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Public Domain Cases

The Public-Domain is a great resource for content creation but artists need to be careful that images are actually in the public domain. If you get an image from a reputable source such as the New York Public Library or the Public-Domain or the prelinger archive, you can be reasonably assured that the content is really in the public domain. Domain. But if you use less reputable sources such as a search engine, you may find things that people have uploaded and claim to be in the public domain, but that are not really.

An example of this is when an actor from the sitcom the office had their face added to a public domain repository and it was incorrectly tagged as public domain. Then many advertising agencies started to use their image without permission on products.

Fair Use

Fair-Use is a special part of the United States Copyright Act that allows the use of copyrighted works under certain circumstances.

Documentary Filmmakers Statement of Best Practices in Fair Useexternal link

CAA Fair Useexternal link

CAA Interview with Suzanne Preston Blier on Fair Useexternal link - Used images of Picasso’s Demoiselles in a book and relied on fair use rather than image rights permissions.

Frye, Brian L., Image Reproduction Rights in a Nutshell for Art Historians (December 27, 2020). IDEA: The IP Law Review, Vol. 62, No. 175, 2022, Available at SSRN: Abstractexternal link or Paperexternal link - Basically says to stop asking for permission when it is not needed such as public domain artworks or when working on scholarship.

Picasso images French vs US Court rulingsexternal link French courts found that the use of the photographs of Picasso’s work was infringing but US courts said that it was fair use. link

Photos of Artwork Cases

Plagiarism Examples

Plagiarism is not just something that you learn not to do in school, it really happens and can ruin your career and reputation. Below are examples of plagiarism in the professional world with real consequences.

NYTimes: Trump National Security Team Gets a Slow Startexternal link


Getty sues Stability AI for copying 12M photos and imitating famous watermark | Ars Technicaexternal link

Jury finds Ed Sheeran did not infringe on the copyright of ‘Let’s Get It On’ - CNNexternal link

A U.S. Judge Permanently Banned Digital Artist Mason Rothschild From Selling His ‘MetaBirkin’ NFTs, Handing a Win to Hermèsexternal link

Maurizio Cattelan’s banana art not copyright infringement, judge rules - The Washington Postexternal link

Meow Wolf Wins a Partial Victory in a Copyright Lawsuit Brought by an Artist Who Made Work for Its Santa Fe Flagshipexternal link

A Florida Man Is Threatening to Sue an Artist Whose Invisible Sculpture Sold for $18,000, Saying He Came Up With the Idea Firstexternal link

Romanian politician gears up to sue Brancusi’s heir over longstanding copyright battle | The Art Newspaperexternal link

Tintin heirs lose legal battle over artist’s Edward Hopper mashups | Comics and graphic novels | The Guardian link

Nirvana Face Copyright Suit Over Use of Dante’s ‘Inferno’ Illustration – Rolling Stone link

Twisted Sister awarded $1.2m from Clive Palmer over copyright claim - BBC News link

Museum Wins Case Against Photographer Who Claims It Stole His Photo | PetaPixel link

US court sides with photographer in fight over Warhol art link

Kat Von D Sued Over Tattoo Of Miles Davis link

Miffy with a beak, Eric Cartman from South Park in Balenciaga – artists deny plagiarism and say they have appropriated cartoon characters | South China Morning Post

“Miffy with a beak, Eric Cartman from South Park in Balenciaga – artists deny plagiarism and say they have appropriated cartoon characters | South China Morning Post” link

Gun-Toting Couple Billed by Photog for Using Viral Photo on Greeting Cards link

Satirist Tom Lehrer has put his songs into the public domain - Marketplace link

Disney’s Pixar sued by artist over alleged stolen art in ‘Onward’ movie - Business Insider link

KLF assert justified and ancient copyright claim to block documentary | The KLF | The Guardian link

Obsessed With the ‘Bad Art Friend’ Case? We Are, Too. Here’s How a Recent Art Copyright Decision Could Shape the Outcome link

The Complicated Story Behind Jasper Johns’s Dispute With a Cameroonian Teen Over a Drawing of a Knee (It Has a Happy Ending) | Artnet News link

Solo Cup Company Got Artist’s Instagram Nuked for Using Famous Jazz Pattern - VICE link

“CodeAndTheory(Official) @GeorgeGallegos Jaws, Bruce from Finding Nemo, Don Lino from Shark Tale, Sharpedo the Pokemon, Sharknado, Jabberjaw” link link link link link link link link link link link

Jeff Koons Is Found Guilty of Copying. Again.external link link link

Lizzo Sued Back by Songwriters Over ‘Truth Hurts’ external link

‘This Land Is Your Land’ Is Still Private Property, Court Rulesexternal link