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    One Time, Artistic Use of Celebrity Images


    Hi there! I came across this thread reading about copyright law on various results I obtained via a Google Search. I noticed there is a lot of great advice (albeit not by attorneys, etc I understand) but I saw it is a great resource to help look into a matter further.

    My issue is that I make jewelry. I wanted to start a series of "wearable art" lockets where I feature (one time only) a slightly altered image of well-known celebrities on the inside of the locket.

    My question is if I would be violating copyright law if I pulled the images off of Google and printed them onto photo paper and then made my art necklaces and then SOLD them. Each one will be unique and I won't use a celebrity image twice, therefore won't have "mass produced" images and profit off of those images.

    My husband is a painter and his belief is basically that if it is considered "art" (fuzzy of course) then the issue isn't clear, but generally isn't seen as copyright violation.

    Of course, I am not the photographer or owner of these images either, so there is a question there.

    Thoughts? I appreciate it.
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    For a current fuzzy look at copyright law see: Associated Press vs Shepard Fairey.

    You would be violating the right to copy (and the right to display) of the photographer, not the celebrity.

    would be violating copyright law
    Yes. But your husband is generally right in that this is something you can probably get away with 99.5% of the time and you could possibly argue artistic reappropriation as Fairey will in his use of the Obama photo which he modeled the Hope poster after. Fairey has a pretty good case, but he also has access to a pretty good legal defense (for one thing, there will be fans with law degrees coming out of the woodwork on all sides offering their services for free ... a nice side effect to being a famous 'street artist').

    In many cases the photographer won't own the work either (see again: Associated Press is going after Fairey, not Manny Garcia, the photographer).

    Since you are making one of a kind items if you did get in legal trouble over it I would find it hard to come up with damages in excess of the amount you sold the item for. But I'm not a lawyer, and they're good at finding all sorts of damages where no damage occurs :-)

    You'd propel it further into the "fuzzy" area if your husband used the photos as a model and painted the celebrity (as did Fairey) then used his painting in your lockets.
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    Thanks so much for your reply! My husband also talked about the case you mentioned. Very interesting.

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