), am I copyright clear to sell these?

    The crux of my business is NOT to make money off of these though. I do one-of-a-kinds--people give me or I take their family photos and I paint them--that's my focus. But in the interim, I have these that I've done that I have interested buyers for, but I can't sell yet until I know my conscience is clear on selling them. Does that make sense? I am aware of Creative Commons, the Morgue, the 1923 rule, Fair Use and all that, but this is the ONE place I am unclear on.

    Can anyone explain it to me in "dumb speak" please? :)

    Thanks so much,
  • The other artist may be doing it without permission, and courting trouble! But what you are getting into here is not just copyright but the whole area of trademarks, public figures, and privacy. I'm not expert in these areas, but you might look for some commentary on the Shepherd Fairey/Obama HOPE poster case for some parallels to what you want to do. And of course some other commenters may weigh in here, too, so check back.
  • All comments containing advertising will be removed, no matter how germane to the topic.
  • Forgive me Janet...

    Was I advertising or was there a post that you had removed before the one you just made? Because I assure you, I am not advertising.
  • Not you, CreativeWonders -- we get a lot of spam from advertisers on this site, and as one of the people with moderator powers, I spend a lot of time removing it!
  • Your question is similar to mine. My Uncle wants to sell his hand drawings of Michael Jackson which he drew & took off a photo back in the 80s. I am wondering if we need permission from someone like his father (Joe)? How does it work?
  • People's faces are not eligible for copyright protection, so when an artist creates a sketch or painting of a real-life person s/he is not violating copyright. However, making a painting or sketch of a person from an existing picture of that person would violate the copyrights of the artist who made the original work. Such is the situation with the Shepherd Fairey/Obama HOPE poster case mentioned by Janet: Fairey created his poster of Obama from an existing photograph of Obama, thereby violating the photographer's copyright.

    When you depict the likeness of a real-person (representing his or her appearance, voice, etc.) you could be violating the person's privacy rights. Such a possibility is outside the scope of Copyright and this forum. Perhaps you can find appropriate help from a published source aimed at your profession, such as "The Legal Guide for the Visual Artist." Check with your local library or bookstore for relevant guides.

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