Line drawings based on existing images in popular culture

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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azjackson
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Line drawings based on existing images in popular culture

Post by azjackson » Wed Mar 16, 2011 2:14 pm

I am working with someone to produce a cover for a book, which takes the form of a collage of line drawings based on images from movies & tv.

The images in question are not photos, they are pop-art style line drawings of the subject in poses which may resemble those from original photos of that person. None of the original image of the person is reproduced, just an outline drawing. Is this likely to infringe any image copyrights?

Many thanks!

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Wed Mar 16, 2011 3:57 pm

Hi AZ,
I'm afraid this is a bit of a woolly answer, because it's all a matter of degree. The law says that copying is infringement and "Copying in relation to a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work means reproducing the work in any material form" - in other words the fact that you are producing a line drawing of an image does not make the copying any less. But the amount of the original which is copied needs to be substantial. The test for what amounts to substantial can be either qualitative or quantitative. For example in musical terms, copying just a few notes if they form the theme or 'hook' of the tune can be copying as is often the case with sampling, whereas in other forms of work, for instance in literature, a more quantitative approach can be used - the number of the same words which occur in each work can be compared.
Take a look at this news story about a case in the USA on the BBC News website for an example of something similar to what you describe. Unfortunately for us this case was settled without going into court so we don't know what view the court would have taken on the matter of substantiality, but it is illustrative of the pitfalls which may await you.
I can only suggest that you make every effort to avoid taking any detail from the original image - difficult I know if you wish to convey the essence of the film or actor etc you are depicting. Try changing the pose or angle of view, in order that your image creates a different ''look and feel' from the photograph you base it on.
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

azjackson
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Thanks for the quick reply

Post by azjackson » Wed Mar 16, 2011 4:03 pm

If I can get a copy of the image in question I'll post it up and see if it makes it clearer when you see it! Thanks for this however...

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