G. Zimmerman's sued for making a painting that is a copy of a news photo?

I’m surprised to learn that a painter cannot use an image in their painting that is taken from a news photo. Isn’t the use of a photo image in a hand crafted painting part of a new creative expression that transcends copyright?

Story here -

AP Threatens Legal Action Over George Zimmerman’s New Painting

AFAIK, it falls under “derivative work.” The lawyer types can chime in. You can find similar cases here.

[http://painting.about.com/cs/artistscopyright/f/copyrightfaq5.htm](Painting from a photo)

[http://painting.about.com/od/copyrightforartistsfaq/](General art and copyright)

I skimmed the above, seems about what I remember from some fine and graphic arts classes I took in the mid 2000s.

Basically, pay the photographer. It’s easier to use something from a stock photo site, as they have set prices depending on how you want to use your derivative work (i.e., in a mass-produced ad or whatever). When I had to use one for a class, since it was a one-time non-commercial work, it cost a few bucks.

For figure model practice, or I just needed to see how a hand would look in a certain position, etc., I bought a few disks of pics of public domain models from the 1880s-1920s. (They were really cool photos, btw)

I think the waters get pretty murky if it comes to satiric works. But no, despite what you can see around the internet, you really don’t want to just take a photo off the news and make a classical realist or otherwise recognizable painting from it–especially to sell. Not to say I’ve never, ever done something similar, but it stayed in my sketchbook.

Just looked at this guy’s, um, painting. Nope, don’t do that. It’s an AP photo, for Pete’s sake. There’s usually a callout on page 2 or so of newspapers that tells you who to call if you want to reprint or otherwise use a photo or article that appeared.

There is ample precedent for the AP lawsuit:

Didn’t Andy Warhol make some of his more iconic photos from pics out of the newspaper?

See the earlier comments about derivative work…

The question is, to what extent the work is simply the original (or relies heavily on the impact of the original). You can’t simply colorize a black-and-whit and call it original art. (Or in this case, de-color and posterize).

The trouble is this picture is to some extent a slavish copy. The pose, angle, even many of the facial creases and wrinkles line up. Although if you look closely, there is some minor variation - the crease does not reach all the way to the side of the nose, the fold lines on the palm are not exact, etc. However, it is essentially a copy, and that is the essence. The photographer captures a specific mood and pose from a certain angle. That is original. Since the angle and facial expression and hand pose are the “essence” of the photo, copying them, even by hand rather than mechanically, is copying.

It’s up to a judge or jury to decide if the color shift is enough of a change to qualify it as a more original than copy. However, this is the same issue as the Obama Hope poster. Beyond all the color shift, the essence of that was Obama’s expression - captured originally by the photographer, copied from the photo by the artist.

The difference might be the words. They are not in the photo… juxtaposing them with the picture might result in it being classified as satire, depending on what it means. I had to look up who she was and why this would matter. Here again, though - the pose and the way it’s painted is such that you can’t really tell she’s holding her thumb and finger a fraction of an inch apart ('this much respect") so the artist has elected to take slavish copying over clarity of message. Otherwise, the words might have then become the dominant idea of the painting and thus changed the focus, making the specific pose, etc. less of the essence. However, I had to look at the photo version to realize that her thumb and finger were slightly open and the words were meant to reflect that.

In summary though - if your work is too much like another previous work, it’s up to the judge and jury to decide if it’s sufficiently original to be free of the copying claim.

Fairey’s work was much more further apart from the original than Zimmerman’s. Fairey’s was cropped tightly and even the photographer didn’t know it was based on his picture. Zimmerman’s is much too close to the original.

Outrageous! Artistic integrity is at stake here! George should not give in; he should stand his ground; maybe even shoot the AP in the chest or something.

Moderator Note

Let’s keep commentary about the Zimmerman case itself out of this. Let’s stick to the copyright issue. No warning issued.

General Questions Moderator

I wonder how this bears on the “Last performance of the Oswald Band” t-shirts and posters?

Zimmerman was in trouble last month for basing his first piece on a stock photo. Not sure how that one turned out.

Yes, but Warhol made a point of paying for the right to use other people’s work. He even paid finder’s fees to people who suggested things he should paint or draw.

He paid Campbells Soup for the rights to use the can image?