Derivative works

Subject: Derivative works
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Sun, 29 Sep 1996 13:56:49 -0500

When I mentioned that you can download a graphic, revise
it, and claim it as your own, several folks noted that
there are laws that prohibit creating "derivative works".
The most common example given is the guy who did just that
with a photograph of an Indian (in the Corel photo

A clarification: The fellow in question did not, as I
indicated in my message, provide significant intellectual
input in his redrawing. In fact, from seeing both the photo
and the drawing when they appeared together in print (in a
_Publish_ article discussing the case more than a year
ago), it was obvious that he simply "photocopied it", or
used his software to "autotrace" it. I explicitly noted
that this practice is illegal. Though if I take a photo of
some monument, standing precisely in the same position you
did when you took your photo, the second photo is still an
original work and copyrighted in my name. Yes, it may be
derivative, but too bad.

The key to the whole issue is how much revision you've
done, and whether that revision in fact creates something
new rather than just a derivative of the old. The problem?
Whoever has the better lawyer usually wins these arguments.
In a copyright course I took with the federal government,
we were shown a drawing from an advertising campaign that,
to our untutored eyes, was obvious plagiarism... yet the
courts disagreed. As others have noted, it's safer to ask
for permission or draw your own.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.

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