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If I take a bunch of random/misc. images I have gathered from the internet over time (I don't even know their original source) and make a collage and print it, can I use it as marketing material in the form of a flier or post card? Am I free somehow of copyright considerations since now it is a "new" image in the form of a collage...?

  • In short: no you cannot use it. See the above for details. You can also search this site for "copyright" and see many other questions on the topic – Ryan Sep 18 '14 at 20:02
  • There's no such thing as "editing enough to make it okay." – Scott Sep 18 '14 at 20:08
  • can i simply acknowledge each of the sources on the document without asking each one for direct permission to use their images? – Naomi Sep 18 '14 at 20:40
  • Generally, no. You need to ask. The artist/photographer needs to give direct, written, permission. They may not want to support your use with their property. – Scott Sep 18 '14 at 20:55
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There is no such thing as...

  • "edit an image enough and it's okay."
  • "I don't know where I got it. So, it's okay."
  • "I don't know who created/posted it. So, it's okay."
  • "It didn't have a copyright symbol or line on it. So, it's okay."

These are all very common misconceptions.


It's always better to assume you do not have the right to use an image and seek direct, written permission from the creator for the use you wish. Realize some artists/designers/photographers may simply not want to support your venture.

If you wish to "edit so it's okay" then you need to edit to the extent that the original image(s) are completely unrecognizable. And, at that point, what's the purpose of using the imagery?

There are avenues to find images which are permitted for use.

There are questions here regarding it:

How do I know which images are copyrighted and not?

And there are even questions with some resources:

Where can I get images for commercial use?

In short, there are avenues for images which you can legally use. There's little point to infringing upon the intellectual property rights of others.

  • I would add: There is not such thing as "I have no idea where this came from... Oh so now I'm free to use it! – Rafael May 20 '15 at 20:50
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I do believe this would fall under what would be considered a "derivative work".

Though the new image consists of copyright protected material, this derivative work is an amalgamation of the originals, and so long as it does not (a) directly infringe on another artists creation and (b) any single image within the collage does not implicity compete with the original due to it's prominence within the collage, you should be safe.

However, I am not a lawyer so this is simply my interpretation of the law and how derivatives work.

A common example of a protected work that is a derivative:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/6/6e/Marcel_Duchamp_Mona_Lisa_LHOOQ.jpg/250px-Marcel_Duchamp_Mona_Lisa_LHOOQ.jpg

You can look into this term and find a whole host of information to assist you in making your final decision.

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    I'm not 100% sure, but I think with UK law, the intellectual property rights that would've protected the Mona Lisa expired a long time ago. According to UK copyright law "Copyright in a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work lasts for the life of the author and 70 years from the end of the year in which he/she died." Considering many legal systems across the world are derived from British law, I would assume there are similar rules in many regions. Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. – Dom Sep 18 '14 at 21:22
  • Title 17 of US Copyright code explicitly defines the same, so true, this is not the best example. However, the fact remains that if it is a derivative, and proving so may be the burden of the author, it is considered a new original work and therefor protected. – Phlume Sep 19 '14 at 12:24

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