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

Simon Willison simon at incutio.com
Thu May 9 06:43:01 CDT 2002

At 02:18 09/05/02 -0500, James S. Huggins (Evolt) wrote:

>The question of whether it is fair use depends on 4 factors:
>Purpose and character of the use;
>Nature of the copyrighted work;
>Amount and substantiality of the portion used; and
>Effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the work.
>It could be argued that the example YOU gave would be fair use. If it is
>fair use then your work is NOT a derivative work.

Thanks for your input - you've certainly given me food for thought. For the
record I'm based in the UK but I iagine copyright laws here are similar to
the States.

It looks like "fair use" is the clincher here. I'm certain that it is fair
use to take a photograph someone else has drawn and draw a picture based on
the composition of something in that photograph. The difference with my
scenario is that I used an automatic tool (the Flash "Trace Bitmap"
feature) as part of this drawing process. That said, the generated image
only made up a part of the final work and I feel that the alterations I
made to it were substantial enough for the final image to count as a new
work. What I am more interested in is the implications of using this
technique on a frequent basis.

My personal conclusion is that it is justifiable to use this method (using
someone elses' image as the basis for part of a larger vector drawing)
provided the end effect would be the same as if I had hand drawn my own
design based on something from their work. As someone else in this
discussion said, you can't copyright a circle ;) However, I would never use
this technique in a situation where the end result could compete with the
original copyright work or have an effect "upon the potential market for or
value of the work". This satisfies my desire for an ethical framework and
should hopefully provide legal protection under "fair use".

Thanks again for your help,


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