1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. WELCOME Grumblers
    Backup is now done at 3PM EDT. You may find the server down for up to two minutes at that time.

Something bugging me... copyright stuff

Discussion in 'Picture Framing Business Issues' started by Scout, Apr 21, 2017.

  1. Scout

    Scout Grumbler

    Hi guys!
    I've had something that's been bugging me since I started the shop a little over a year ago. Maybe you guys can help me out. I'm not really sure how to properly explain this one, but here goes:

    What are the rules about posting images of completed framed works of artists to websites/social media?

    Let's say for example, my client brings in a signed/numbered photograph print and has me frame the photo. Is it legal for me to take a picture of the completed piece and post it on my website? Post it to our Facebook page? Do I need permission from the client who owns the framed piece? Do I need permission from the artist who owns the art? Do I need permission from myself, since I took the photo?

    Here's another example: I am photographed with a couple pieces that I own, but did not photograph, by the local newspaper for an interest piece. I framed the prints and they are good examples of my work. Is it okay for these images to be published in the paper without artist/publisher's permission?

    I realize we're framers, not attorneys, and legal advice on internet forums is dubious, but I'm looking for some direction. Anybody have a reliable source for accurate info on this type of thing? Or maybe a previous thread discussion of this issue? I'm new to the game, so I'll admit, I don't fully understand copyright/publishing rights, open source, etc...

    An attorney friend of mine advised me to be very careful about which images I use online to promote my business. So, based on his advice, I have been careful not to post any photos of anything on my website that could be recognized, I didn't actually own, or wasn't my original work.
    Not really interested in licensing stock photos. I just want to show off more of my work.

    Many, many, many years ago, I was in a rock band and we were careful to record our songs (we thought they were pretty great, but in reality... meh. ;)) and send copies to the Library of Congress to protect our creative property, so I understand an artist's or publisher's desire to protect their property and maintain control of their property.

    I want to do the right thing, but my gut is telling me that I'm just borrowing trouble here and that what I'm describing isn't a big deal, but I want to be sure we steer clear of copyright/publishing infringement issues.

    Thanks Grumblers!

    shayla likes this.
    American Picture Frame Academy 1-888-840-9605

    The American Picture Framing Academy Learn Picture Framing Now
  2. ArtMechanics

    ArtMechanics True Grumbler

    I usually am careful with artists or galleries that come direct to me. Some artists only are allowed to be promoted by their galleries/reps. And some galleries don't want you to put out spoilers of what will be in an upcoming show. In that case I'll usually wait a month or two to post. This is mostly just courtesy though imo.

    Since you aren't charging for the photos and they are hopefully in good taste, its more like a portfolio. I think you can use what ever you want. If someone has a problem with it usually they will ask you to take it down before legal stuff happens.

    I think there's some catch on where the photo was taken that could get you off the hook no matter what though. If the photo was taken at your business for example.
  3. njw1224

    njw1224 CGF, Certified Grumble Framer

    I think you are safe if you are showing the work as PR for your framing abilities, meaning you aren't in any way trying to reproduce the original artists' work or copy and present it in a way that someone else could steal the image and reproduce the work. Essentially you're using it for promotion, just as an art gallery might have the local newspaper come over and photograph some pieces for an article about an upcoming show. Nobody would accuse the newspaper/gallery of trying to reproduce or steal the original artist's work. In my opinion, I would have no problem showing my work in this way until someone asked me to not show it. Then it's easy to pull from FB or a website. However, I would think twice about naming clients when you post the images. Some clients wouldn't want the general public knowing their business, what art they have, etc. Just post the images and describe the work you did - not who owns the piece, where it's located, value, or anything like that.
    Scout likes this.
  4. Joe B

    Joe B SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    I believe the law is that if you are not making a profit from the art/photo, meaning your are not reproducing the art/photo for resale without a license, and if you are just using it to show the quality and design of your framing you are legal and no copyright law was broken. There may be some legalities about photos or art drawings showing a specific person but I don't believe that would have anything to do with the copy right laws.:confused:

    Now, no matter what any of us say, unless we have an actual attorney in our group, I would say check with your local attorney because it seems as if everybody have an opinion, and they are all a little different. :eek: You can just about consider us jail house attorneys - we all know a little about the law but none of us know a lot or how it applies to our industry. An attorney is inexpensive when you compare their price to a law suit. just my $0.02 Joe
    Scout likes this.
  5. prospero

    prospero SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    A very good question.

