[thelist] Ethical issues concerning re-use (and heavy modification) of images

James S. Huggins (Evolt) Evolt at ZName.com
Thu May 9 00:27:00 CDT 2002

As regards the LAW, much posted so far is incorrect.

A copyright holder has the absolute right to control derivative works

I cite information from the copyright office.

How much do I have to change in order to claim copyright in someone else's
Only the owner of copyright in a work has the right to prepare, or to
authorize someone else to create a new version of that work. Accordingly,
you cannot claim copyright to another's work, no matter how much you change
it, unless you have the owner's consent. See Circular 14.

Circular 14


A “derivative work,” that is, a work that is based on (or
derived from) one or more already existing works, is copy-rightable
if it includes what the copyright law calls an “original
work of authorship.” Derivative works, also known as “new
versions,” include such works as translations, musical ar-rangements,
dramatizations, fictionalizations, art reproduc-tions,
and condensations. Any work in which the editorial
revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications
represent, as a whole, an original work of authorship is a
“derivative work” or “new version.”

A typical example of a derivative work received for regis-tration
in the Copyright Office is one that is primarily a new
work but incorporates some previously published material.
This previously published material makes the work a deriva-tive
work under the copyright law.

To be copyrightable, a derivative work must be different
enough from the original to be regarded as a “new work” or
must contain a substantial amount of new material. Making
minor changes or additions of little substance to a preexisting
work will not qualify the work as a new version for copyright
purposes. The new material must be original and copyright-able
in itself. Titles, short phrases, and format, for example,
are not copyrightable.



Only the owner of copyright in a work has the right to
prepare, or to authorize someone else to create, a new
version of that work.

James S. Huggins


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