More Copyright Issues

I used the silhouette of a horse from a photograph in a book in one of my paintings. I am awaiting a verdict on whether they will give me permission to use the silhouette. I say silhouette because I didn’t use the equipment that was on the horse, just its outline. And I didn’t paint the entire photo.

But I don’t want to have any problems with infringing on their copyright at any time in the future, so I need to clear up the issue right now.

More on Copyrights

In preparation for getting my art out on a national scale someday, I figured I’d better clear up any copyright issues with my paintings so that I won’t have to worry about anything coming back to haunt me. Yesterday I tracked down the copyright from a photo that I used for one of my paintings – my cow painting, entitled “Moo.” I used just a part of the photo, but I didn’t want to take any risks.

Copyright Denise Bellon West

It was a great piece of detective work. I discovered that it was from a 1997 issue of a magazine, so I contacted the magazine for permission (what would we do without Google?). Luckily, I still had the original photo, because I turned it over and saw a name from an article. The lady I spoke with searched their files for that person’s name and discovered the exact issue it appeared in. She pulled that actual magazine out and looked on the back of that page. Sure enough, there was my cow photo. Turns out, it was part of an ad for Michelin Tires! I contacted Michelin, and long story short, was given permission to use this piece of the photo.

Copyright Problem

Okay, enough with my paper ranting. I want to share an incident I had with copyrights that happened as I was finalizing my 2008 calendar.

I had cut out the front page of the Rocky Mountain News on December 25, 2001, because I loved the photo so much. It was a snowy scene of five horses, four riders, and a Christmas tree that the fifth horse was carrying home. I kept the page hanging in my studio for years before finally deciding that I wanted to paint it. Knowing about copyrights, I called the Rocky to get the photographer’s phone number so that I could call and get permission to paint his photo.

The man I spoke with at the Rocky never did give me the photographer’s phone number, but after he had checked with their lawyers he left me a phone message saying, “You can paint it (this photograph), you can sell it, and you don’t need our permission.” He might have also said something about it being in the public domain and yada yada.

Well, I still felt nervous about it. Even a Federal Judge friend was leery and asked if I had a recording of that phone message. Nope, not anymore…

To make a long story short, I finally completed the painting (I had changed many things, but you could still tell that it was from that photo) and wanted to put it in my “Artist of the Month” show this November. I needed a couple of images that looked good together to put in the newspaper ad. A winter painting of mine and this one looked beautiful together, so that’s what I submitted. I was delighted to see the ad when it came out. They had printed it in color, and it looked beautiful and very wintery and holiday-y, which is what I wanted.

Denise Bellon West, Canyon Courier Ad

Well, guess what. I finally learned where the photographer lived! He went to where the show was and put down his front page and said, “She painted my photo.” I called him and told him the whole story and gave him names, phone numbers, and dates. Meanwhile, I called the Rocky again and got the permission in writing – they said it’s their property, not the photographer’s. They gave me permission to sell the painting, since they had already done that, but said that if I wanted to sell the image in any other way I needed to buy the royalty rights. I’m still considering whether I want to spend the $150. That is why I couldn’t use the image in my calendar for this year. It would have made such a beautiful picture for December. Maybe next year…