    Most people would not give it a second thought, but if you are not mindful you can ruffle
    feathers and tread on toes. I've sometimes posted pictures of artist's work, mostly to show the
    frames, but always ask their permission. The photos are such that they could not be seroiusly
    'stolen'. Lo-res and from funny angles with reflections and wotnot. Sometimes I deface the image
    by writing "SAMPLE" across it.

    A mate of mine used to go visit a quite famous aviation artist (Frank Wootton). The car company Jaguar
    had used a portion of one of Frank's paintings in one of their advertising brochures. (Jaguar fighter plane).
    My mate asked him what he was going to do about it. He (Frank) said he would send them a invoice for £2000.
    He mentioned that they would pay without argument. Wasn't the first time apparently......

    Mainly it's common sense. If it's not yours, treat it with respect. Even if using an image is sort-of legal it
    doesn't mean you have carte-blanche.
    FM Framer likes this.
  6. Andrew Lenz Jr.

    Andrew Lenz Jr. MGF, Master Grumble Framer

    Not true. Profit has very little to do with it. If you make copies of artwork or music and give them away for free (no profit), the copyright owner can come after you for damages. However, it may fall under the "fair use" part of copyright law, but maybe not. Being that you/we are commercial (not non-profit/educational) and the use is for commercial benefit (boost sales), it can get complicated:

    At the very least, I'd get verbal permission from the customer to reproduce a framed piece and, ideally, written permission. If you want, you could integrate a release into your standard order form that they sign, though a customer wouldn't expect that and you might upset them later. If the art is recognizable, then the most important thing is to get a release from the artist/copyright holder . . . the copyright holder is the one with all the legal power and can sue you for loss of revenue and, if it's registered, legal fees and minimum damages.

    HOWEVER, then there's the "real world" factor. How likely is it that the artist is going to come after a small business for showing a 480 pixel image of their artwork? It's one thing if your print shows up in the background of a $200 million dollar blockbuster movie . . . those are some deep pockets. 1% is $2,000,000. Us? Not so much. But most businesses do have some liability insurance that may cover getting sued for copyright infringement which might make you a juicier target. You can check with your insurance agent about coverage.

  7. BUDDY

    BUDDY PFG, Picture Framing God

    Andrew it is very seldom that offer a professional framing opinion and I am sure all you have said is correct . However way back when I did farm and was a PPFA president I brought in a copyright lawyer to help .

    But for now this link may help.

  8. Andrew Lenz Jr.

    Andrew Lenz Jr. MGF, Master Grumble Framer

    Thanks, Buddy, and you are right, none of that on the provided link conflicts with what I said.

    For a frame shop, it boils down to risk management. What are you willing to risk? The risk is extremely low, but it exists.

    The safe way is to get explicit written permission from the copyright holder. Anything else will have a certain amount of risk. That risk is borne either you or your insurance company—if it's covered in your liability policy.

    In another life, I moderate an online forum where copyright comes up almost constantly. I also had my online intellectual property stolen and published without my permission . . . I spent quite a bit of time familiarizing myself with copyright law as I explored suing the culprit—that included talking to attorneys, unfortunately.

  9. Joe B

    Joe B SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Andrew, I wasn't speaking about reproducing the art.

    The question from Scout was: "What are the rules about posting images of completed framed works of artists to websites/social media?
    Let's say for example, my client brings in a signed/numbered photograph print and has me frame the photo. Is it legal for me to take a picture of the completed piece and post it on my website? Post it to our Facebook page? Do I need permission from the client who owns the framed piece? Do I need permission from the artist who owns the art? Do I need permission from myself, since I took the photo?"

