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  1. #1
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    Copyright and skill concerns

    I've recently been offered a job where the client wanted, to use a photograph of a famous person for the cover of a book, but could not find the copyright holder of the image. He decided to commission me to do a painting for the cover instead. He likes the photo and it is very distinctive.

    There's two things I'm concerned about.
    One is the copyright issue. I'm sure that by using other photos as reference, I can come up with a new image, similar but different, from the image he wants, but I'm worried that what he wants will still infringe. I'm right in thinking that a painting of a photo is a copy or a derivative and thus, illegal and immoral right?

    The second issue is with likeness. I can get a likeness, (I believe) but I'm not sure of my ability to create a likeness without copying directly.

    Any thoughts on this? I'm considering declining to be on the safe side.
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  3. #2
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    Better safe than sorry. If you suspect the outcome will be overtly derivative, you might not want to be involved in such an exchange. Will this book be e-published or self-published?
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  4. #3
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    I've actually already declined that project. I could have probably convinced him to use a different concept and take the cover in a whole new direction, but a likeness would still be involved and I'm not sure I could deliver. He was fine with and gave me something else to do.
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  5. #4
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    Yeah, from the sound of it what he is asking would infringe. People are surprisingly ignorant on copyright issues at times. When you work with smaller clients you really need to know your stuff because it will fall to you to educate them. If they insist, you need to walk away, because it isn't worth your reputation, let alone possible legal expenses.

  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by NickTrip View Post
    I've recently been offered a job where the client wanted, to use a photograph of a famous person for the cover of a book, but could not find the copyright holder of the image. He decided to commission me to do a painting for the cover instead. He likes the photo and it is very distinctive.
    He didn't need an illustrator, he needed a photo researcher.

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  7. #6
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    I'm thinking he could have found the rights owner himself if he really tried (I found a couple decent leads), but I think he doesn't really want to pay for the rights. I get the impression that he knows the rules well enough and doesn't want to steal and is really hoping an artist could work some magic to make it happen at a low price.

    Maybe its possible to do this, but I don't have the skill necessary and I'd rather not get tangled up in something of questionable ethics.
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