Frederick, MD asked in Copyright and Intellectual Property for Maryland

Q: How can I be sure I am staying within acceptable art/photo reference usage for by art business?

I am concerned about copyright infringement when drawing from a reference. I am an artist beginning a small business. I almost always use some form of reference when I draw. I pull from different sources to compile an original picture (ex: finding several pictures of the same flower from different angles). From my research, I believe this form of using references is well within the law. However, I have recently been drawing animals and began questioning the legality of my use of reference for animal poses. I am not copying lighting or composition, merely poses. More specifically, I drew an animal from a reference photo of a common pose but at a unique angle. This is the only photo I have seen at this angle, and I am worried that my original drawing may be too similar. Additionally, I have been drawing poses of a different animal from a video of that animal in motion. How can I be sure I am staying within acceptable reference usage?

Thank you for your time.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›

A: To ensure you stay within acceptable reference usage for your art business, focus on creating substantial transformations in your work. When using reference photos, particularly for poses, make sure that your final piece has clear, original elements and doesn’t replicate the source too closely. By combining multiple references and adding your unique style, you can create something distinctly your own.

When drawing animals from unique angles, consider altering the perspective slightly or incorporating different characteristics to make it less recognizable as a specific photo. This will help differentiate your work from the reference and reduce the risk of infringement. Drawing from videos can be particularly helpful, as it allows you to capture movement and unique moments that are less likely to be replicated by others.

It's also wise to keep detailed records of your reference sources and the changes you make. This documentation can be useful if your work is ever questioned. By consistently applying these practices, you can confidently create original art while respecting copyright laws.

Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.

The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.

Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.