Today, I’d like to take a brief break from the usual topics to discuss a matter of great importance to artists submitting artwork to exhibits, contests, and showcases. What is it? Why it’s so important to submit only artwork based on artist’s photos.
I want to discuss this partly because of a decision relating to the online galleries hosted here. What’s the decision? Beginning January 1, 2024, I will be accepting only artwork based on artist’s photographs.
But I’m not the only publisher or art event organizer to do this. Many other organizers have also made this decision, and it’s important for artists to understand why.
So let’s talk about that.
Why I Accept Only Artwork Based on Artist’s Photos
There are a lot of factors to consider for any images presented in a publication of any type. Those factors go beyond simply having the photographer’s permission to use their photography for the creation of art.
There are also a lot of different ways to get into legal trouble, and some of those never appear on the artist’s radar. I know that because I had forgotten some of the following information until I started doing a little research.
So it’s time to share with you what I learned with the hope that we all benefit. Let’s start with getting permission.
Most of us know that whenever we want to use someone else’s photography, we should get permission from the photographer.
Did you also realize that you need the photographer’s permission for the artwork to be published and promoted in any form?
But that’s only the beginning.
If a person appears in the photograph, that person also needs to give permission. If the purpose is a portrait, that permission is usually easily given.
However, they also must grant permission to have their likeness published. The more well-known the person, the more important that is. That’s why some artists who specialize in fan art (artwork based on public personalities) sometimes get into trouble. They didn’t get permission either to create the artwork or publish it.
In fact, if you draw a movie character, you may run into difficulty with the movie company. Not even sports figures are a good idea. Teams and other related organizations may not be pleased with the publication of your artwork.
Animals as Well as People
Sometimes, pets also fall into that category. For example, artists cannot draw many famous race horses without permission. Obviously, the animal doesn’t care, but the owners and others connected to that animal may care. The fact is, they may care enough to enforce their wishes legally.
I have some pretty good photographs of the 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. I took the photographs myself while visiting the farm where Slew lived out his post-race days. When I was thinking about painting his portrait, I contacted the farm to see if they had a problem with creating any artwork. They didn’t, but I decided not to do that painting anyway.
This is one more reason why it’s safer from a legal standpoint to limit eligible artwork to artwork based on the artist’s own photography.
Locations and Trademarks, Too
Believe it or not, there are a lot of landmarks and trademarks that will get you into legal problems if you recreate them in artwork.
The Nike Swoosh ad the Coca-Cola logo are both easily recognizable symbols. Use them in artwork and you may be subject to legal problems.
Some well-known buildings may also be subject to limitations on how they can be used in artwork, even if you do use your own photographs.
Do I Ever Allow Exceptions?
Yes. Sometimes, artwork based on the photographs of family and friends is acceptable.
For special purposes, artwork based on photographs provided by clients is acceptable. These “special purposes” are usually reserved for tutorials.
When there are exceptions, they will be noted in the rules. That’s why it’s so important to review the rules thoroughly any time you want to submit artwork, whether it’s here or somewhere else.
The Bottom Line
There are other reasons why for my decision, but these reasons are the most basic and the most often overlooked.
Many times, we may create an artwork thinking that we’re honoring a person, place or thing, only to discover that someone viewed it as copyright infringement. In such cases, the artist is liable. So is anyone else who publishes or promotes that image in any way.
Friends, that means me, as well as you.
That’s the main reason why I’ve made the decision to accept only artwork based on the photography of the artist.
I hope this encourages you to start creating that kind of artwork. If not, and if you choose not to submit artwork, I will be sorry to have that happen.
But I hope that’s not what you decide to do.
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