Copyright Discussion



  • At the Children's Book Pro live meeting (on June 24th) , @davidhohn suggested we start a discussion about copyright. I appreciated hearing that photos we take are ours and that the likeness of someone is theirs. That is an important. Thanks.

    What else should we know about working from reference photos?

    What are some basics that beginners should know about copyright and their art?


  • SVS Instructor Pro

    I invited this discussion so I'll definitely join in!
    First, if you haven't yet done it read Title 17 of the US Copyright code Sections 1 - 5 (or similar for your particular country)

    Some basics of using photo reference in your illustrations:

    #1. Photos that you take yourself (especially photos OF yourself) are the absolute best!
    You own and control the copyright to those images.
    You can make all the "derivatives" you want.
    You can look at them while you draw,
    You can trace directly over them,
    You can include the actual photos in your artwork.

    #2. Photos that were taken by someone else are less safe.
    To be totally safe get permission from the Intellectual Property owner/Copyright holder/ original photographer. Permission may or may not include compensation of some kind. Depends on the agreement between you and the IP owner.

    #3. If you use photographs that were taken by someone else, don't limit yourself to just one. (The temptation to copy might just be too great!)
    My rule of thumb for any photo reference I didn't take is a minimum of 5 different images from different photographers. And if I find THE PERFECT PHOTO 😱🤩 ---
    I delete it.
    Don't use it.
    Trash it! (again the temptation to copy that one photo might just be too great)

    When using photos that were taken by someone else, the goal is to use the photos to inform you of details you might not otherwise have already stored in your visual memory.

    If the process for #3 just doesn't get you the info you need refer back to #1 -- take the photo yourself.

    In the CBP Zoom session Jake brought up the issue of a model's likeness.
    It is true that you own your "Likeness Rights". That is, someone can't take a photo of you and start using your face for a major advertising campaign without your permission. The same is true for anyone you take photos of.

    So #4: When using models be sure to explain what you intend to do with the photos. I usually stipulate that I'm going to use the photos to get details of pose, clothing, lighting etc. I'm rarely interested in having the finished art look like my model so I tell the to not be offended when the final art doesn't look like them.

    You can take #4 one step further and have your model sign a "model release".
    For my most common models (friends and family) I've never worried about that.
    When I've used young actors from the local children's theater I do because I want the parents to know that I'm a pro.
    I like all the forms found in Business and Legal Forms for Illustrators



  • @davidhohn said in Copyright Discussion:

    My rule of thumb for any photo reference I didn't take is a minimum of 5 different images from different photographers. And if I find THE PERFECT PHOTO ---
    I delete it.
    Don't use it.
    Trash it! (again the temptation to copy that one photo might just be too great)

    Great advice! Flee!

    Thank you for the links. The copyright document will be useful in the long run, but seems intimidating at the moment. Do you recommend a particular edition of the Business and Legal Forms for Illustrators?


  • SVS Instructor Pro

    Thank you for the links. The copyright document will be useful in the long run, but seems intimidating at the moment.

    I totally get that! Nibble away at it in chunks. Perhaps on a night when insomnia is an issue? But if you make your living via copyright (and all illustrators do to one degree or another) I think it just makes sense to know how it works.

    Do you recommend a particular edition of the Business and Legal Forms for Illustrators?

    Not really. If you can get the most recent, go for it! But my copy is easily 15 years old.



  • @Becky You might be able to find a copy at a local indie bookstore if you're open to alternatives to Amazon: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781621534884



  • @RachelArmington That's a good idea. Thank you.



  • @davidhohn said in Copyright Discussion:

    I think it just makes sense to know how it works.

    Absolutely!
    Thank you for the 4 tips on photo references.



  • How does copyright work when we are illustrating specific things? For example, if we decide to illustrate a classic car do we need to remove the brand name?


  • SVS Instructor Pro

    @Becky I had this question starting out. Here's my personal anecdote:
    I wanted to include iconic red Converse high tops in this children's theater poster I was doing. I contacted an IP attorney via Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.

    The advice I got for the project was, technically I should remove the logo, but that most companies don't have a problem with logos being included in smaller projects like a theater poster as long as it doesn't disparage the company. That is, legally it was an infringement (but a trademark infringement rather than copyright infringement) but that the infringement would likely be "tolerated".

    I still decided to remove the Converse logo from the poster as it wasn't absolutely required to communicate my keywords.

    But for instances like this I would recommend checking with an IP attorney.



  • @davidhohn Thank you. This is helpful information. There are so many ins and outs with this, so thank you for pointing me in the right direction.


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