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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre General Photography Talk 
Thread started 17 Feb 2010 (Wednesday) 22:04
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how derivative can you be?

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Joined Nov 2008
Feb 17, 2010 22:04 |  #1

So I am wondering about ... ethics isn't quite the right word... maybe I'll settle for how much you can get away with.

If someone sees an awesome, amazing photo that was very original and quite unique, and then executed that very same photo and managed to get something that was also a very wonderful image, is it okay to post it on a largely anonymous internet forum? What about publish it in a book?

Even though it was pretty much identical?

As an example, a reasonably popular deviantart pic called "Bear in a Cat" of a white cat's paw... If I took it with my own white kitten and posted it, would that be okay? What if I changed it up by using my jet black kitten instead? The end result is an almost identical image...?

A second example, another deviantart pic call "f f" of a woman holding a couple of fish so that their eyes are in place of her eyes. It is a cool, surreal idea. If someone were to do the same thing, use that idea with a different model, perhaps even different fish, would that be okay to post as a cool idea on a forum? What about publishing in a book? Displaying in a gallery? The end result is different because the model (and maybe the fish) are different.

I hope you get the idea about what I am asking from this... Where do you draw the line and why? What is legal? How much plagiarising is ok?

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Joined Jun 2009
Feb 17, 2010 22:27 |  #2

I go to MOMA, take photographs of photographs, and hang them in a guest bedroom. When people see my Arbus or Lange photos, they ask me if I took them.

And I can honestly say yes. Errr. . . . somewhat.

So I might not be the best person to ask.

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Feb 17, 2010 22:36 |  #3

John, thanks for the response. I seek as many different opinions as I can get to this one, and being as you're someone who's already done it, I think yours is a great place to start!

So.... you have taken pics of some of the greatest images created by the guys incredible enough to be hung at MOMA... And you've hung them in your living room. Would you post them here? Put your name on them and put them anywhere public?

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Feb 17, 2010 22:36 |  #4

Copying a particular style or technique can be considered an homage, a sign that you respect the original photographers work. But restaging the image is ethically suspect even if it doesnt rise to the level of copyright infringement. I'm not talking about swiping a pose from a photo you've seen in a wedding album, or even a famous photo as long as you arent copying all the elements. But trying to duplicate the exact elements of a photo could even be copyright infringement. Case law in mixed on this. More importantly why not just make your own creative images.?

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Feb 17, 2010 23:04 |  #5

I look to photos like that for inspiration, not duplication. I hope I can see an idea that strikes me and yet can put my own creative twist on it using a different setting or elements.

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Location: Gold Coast, Australia
Feb 18, 2010 04:06 |  #6

nuffi wrote in post #9630902 (external link)
How much plagiarising is ok?

Don't worry about it. Just go for it. Everybody does.

I also recommend print-screening and cropping out watermarks of things I think are REALLY good.


OK, seriously now; your examples are a bit extreme IMO. There's inspiration and then there's...well, copying someone's idea of the fish eye thing.

I personally don't see what you'd get from re-creating the scene and posting it somewhere...apart from proving that you could do it, in which case I think you'd be better off with quiet personal satisfaction rather than the potential embarrassment of being seen as a blatant, unimaginative copy cat.

If you can't help yourself, post your images with some words stating who your influences were and a link to their images/works in question.

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Cream of the Crop
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Feb 18, 2010 06:44 |  #7

Blatant copying is copyright infringment, however if you take an idea and add your own slant to it It becomes a work in its own right.

Take David Hockneys collages as an example -http://www.hockneypict​​php (external link). To produce a collage is not copying Hockney, but to go out and reproduce his would be copyright infringement, tacky and a waste of time IMHO.

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Feb 18, 2010 13:12 |  #8

put your own slant on a photo of a pitcher at point of release, the tetons at sunrise, a pro-stock drag car with it's front wheels airborn but not spinning, etc.etc.etc. Why is an art photo idea any different than a well known and often repeated theme in another category of photography? Those that copy are not as sucessful as the innovators in the long run, if you beleive in karma, truth, justice and the american way.

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how derivative can you be?
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