    In this case you are not reproducing the art/photo, you are taking a photo of the finished framing so that you can display it on your website. That art was just part of your framing, you are not trying to make a profit from the art, you are posting a picture to show your frame quality. If you were reproducing the art to sell then you could be breaking the copyright laws. It appears, by your link to the copyright, that it is only against copyright laws if you use the art to make a profit from the art itself. In what Scout is asking, he is not asking to make a profit from the art, he is wondering if it is legal to post a picture of his finished framing product to his personal website or facebook. If it is illegal to do that, then there is hardly a framer in the world that isn't breaking copyright law. To carry it even further, there is hardly a business in the world that post pictures on their website, no mater what the business is, that isn't breaking the copyright law.

    Again, I must say please, please speak to a attorney to be absolutely sure that what you are doing complies with the copyright law, that is the only way you will get a for sure answer.

    just my $0.02 Joe
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2017
    Scout likes this.
  10. BUDDY

    BUDDY PFG, Picture Framing God

    Joe from the little bit I remember ( been a long long time and am no younger) you should get a liscene to use any copyrighted material even in just a add or display , even for educational purposes ( most frequently allowed if explained ) but the holder can ask for and be awarded a liscene fee ( royalty )

    My memory was the attorney suggesting if you felt safe roll the dice . The big problem
    Is if you are challenged the legal penalties are shocking . But there is the chance you either won't be discovered or sued.

    But some copyright holders aren't only concerned with just you but multiple infringers . I think there are some such examples like Patty Bannister . It was a cumulative problem but when shehadrnough she searched out each and every abuser a filed group cease and desist orders ( good result ) and demanded fees from everyone who profited by using her work even if just to sell frames .

    I think the court ruling said it denied her sales or cheapened the value by making the work easier to be obtained ?????

    You could even be denied the right to give the copies away for no additional cost.
  11. Joe B

    Joe B SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Buddy, thank you, I have never known this. It is so hard to believe that anyone that displays their finished framing with someone elses art on their web site could be subject to possible litigation. Thanks for the info - Joe
  12. David Waldmann

    David Waldmann SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Some things make sense, some do not.
    Some things are logical, some are not.
    Some things are fair, some are not.
    Copyright probably fits at least one of those.
    Scout likes this.
  13. Framar

    Framar SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Speaking of copyright - there is a fascinating take on the subject in a short story by Spider Robinson called "Melancholy Elephants" in one of his collections of short stories (also called Melancholy Elephants).
  14. Scout

    Scout Grumbler

    Thanks for the discussion and relevant information.

    I think Joe B has captured the essence of my concern and the gist of my question.
    If my understanding of Buddy's link and cursory examination is correct, then ANY reproduction of copyrighted work for any use other than personal use is forbidden without permission.
    Since Facebook posts and business websites could be considered advertising, I think it would be safe to assume that use would not fall under personal use. Like Joe said above, that means there's a good chance there is a tremendous amount of stuff on the net that would be a violation.
    Which brings us to the real world...

    Is it realistic or even possible to obtain a release/license/permission for completed framing pieces that I want to show off?

    It's kind of hard to show off cool framing design without showing off the art that the framing is designed for... :confused: Which is the issue that's been bugging me.

    I will probably meet with my attorney next week regarding some other issues... I will probably run this one by him as well, but I don't think he's a copyright law specialist, so his advice would probably be to find a copyright lawyer, but he may have an opinion.

    The other attorney who gave me the original advice is not a copyright attorney either, but he mentioned a couple instances where some pretty minor (in my opinion) instances resulted in enormous penalties.

    Thanks again for the discussion and info!

  15. Andrew Lenz Jr.

    Andrew Lenz Jr. MGF, Master Grumble Framer

    No offense, but yes, legally-speaking you were. Just not in the fashion you are thinking. Taking a photo of a piece of artwork and putting it online is reproducing the art. Maybe not a good reproduction but a reproduction. It's a technically a violation of copyright.

    Talk to a knowledgable lawyer, but it'll just verify what I and Buddy have already written above.

  16. BUDDY

    BUDDY PFG, Picture Framing God

    Scott I may be wrong but I tried to say there are chances the holder will never see your image nor will anyone they know who might tell them . But they have a right to demand licensing . But at any time they do discover it they can send you a cease and desist order . My question is once it is posted on line how do you remove any sightings ?

    So why not just send a formal request ?

