Copyright query


Would something that is copyrighted be OK to make completely original drawings of? (As opposed to electronic or other mechanical help.) I would think that images that are drawn would be o.k. to reproduce. Major Tom, you there? ;)


The answer to that is yes: that original work, regardless of the source, belongs to you alone.

For instance, if you draw copies of works by Leonardo da Vinci or, the resulting artwork is yours, and belongs to you. Even art forgeries actually count as original work. So long as there is no attempt at defrauding someone, you're in the clear.


I agree with you, but Stuart Kaplan, for example, might not. In some circumstances people will dispute copyright even if the image is redrawn. It probably depends a bit on how it's labelled too. For example, I don't think you would get away with a "Tom Cruise Tarot" (the very idea :) ) even if you redrew photos of Cruise, because he owns the rights to how his image is used. But if you did a "Marilyn" drawing I can't see any problems.

But I could be wrong. I wish I was a lawyer! In fact, I don't fully understand the issues when it comes to grey areas, although generally copyright law is fairly clear. We always try to play very safe on copyright (taking all our own photos or licensing direct from the photographer in a few cases) but other people do collage images from known sources and it can constitute "fair use" or a new work of art in which case it's fine. The real answer, I think, is that it's much easier to judge once you see what someone is actually doing. It's harder to talk about it in theory.


Is that fair use or not??

I dunno, people have been telling me that any images, even in a very altered montage, is a hassle copyright-wise - I am having to take ALL MY OWN STUFF - *whadda PAIN*!!!! We'll see. Meanwhile, I am contemplating yet another project: this one involves drawings of ancient relics. More in another thread! %)

Major Tom

danubhe said:
Would something that is copyrighted be OK to make completely original drawings of?

I'm not a lawyer either, but in general I think the answer is yes.

As far as the Tarot Deck Creation Board Guidelines go, it would even be acceptable to draw a picture of a celebrity from a photo. I would urge you to check with a copyright lawyer however if you plan on publishing the resulting work. ;)


You make a good point Tom. I think a lot does depend on whether you plan to publish or not. I know that publishers insist that artists/authors verify that there are no copyright problems with work.

The "grey" areas I referred to probably also come from things like trademark rights. The two can overlap a bit.

But ultimately, as I say, it's easier when you can see what someone is doing, then it's much easier to judge if it really does constitute a new work of art.

Maybe my mega-caution on this comes from the fact that I spent years working in Corporate Identity and Branding. In that field copyright infringement is enforced vigorously. I'm sure that in other fields it's probably more relaxed.


edited to say - by the way, I agree with someone else here on the forum who said some time back that copyright and intellectual property issues have become a bit mad. In some cases I think it does hold people back from creativity in an irrational way (did you know that someone tried to "own" the New York skyline - or so I was told, I hope it's an urban myth!) - but in others, well, it seems quite fair to protect copyright. Anyway, as ever, an interesting issue!


This is all good stuff!

I'm pretty sure that my pencil drawings wouldn't be counted as infringement. BTW, I *swear* I just recently saw *somebody's* deck with Tom Cruise as The Chariot - wish I remembered which one! I'll have to keep looking around to see that again! As for the NYC skyline, whaddaya wanna bet it was Giuliani??!! ;)


baba-prague said:

But I could be wrong. I wish I was a lawyer!

Perish the thought!

I agree with you, but Stuart Kaplan, for example, might not.

Which is the point. With lots of money and a team of lawyers, what seems simple can become complicated, and what has been offered here as clear-cut advice turns into an intimidation game that browbeats you into not offering your work, and leaves you financially ruined in the process.



Yes, I think you sum it up in a way. It does in the end depend a lot on who wants to prosecute and why.

Pencil drawings should be no problem at all of course, but like I say, I'm reluctant to give that advice without seeing an example. I'd hate for anyone to put in work then later find a problem.

But any guidance here is only that - guidance.

Anyway, maybe there are more interesting things in life than copyright... :)

edited to add - but if you want a really sad copyright story, look here:


I think that it's best said that:

...These are, as you say, opinions. I am going to move ahead with my drawings. The problem will be with publication!