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Is creating a vector image from a photograph breaking any copyright law? I've created a new vector image from a low quality photo, which I downloaded from a Pinterest page. I would like to use the vector image in a logo. It contains stylised lines and is not a perfect match, but it's my interpretation of it.

Am I breaking any copyright laws?

This is the Vector (Top), and photo (below) enter image description here

I've tried to find out who owns the original photo, but this has been difficult to obtain.

  • Perhaps the question could be "When is using a photo to draw an illustration cross the line from 'reference' to 'infringement'?" (The answer may simply be "when you trace it") – DA01 Mar 16 '15 at 18:51
  • The vector I have created is not an exact copy, it is a likeness. Are these deemed the same? If I buy a scale model of the car, and take a side view of that, using nearly the exact same lines, then I would have no problem with copyright. There is also a painting of a car on a poster that was completed in 1934, is there a limit to how long a copyright can last for? I know the music industry is around 30 years. – Nippa Mar 16 '15 at 19:35
  • Also if I took a photo of this poster in a Gallery, would a vector based on this photo be deemed breach of copyright also? – Nippa Mar 16 '15 at 19:35
  • I see this even more of a photo copy than Mr Fairy's Hope poster. His art was highly stylized, your art while stylized is still clearly from the photograph. Changing the hood ornament and removing the wiper blades and part of the undercarriage isn't that much of a difference. – Scott Mar 16 '15 at 20:25
  • @Nippa, US Copyright law states that for any works after 1978, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 75 years. This is for the music industry, the art "industry", the writer "industry", and the motion picture industry. Patents are for 15 years, renewable once, IIRC. – Voxwoman Mar 16 '15 at 20:27
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We are not lawyers here, but it is a derivative work. Which is a copyright issue if you do not have permission.

All one needs do is review the Obama Hope poster and Shepherd Fairey's case. You might also want to review the penalties he suffered.


Nothing in this answer should be considered legal advice and no attorney-client relationship has been established.

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  • I think the penalties are so great because it was stupid enough to try and destroy the proof he did it and lied about it – DᴀʀᴛʜVᴀᴅᴇʀ Mar 16 '15 at 18:19
  • yes he tried covering it up... which shows malice and collusion so yeah... I think he got hit hard because rather than just admitting guilt first, he conspired to hide it. – Scott Mar 16 '15 at 18:20
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Yes, you will be infringing copyright unless you obtain permission from Delahaye, who created the design.

When you need to determine the provenance of an image, you can very often do it almost instantly by using the free Tineye image search service. That's how I found both the Pinterest image and the one other image online, using what you posted.

Tineye is a tool I highly recommend. It's enabled me to find and license specific images when a client has asked for one, or to persuade the client to use something else when it turned out that the one they wanted was rights-managed and would cost over $5,000 for the use they wanted.

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In my opinion, yes you are breaching the owners copyright protection because the image you have produced is instantly recognisable as a copy of the original. My rule of thumb regarding copyright is to always seek permission first and if you cannot do that, then you look for something else. There are thousands of royalty free clipart sites that would provide an alternative black and white vehicle image for you to use.

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  • Thanks for that, but I'm sorry I cannot agree with your. A car is an inanimate object, say like the Statue of Liberty. It has been designed by someone else, or a team of people. Yet the photographer does not need to seek permission to use that image any way he sees fit. it simply doesn't make sense. However I can fully understand if it's a portrait photo of somebody though, as thee photographer has a lot to do with the expression captured. – Nippa Mar 17 '15 at 12:56
  • Also the car in question, only 6 were ever built, they are extremely rare, and ridiculously expensive, so to have an opportunity to professionally take a photo of one is more than difficult. I think I will buy the 1:18 model car version, and photograph that any way I choose. – Nippa Mar 17 '15 at 12:56

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