Much of Wendy's art has a musical theme. Up until recently, her gallery featured a bunch of watercolor and pastel portraits of famous musicians. She's since taken those off the selling block. In Wendy's own words:
I finally got a little legal advice today (very concrete) about the workings of copyright, personality rights infringement and the use of celebrities likenesses in art not commissioned by the celebrities themselves. You can DO it. But you can't do it and sell them without permission. I have removed all art depicting celebrities from my studio.
I had known that if you took a photo of someone, you needed permission to sell that photo—a model release. Which makes perfect sense. A photograph is an exact visual representation. Selling it without the permission of everyone in it would be a violation of privacy.
But a painting?
The way I see it, when somebody draws or paints you, whatever ends up on canvas isn't you anymore. It's an image of you filtered through the artist's interpretation. The artist owns that, just as much as she owns her thoughts and feelings and beliefs.
Of course, I'm coming at this from the perspective of someone who isn't famous. I suppose if Cinder Bridge hits the big time, I might theoretically become irked that someone's making money off my likeness. I'm the one who spent all that sweat equity building my personal brand, right? If an artist profits from the celebrity I've worked so hard to earn, I want a cut!
Theoretically. In reality, I don't think any of that would occur to me. It would be a nice ego stroke, knowing people wanted paintings of me on their walls. Or, if I reached the point where I became too jaded to care, I'd probably be making so much of my own money as a famous person that I wouldn't need the extra cash.
At any rate, I'm kind of fascinated by the implications of such rules, and how they apply.
- Does every portrait need to have a model release before it's sold, or only portraits of famous people?
- If the latter, how famous do you have to be before you're entitled to copyright your face?
- Comedians aren't sued for doing impersonations. Why is that different?
- What if I write a song about a celebrity? Do I need his permission?
I don't know, maybe I'm missing something. Is it just me? Or does this little piece of copyright law strike anybody else as odd?
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Note: Tom Petty's Halloween by Wendy Adams is used here with her permission. She tells me that it's legal for me to post the image as long as there's no money involved.