Baltimore, MD asked in Copyright and Intellectual Property for Maryland

Q: If you combine different images you get from Google to make one art piece can you sell it ?

Ex: I’m trying to make a joker for a T-shirt to sell but instead of getting a picture of the joker from Google I just take a stencil of someone face and find the hair and mouth from different images and combine them then add extra things to the face such as tattoos . Is that now considered my art ?

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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A: Combining different images sourced from Google to create a new art piece for commercial purposes, such as selling on a T-shirt, involves important copyright considerations. Each image sourced from Google is likely protected by copyright, unless explicitly stated otherwise. This means that using these images without permission could infringe upon the copyright holder's rights.

Creating a derivative work, like your proposed Joker design, does not automatically make the new creation free from copyright issues. Even if you modify the images significantly, the original copyright holders may still have rights over the resulting work if it is based on their protected material.

One option is to use images that are explicitly labeled for reuse. Websites like Creative Commons or certain image repositories offer images with clear licenses allowing for commercial use and modification. However, it's crucial to adhere to the terms of these licenses.

For your specific Joker design, be aware that the Joker character itself is a copyrighted entity, owned by DC Comics. Creating and selling merchandise featuring the Joker, regardless of how the image is sourced or created, can lead to copyright infringement issues.

In summary, to safely use images for commercial art, you should either obtain permission from the copyright holders, use images that are licensed for free commercial use and modification, or create entirely original works. Consulting with an attorney experienced in intellectual property law can help navigate these issues and ensure that your artwork complies with copyright laws.

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