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yar, she's a big 'un

When I went out for my celebratory election coffee this morning, the last thing I expected to see was a big ol' warship on my patch of river. I joined the cluster of old men admiring the ship to get the gossip, and they told me that it's the HMS Illustrious, one of the two biggest warships in the British fleet, docked here for the Remembrance Day commemorations.

I was going to have coffee with Jeff the barista, but I had a lot of work to do, and he doesn't have proper tables, so I headed off instead to the National Maritime Museum for their coffee. Just as I was about to dash up the stairs to the cafe, I got waylaid by a new exhibition, Beside the Seaside: Snapshots of British coastal life, 1880-1950. They had some fascinating photos on display, many of which you can see on the website here. (The exhibition runs until 13 April next year.)

There was also a little cinema room showing old advert films for Blackpool and Looe. My favourite part was when some of the old people sitting next to me watching the films started singing along with the soundtrack songs, totally brilliant.

Here's a quick painting I did from a sketch. I don't think I can sell it, since it's almost a direct copy of a photo. (Just curious, does anyone know if selling the painting is legal? The photo was taken in 1906 in Exmouth.) But it was good practice trying to get a cold, watery look. That cocklepicker must've been one tough cookie.


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 5th, 2008 09:51 pm (UTC)
i love the quick painting!
Nov. 5th, 2008 10:10 pm (UTC)
Thanks! :-)
Nov. 5th, 2008 10:07 pm (UTC)
Good question!
I do lots of sketches (and occasionally final work) that I base on photographs, usually old ones or sort of weird editorial shots. If you find out what the law on this is, do let me know! (Surely someone like Jan uses other people's photos all time...or does she?)
Nov. 5th, 2008 10:13 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure it's illegal if it's a recent photograph. I know someone who successfully sued an artist who'd made a painting of his photo. But if it's taken in 1905, does that mean it's out of copyright? Or if a picture library (like Getty) owns it, does that keep it in copyright? I'll have to find out about this one.

With Jan, I think she uses photos, but changes them beyond recognition or only uses them in a small part of her picture, so it's more like collage work, where it's borderline but acceptable. Mine here's a straight-out copy, with only some stylistic differences.
Nov. 5th, 2008 10:08 pm (UTC)
BTW that painting is really beautiful.
Nov. 5th, 2008 10:25 pm (UTC)
I had to look into the copyright issue a while ago:

"What is a derivative work?
A derivative work is a work that is based on (derived from) another
work; for example a painting based on a photograph, a collage, a
musical work based on an existing piece or samples, a screenplay based
on a book.

Making a derivative work
Legally only the copyright owner has the right to authorise
adaptations and reproductions of their work - this includes the making
of a derivative work."

From: http://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/copyright/p22_derivative_works.en.htm
Nov. 5th, 2008 10:46 pm (UTC)
Hey, thanks for that, Selina!

I'm looking at the part of the site about 'Duration of Copyright' - http://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/copyright/p10_duration - and it's saying for photographs (and 'applied art'), it only lasts 25 years from creation. But then it's confusing, because it says elsewhere - http://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/copyright/p01_uk_copyright_law - that for artistic works, it's lifetime plus 70 years. I would've thought photos counted as artistic works, but apparently not.

So what I'm trying to figure out now, is how can companies like Getty keep people from freely using any photographic image older than 25 years? Hmm, more investigation needed.

Thanks for the link! :-)
Nov. 6th, 2008 09:03 am (UTC)
Photos always used to count as the equivalent of commercial art, hence the different rules (for instance, the person who commissioned the photo used to own the rights to it, I think). Quite a few things about copyright did change about 15 or 20 years ago but maybe this bit wasn't fully integrated?
Nov. 6th, 2008 12:04 am (UTC)
I really don't think that counts as anything more than using the photo as reference. If you'd traced the entire thing line for line, sure.

But I have to say, it's not something I'd even worry about. It's far enough removed as to be it's own thing. It's your impression, not a painting of how the photo looks.

