Graphic Design Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for Graphic Design professionals, students, and enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I can't quite figure this one out. I am not copying a custom piece of work, I am copying something that is available in nature, bones. I am also not tracing it, I am drawing by hand using them as a reference for accuracy. So, is that considered copyright infringement? Does it depend on how similar my drawings are to the ones I visually copied?

So if I look at a medical website or book and see a knee bone, then I draw one on paper or in a graphics editing tool by looking, with my eyes, at the referenced image, is that going to get me in trouble somehow?

I mean, surely I don't have to go find my own skeleton to draw from... right??

share|improve this question

This is dodging the intent of the question a bit, but you could use the original Gray's Anatomy illustrations sources at Bartleby and Wikimedia. They're from the 1918 edition and are generally regarded as being in the public domain (IANAL).

share|improve this answer
"generally regarded" sounds great... but for my purposes I'm going to need more certainty than that... for example, could I slice them up and use them in a web application, an app that is for sale, etc? – ioSamurai Oct 18 '12 at 19:44
Cool, on Wikimedia the images I am looking at say "This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. This applies worldwide."! – ioSamurai Oct 18 '12 at 19:56

Well, depending on the copyright license, medical drawings are treated equal to any other subject being drawn.

Here is a question about making drawings using photographs as a reference.

From a case ruling quoted on that site:

"To prove infringement, a plaintiff with a valid copyright must demonstrate that: (1) the defendant has actually copied the plaintiff's work; and (2) the copying is illegal because a substantial similarity exists between the defendant's work and the protectible elements of plaintiff's"

An interpretation of this could be: the pose, shading, angle, etc are "protectible elements", while human anatomy itself isn't. (But we're not lawyers!)

If your drawings aren't too blatantly copied you're probably safe under fair use.

share|improve this answer
Oof. I always hate it when people don't quote the gist of a link they provide, and now I did it myself. Thanks for having my back. :) – Maarten Oct 18 '12 at 19:38

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.