I know that I can't just take someone's photo from google images and use it on my site without looking into the licensing, but could I take a photo of let's say a generic wood desk or pen and trace it for use in my illustration without worrying about getting sued?

Is it unethical or bad practice to do so?

  • You won't find legal advice on SE, but law.SE is a good place to ask. Potential for moving to the sister site?
    – Tyzoid
    Aug 22, 2017 at 19:31
  • Additionally, you don't say what jurisdiction you are under. Are you in the US? EU? Somewhere else?
    – Tyzoid
    Aug 22, 2017 at 19:32

1 Answer 1


This being a legal question, it will vary from country to country. I've always been told that tracing an image will result in a so-called derivative work, which owes copyright to the original image's author.

This being a legal question also requires the disclaimer that I am not a lawyer, that my answer holds no legal value, and that I don't accept any legal responsibility for it. If you want to be sure, contact a copyright lawyer

  • 3
    There are quite famous cases where this has resulted in legal problems. Like the Obama hope poster.
    – joojaa
    Aug 22, 2017 at 18:56

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