My digital drawings of artwork

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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ndcs78
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My digital drawings of artwork

Post by ndcs78 »

Hi, I've seen a couple of similar questions over the years but it's difficult to know definitively.

I am based in the UK and have an Etsy store where I sell my digital art prints. I am looking into selling prints of album covers that I have drawn myself. Some covers will look very similar, whereas ones with faces are a bit more abstract.

Is this legal? Or do I need to obtain a license?

If I do need to obtain a license, how do I go about finding the owner without a physical copy of the album to look at?

TIA
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AndyJ
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Re: My digital drawings of artwork

Post by AndyJ »

Hi Tia,

Sadly I'm not going to be able to provide the definitive answer you are looking for. The way the law is worded, copyright infringement occurs if a substantial part of a copyright work is copied without permission. Substantiality is measured in terms of quality rather than quantity, so for instance copying a lot of little details is less likely to count as substantial than copying one key feature which makes the image (for instance) distinct. The second fundamental of copyright is that it doesn't protect ideas, only the manner in which an author or artist expresses that idea.

So while you wish your versions of album covers to be recognisable tributes to the original, provided that you do this in a way which expresses your take on the idea which underlies the original, you reduce the chances of infringing any copyright. When you say that you don't have a particular album cover in your possession, this is a good position to be in as you are less likely to slavishly copy, which in turn decreases the chance that you will copy the essence of the original. If you are working from a photograph of a particular album cover, my suggestion is to study it carefully to see the proportions, colours etc, and then put the photograph away as you draw your version. If you work in a different medium to that used for the album cover, this also helps. A pastel rendition of a photograph will obviuously have a very different 'feel' to a copy done in, say, pen and coloured ink. At the other extreme, making a black and white photocopy or scan of the original and then recolouring it is much more likely to infringe because your version will rely too heavily on the exact layout of the original.

In theory you could ask for permission in each case, and this would mean approaching the record company which released the album. I imagine this information would be readily available on the internet. Although the artist concerned will be different in each case, for your purposes that doesn't matter as the record company will be the owner of the copyright, so they are the people to give permission.

I hope this partly answers your question.
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
ndcs78
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Re: My digital drawings of artwork

Post by ndcs78 »

AndyJ wrote: Wed Jan 20, 2021 10:03 am Hi Tia,

Sadly I'm not going to be able to provide the definitive answer you are looking for. The way the law is worded, copyright infringement occurs if a substantial part of a copyright work is copied without permission. Substantiality is measured in terms of quality rather than quantity, so for instance copying a lot of little details is less likely to count as substantial than copying one key feature which makes the image (for instance) distinct. The second fundamental of copyright is that it doesn't protect ideas, only the manner in which an author or artist expresses that idea.

So while you wish your versions of album covers to be recognisable tributes to the original, provided that you do this in a way which expresses your take on the idea which underlies the original, you reduce the chances of infringing any copyright. When you say that you don't have a particular album cover in your possession, this is a good position to be in as you are less likely to slavishly copy, which in turn decreases the chance that you will copy the essence of the original. If you are working from a photograph of a particular album cover, my suggestion is to study it carefully to see the proportions, colours etc, and then put the photograph away as you draw your version. If you work in a different medium to that used for the album cover, this also helps. A pastel rendition of a photograph will obviuously have a very different 'feel' to a copy done in, say, pen and coloured ink. At the other extreme, making a black and white photocopy or scan of the original and then recolouring it is much more likely to infringe because your version will rely too heavily on the exact layout of the original.

In theory you could ask for permission in each case, and this would mean approaching the record company which released the album. I imagine this information would be readily available on the internet. Although the artist concerned will be different in each case, for your purposes that doesn't matter as the record company will be the owner of the copyright, so they are the people to give permission.

I hope this partly answers your question.
Hi Andy, thank you very much - this is a really useful reply! I think I've just been finding myself just on the line and not sure which side I fall on.
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