Edited at 2008-11-06 12:09 am (UTC)
Nov. 6th, 2008 01:50 am (UTC)
It would probably still be breach of copyright though - the key phrase seems to be "if a *substantial* part of the photograph is used". It really doesn't have to take much of a photograph (someone else's work) to stumble into the territory of copyright theft. As far as I understand it, the rules were changed sometime in the 1980s (?) so that photos before the change in the act have a shorter span, and photos after it have a longer time under protection - I looked it all up once, but I'm only left with a useless and vague impression of the laws involved!
Nov. 6th, 2008 12:33 pm (UTC)
My main point is more that even if it breaches copyright nobody can stop you selling a sketchbook page privately. It's like copying someone a cd. It might breach copyright, but everybody does it anyway. But with caveats - you cant go and sell bucketloads of bootleg cds, equally you probably couldnt sell the picture for tens of thousands or use it as the basis for a huge publishing venture/exhibition etc.

The law reads very rigid but in practice I dont think it's quite like that, or at least it's open to interpretation. These things only come in to effect when people are making a lot of money, with this sort of thing its negligible in quantity and the amount of money involved. I mean, taken to the letter from above, it sounds like you'd have to get permission for every collage but we all know that isn't the case. Think of all the people who'd be in trouble on etsy/flickr etc! Although it probably matters for publishing and so forth, the same as clearing samples for a music label; yet people still record and sell - albeit not commercially - music sampling things, like bootlegs or mashups, or just look at youtube. Not legal but what happens about it? Nothing really, except when Prince comes trolling around the internet slapping a cease and desist on everything. But I wouldn't want to lose that creative element - remixing and sampling other peoples work, musical or not, because of the sorts of things it throws up. There's always going to be people who do it lazily and those who do it creatively, and though the law is the same for both I feel like it's more of a grey area.

Personally I still don't think it breaches copyright at all, it interprets the subject of the photo but not the photo itself. It's arguable it doesn't use the photo at all, different styles and proportions etc. It gets to the point where I don't see how after the fact you could draw someone in a similar pose without worrying, or what if you draw it later from memory? Does that still count? Of course, you could always make your own reference photo of yourself wearing similar clothes, in a similar pose by the seaside! Ha. Although I don't want to seem like I condone stealing other peoples work, or that I'm all blasé and never worry myself about such things! I certainly always feel different about drawing from a photo as opposed to my own stuff, I'm a terrible purist! I even feel guilty about using my own references sometimes.

Hm. Having said all that I still don't think I know as much about this as I'd like, I quite want to find out more about it... perhaps one day we'll only be able to give pictures as presents and be paid in charitable donations to a third party! :)
Nov. 6th, 2008 12:52 pm (UTC)
Some good points there - and all true. I think if Sarah is talking about making some money from her lovely drawing, then ownership rights would be taken more seriously (this all may be moot anyway, as the photo is from 1905 - though it depends what rights the museum/owner of the print has etc...). If that photo was taken yesterday, the drawing *would* breach copyright.

I feel quite strongly about copyright because one of my logos is being used by quite a few amateur theatre companies across the UK and even in the States, without my permission. I feel horrible going after these people because they're amateur companies - but they wouldn't dream of putting on a musical without licensing it from Musicscope or Josef Weinberger - yet they use my artwork for free! I don't copy CDs for people, and I don't download movies off the internet - I do think creator rights are important.

Having said that... I do use photo reference every now and then, especially for buildings, and while I'll use a photo of a policeman just for the uniform (but a completely different pose), you can't ask a building to take a different pose! :-) I have done a job for a t-shirt company that asked for drawings based on famous football scenes - something I wouldn't do again. If the copyright owners were of a mind to, they could probably have me up in court :-S
Nov. 6th, 2008 10:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your comments! Yes, I feel strongly about copyright, too. I hate it when people rip off my stuff, so I don't want to do it back to them. It's more about working out what's ethical and legal.

I just got this message from a family-friend photographer who's dealt with this kind of stuff:

> Sarah, Google "copyright fair use" and you will find lots of material related to your question. You are probably ok in what you plan on doing with your painting.
It gets a little iffy if the museum puts out a copyrighted pamphlet or publication containing that image, even if they only have the image on loan. If they are just displaying it for viewing, they don't have a copyright would be my guess.

Nov. 6th, 2008 02:10 am (UTC)
I love how she looks like a peasant from a Kurosawa movie. Hmmmm I need to go watch Yojimbo or Rashomon now...
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 6th, 2008 10:27 pm (UTC)
Oh my, that adds a whole new layer of complication, who owns the photograph of the photograph. (Man, that sounds so postmodern!)

So there's a chance I couldn't scan and reproduce one of the photos on the exhibition brochure, but maybe I COULD reproduce the photo I took of the photo on display while I was there. Whew, that's nuts.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )


Sarah McIntyre

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