Copyright infringement/ original art

If you are worried about infringement or your work has been copied and you want to take action.
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Copyright infringement/ original art

Post by Ryan83 »

Hi there,

I'm seeking some general advice regarding a business venture that has been proposed.

I am looking at creating pieces of furniture with pictures applied to the surfaces. Specifically comic book panels.

I have 2 different approaches to take. The first is using original materials owned and purchased by myself, and placed onto the surfaces in various designs, not always fully representing the entirety of the work (due to space). As I own the materials and am repurposing them into an original design, and new item for sale, is this ok or would I need to seek the owners permission to profit from a version of their work?

The second part would be to scan copies of some rarer material and reproduce parts of it into vinyl to be placed onto items. This would allow me to retain the original material without destroying it's original condition. I've seen similar things done with cars but I suspect this way of working (as it would be reproducing parts of a copyrighted work, to be sold for profit) would be a breach of the law.

Part of me wonders if it could be classed as original art work as I am not reproducing the material in its entirety for sale, and the prints would be used as part of an original piece of work.

I'm not very clear on where I stand so any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers, Ryan
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Post by AndyJ »

Hi Ryan,
Let's deal with the second question first. Copying pictures is invariably going to run the risk of infringement because even if you only use part of the original image, there's always going to be a difficult decision about whether the part you want to use is a substantial part of the original. Substantiality here is measured in qualitative terms rather than quantitatively. Secondly it sounds unlikely that the sort of work you want to use is likely to be out of copyright (the lifetime of the author plus 70 years in most cases) and the other exemptions to do with fair dealing will not be relevant. On that basis I advise you to seek permission in the form of a licence before doing any copying.
Turning to the first question, these are the rights of the author which are protected by copyright:
(a) to copy the work;
(b) to issue copies of the work to the public;
(ba) to rent or lend the work to the public;
(c) to perform, show or play the work in public;
(d) to communicate the work to the public;
(e) to make an adaptation of the work or do any of the above in relation to an adaptation
And since re-using original material (or re-purposing it as you refer to it) does not involve copying it cannot infringe (a) to (ba) on the list above. (c) doesn't apply to artistic works, (d) only applies to broadcasting, and (e) - the activity closest to what you want to do - does not apply to artistic works. Therefore there can be no infringement in re-using the original. It is possible that there may be some spurious terms somewhere in the original work which refer to re-issuing the work without permission (normally in the context of hiring or lending the original in some other covering) but I don't think that, if such terms existed in the case of these comic books, they would be applicable to what you want to do. And that just leaves the moral rights of the author, particularly one which protects their personal reputation from the derogatory treatment of their work.
80 Right to object to derogatory treatment of work.

(1) The author of a copyright literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, and the director of a copyright film, has the right in the circumstances mentioned in this section not to have his work subjected to derogatory treatment.

(2) For the purposes of this section "
  • (a) "treatment" of a work means any addition to, deletion from or alteration to or adaptation of the work, other than"
    • (i) a translation of a literary or dramatic work, or

      (ii) an arrangement or transcription of a musical work involving no more than a change of key or register; and
    (b) the treatment of a work is derogatory if it amounts to distortion or mutilation of the work or is otherwise prejudicial to the honour or reputation of the author or director;
and in the following provisions of this section references to a derogatory treatment of a work shall be construed accordingly.
[ ...]

(4)In the case of an artistic work the right is infringed by a person who "
  • (a) publishes commercially or exhibits in public a derogatory treatment of the work, or communicates to the public a visual image of a derogatory treatment of the work,

    (b) shows in public a film including a visual image of a derogatory treatment of the work or issues to the public copies of such a film, or

    (c) in the case of"
    • (i) a work of architecture in the form of a model for a building,

      (ii )a sculpture, or

      (iii) a work of artistic craftsmanship,
    issues to the public copies of a graphic work representing, or of a photograph of, a derogatory treatment of the work.
(5) Subsection (4) does not apply to a work of architecture in the form of a building; but where the author of such a work is identified on the building and it is the subject of derogatory treatment he has the right to require the identification to be removed.

(7) The right conferred by this section extends to the treatment of parts of a work resulting from a previous treatment by a person other than the author or director, if those parts are attributed to, or are likely to be regarded as the work of, the author or director.
As you can see, mutilation of an artistic work can amount to derogatory treatment and so this cannot be ruled out as a possible cause of action against you by an artist (although since this is a personal right it cannot be advanced by a publisher or other third party). However given the relatively low status of comics and the like in the art world, I think it would be pretty hard to convince a court that decorating, say, a chair with pictures from a comic book would seriously impugn the reputation and honour of the artist.
I hope this helps to clarify things.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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