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Lesson Plans

Re: About copy right?

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Dennis E. Fehr (dfehr)
Thu, 03 Dec 1998 10:40:06 -0600


The development of the internet has made copyright an interesting topic for
art educators. Although your question may not involve the internet, the
issues are the same. In U. S. copyright law as I understand it, four
questions are salient:

1. What is the nature of the item you wish to use?
In our field that's usually an easy call--it's an artwork. But the
application of the other three issues to artwork is slightly problematic.

2. For what purpose do you wish to use the piece?
We're usually safe here--the purpose is to educate. There is ample judicial
and legislative support for education as an appropriate use of copyrighted

3. Does the bearer of the copyright stand to lose income from your use of
the piece?
Again in most cases involving art education, the answer is no; in fact, the
copyright bearer may stand to gain from the publicity.

4. What portion of the piece do you wish to use?
This is the tricky one for us. We almost always wish to use the entire
piece. The premise of this question emerges from written work. Users of
copyrighted written material have been found liable for copyright violation
for quoting unduly large portions from others' books, articles, etc. As of
now, I know of no court case in which someone was charged on 'portion'
grounds for using an entire artwork, nor do I know of any 'portion'
legislation that has been passed regarding visual art.

A fair amount of judicial precedent, however, makes clear that cases are
considered on the basis of all four points, rather than on just some. If
you're solid on the first three points, and given the lack of precedent on
'portion' regarding visual art objects, you're likely on safe ground.

However, if you with to obtain permission, you must find out who holds the
copyright for each piece you wish to use (not always easy), then send them
a letter a) stating your purpose for using the piece, b) asking them for
permission, and c) giving them a space on the letter for their signature.

To use art images that are under foreign copyright, you can become familiar
with the laws of the nations involved to decide if your use is legal, or
simply hope their laws are similar to ours, or ask the copyright bearers
for permission, or hope they won't find out about your use of the work.

I'm not qualified to offer legal advice, but I hope this helps clarify the
matter for you.

Best wishes.

Dennis Fehr

>I want to publish an art education related paper in a non-profit journal
>(absolutely non-for-sale). Because I have to use some artworks for
>illustration. I wonder if I need to send letters to those who collect
>them for their consent, or simply credit them in my paper. If the art
>collectors are from,like Spain, France, China...etc., how can I do?