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

Liam Delahunty ldelahunty at britstream.com
Thu May 9 09:12:01 CDT 2002

Simon Willison wrote

How about if you were to scan a postcard of a Van Gough, take a small
section of it (a sunflower head for example), convert that to a vector in
Flash and then tweak it until you had your own generic sunflower image
which to the casual observer looked like a picture of a sunflower rather
than a heavily modified sunflower from a painting about Van Gough? This is
the type of use I am interested in (hence my original mail) - I am a poor
artist but a competent image manipulator and my interest lies in using
other's work as a source of raw material for the kind of alterations I
describe above.

Ultimately you are creating a new piece of work, but it so happens that the
work could not have existed without the previous artists original creation.

It seems to me that the obvious and decent thing to do is simply seek the
copyright holders permission. This rarely involves any money changing hands,
and usually the originator is flattered by the attention. Unless they're Van
Gough estate in which case I wouldn't bother with their images in the first

Obviously, how you seek the permission is up to you, I personally wouldn't
say "is it okay if I use your image...", as although you are likely to
receive positive responses you're also liable to get all sorts of caveats
that require you to include all sorts of credit that'll spoil your design.
Better, IMO, to simply email them and say I saw your image of X on Y and it
inspired me to create this on Z/mypage.htm. I've taken the liberty of
including you in this page of credits: Z/credits.htm.

Kind regards,

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