Thursday, July 4, 2013

Copyright and trademark: A guide for artists

I'm been very conscious of legal issues in relation to art since the beginning. I had a high school teacher who told us that the safest thing we could do regarding reference materials for paintings was to stick to images we photographed, rather than using others' photographs.

I've followed that advice every since.

I once did a painting, also while in high school, that was based on a photograph I had taken of a bunch of vintage items stored in a cousin's barn. Among the items was an old Pepsi sign. I really liked the painting, but I always wondered if I should have included the Pepsi sign.

In recent years, I've read about controversies at large national and regional watercolor shows concerning entries that utilized stock photographs as sources. I've also read about the plagiarism controversy and lawsuit regarding the Associated Press and artist Shepard Fairey, who designed the famous HOPE poster from the 2008 presidential campaign, based on an AP photograph of Barack Obama. You can read about the settlement between Fairey and the AP here and about the related criminal proceeding against Fairey here.

So I took note when I read on artist Carrie Waller's blog that she recently had a painting rejected from a show because the show organizers were concerned that her inclusion of iconic canning jars infringed on the manufacturer's trademark rights. Read about her account of the painting's rejection on her blog:

"Anticipation" by Carrie Waller
Image used with the artist's permission.
In a follow-up to that post, Carrie made contact with another artist, Kim Minichiello (  and, who is familiar with such legal issues because of her experience with art licensing. Kim subsequently wrote two guest blog posts on Carrie's site that explain copyright and trademark issues as they pertain to artists.

I heartily suggest that all artists should educate themselves on these important issues, and the posts on Carrie Waller's blog by Kim Minichiello are a great place to start!

To learn more, click through the links below:

To learn about

To read about

I also encourage everyone to look at Carrie and Kim's respective websites. They are both fine watercolorists! I also thank Carrie and Kim for allowing me to share their information on my blog.

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