Copyright issues


Hey, everyone :slight_smile:

I am currently in a situation where I am asking a buyer to cancel the order due to possibility of copyright violation. I have been trying to read up on some of the image content copyright allowance but is celebrities any part of of the copyright law? All I am reading is that it’s a grey area, and if you are using it to make money of off it’s against the law. I’m only altering the background, and I’m not claiming it as mine. I had another one the other day I had to cancel because he was grabbing random images of the www and most of it was art work. The one I am taking to now looks like he ripped them out of a magazine. I can see some of the crack in the paper edge lol. I am waiting for his response, but was wondering if you guys could chime me in a little bit and give me confidence that I am in the right.


You are probably in the right. I have mixed feelings - For someone using a celebrity image in a commercial endeavor, I think they would need a model release or some type of license from the photography agency for permission to use that image. If one uses a photo snagged somewhere from the Internet or in a magazine, they may be opening themselves up to liability. Some owners of copyright may send a cease and desist, others just skip that and file a lawsuit. Obviously, these are just my opinions. But personally, I guess it’s not something I would want to take the chance on.

On the other hand, your situation is unique. You’re not advertising a gig offering anything illegal. You can’t necessarily control whether all the images submitted to you to edit have been acquired legally. What if they rip off a picture from Getty? Would you really know? Could you ask for proof of ownership for every photo? You won’t be displaying the photo. The person you edit it for will. They would probably just go after them. So yeah, I agree, it’s kind of in the grey area. Chances are you’d never have any problems, but if you did, it would be really bad. I would hate to ever get involved in a lawsuit.


When in doubt, don’t do it. I’m not a copyright lawyer so this isn’t legal advice. A lot of people assume that pictures, especially ones found on Google, are free for the taking. Every picture is copyrighted to someone - either the person who took it or the company who paid for it.

Just altering an image doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not copyright infringement.

Like rebdesign says, if they grabbed it off of the internet or magazine, someone owns that image and your buyer could be opening themselves up to liability.

If I were you, I’d play it safe and cancel. I’m guessing nothing would happen if you did take the job, but you just never know. Many media companies have deep pockets and cast a wide net when it comes to copyright infringement.


It has nothing to do with someone is “in the public eye.” The photographer who took the original photograph owns the rights to it, and no one can use it without his or her permission. It doesn’t matter whether it’s online or in print, it is owned by the original creator.

I saw a gig today where someone was animating a famous cartoon character, and I wanted to tell them it is copyright infringement, but I’m sick of preaching to people. If you are old enough to have your own business, you are old enough to know and obey the laws concerning that business.