Celebrity - Elvis

Advice for those new to the concepts of copyright
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Wildside
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Celebrity - Elvis

Post by Wildside » Mon Jan 17, 2011 1:30 am

Hi,

Firstly, my apologies if this is covered in another post, if so, please advise the subject name or a link (thanks!).

In reference to the use of celebrity photos, Can I download or scan a high resolution photo of (for example), Elvis, manipulate the photo (i.e. make it two colours with high contrast), then sell the image on a tee shirt?

Thanks, Jon.

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Mon Jan 17, 2011 2:35 am

Hi Jon,
I'm not sure if this has been covered elsewhere or not. But your question raises two issues so it's definitely worth answering here.
First, as far as copyright is concerned, copying or scanning a photograph without authorisation would be infringement unless it fell into one of the specific fair dealing categories, such as copying for research or private study. Since you say you wish to sell tee-shirts with your image on, the fair-dealing exemptions would not apply. Assuming that you got permission from the copyright owner for what you propose, and your manipulation of the picture was deemed sufficiently artistic in its own right, then you would be entitled to the copyright in your derivative work. Depending on the permission obtained, it might be necessary to credit the original photographer as being the source of your work.
But probably of more relevance to your query is the situation in American law over the protection of celebrity publicity rights. Although these are the laws of individual states in the USA rather than federal law, they generally give the estates of people like Elvis very considerable control over how images etc of dead celebrities can be used commercially. As far as I know Australia (like the UK) doesn't have similar laws so in theory if your activities are confined to Australia and you don't intend to visit Tennessee in the immediate future, you should be OK! However be aware that the Elvis estate could still try and go after you through the Australian civil courts with a claim of passing-off if they were feeling vindictive! They probably wouldn't have much chance of winning, but it could be an expensive matter for you to have to defend a case. At the very least you might get a 'cease and desist' letter from their lawyers.
You can read the Australian Copyright Act here:http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/ ... ca1968133/

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