    BTW try reading about Court rulings of infringements. Most end with a Cease and Desist order . Most?

    But this link may deal closer to your legal question:


    But pay close attention to the last caviat about who has final say about who has what rights. A simple request before the fact might just save a lot of headaches.
  17. David Waldmann

    David Waldmann SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Isn't this a bit like speeding?

    You can get ticketed for going 1 MPH over, because it's against the law.

    The faster and more frequently you speed, the higher your chances are of getting ticketed. There's also the possibility that if you're not going tooo much over and you don't have a record of speeding that you will just get a warning. OTOH, if you are going waaay over you run the risk of immediate loss of license and jail time.

    The bottom line is that exceeding the speed limit IS against the law, and every time you do so you run the risk of getting caught.
    FramerCat likes this.
  18. Scout

    Scout Grumbler

    More good info and suggestions. Thanks guys!
  19. Joe B

    Joe B SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Yes, I spoke to an attorney today, though he isn't a copyright attorney, he had to study some copyright law to become an attorney.

    Everything that Andrew said is spot on, if its is identified with a copyright symbol and you display it with a photo inside a frame you are infringing on someone's ownership thereby could be charged for breaking the copyright law. Does it have to actually have the copyright symbol...good question and can only be answered by the judge for sure. Will you be charged, more than likely not because it would be of such minimal value and really hard to figure out the lose to the artist who produced and copyrighted the art. Generally the artist would be overjoyed to get the free advertisement but there could be a chance that they are not and though unlikely, you could find yourself in court.

    He also said that there are may different avenues to copyright law and it is very hard to understand to total law unless studied it fully. I was told that if you get a letter to cease and desist, stop displaying immediately and take the photo down from whatever venue it is being displayed on.

    Good call Andrew
  20. Andrew Lenz Jr.

    Andrew Lenz Jr. MGF, Master Grumble Framer

    Thanks for the update. I suspect your lawyer may be a bit older. The "it requires the copyright symbol" is not a requirement to have copyright protection, it's automatic these days. (Also, while it may vary from state to state, rights to reproducing an artwork may stay with the artist even after the original has been sold to someone else who wants to reproduce it. California is very protective of artists with additional laws on their behalf.)

    Imagine you take a photo. You have a local art show and display your photo and the staff photographer for TIME magazine takes a photo of your photo and it ends up on the cover. Do you have no rights because there was no © symbol? No, you can absolutely sue on valid grounds!

    The copyright symbol means very little. Registration is what makes the difference.

    If the work is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office:
    Not registered, then one is limited to actual loss of revenue. It could be minimal.
    Registered, then watch out, minimums apply and THOUSANDS of dollars can be awarded in damages even if no significant revenue loss is proven.

    Again, I had to dig deep into this and investigated federal statues. Attorneys have specialties, and copyright is quirky enough to require a specialist lawyer.

    In my instance, my property was not registered at that point and was therefore I was very limited in terms of recoverable damages due to copyright violation. Such cases also have to be heard in federal court (generally not local) not your typical county courthouse, which can mean a trip. In my case, it would have meant a 45 minute drive one way—in good traffic, instead of 5 minutes to my local courthouse.

    So, it's back to risk management. What's it worth? The risk is very low, but the cost can be very high. If you want to cover yourself, just contact the artist and be safe.

  21. Daniel Smith

    Daniel Smith Grumbler

    Why not put a small clause in your work order form granting permission to photograph the completed framing job to be used for display as sample work of your business? You could have it there with a check off box and ask the customer when you take the order? Many would be happy to let you do so. Some won't. I am very careful with my work and put NO SOCIAL MEDIA USE on everything I put out. Facebook and the other thieves are not people I want to encourage, especially with them stripping all metadata(which includes copyright notice) from any digital submissions or posts they get. Google strips it as well and this is a bone of contention which may come to haunt them before long. Removing Copyright notice from artwork takes away some 'innocent infringer' protections that one may use if it goes to Federal Court - and copyright in the US is Federal Court.

    As for newspaper and news stories about your shop. "Fair Use" will most likely protect you there. If you do get a news story done about your framing be sure to mention the Artist whose work you framed and if possible send them a copy of the story.
  22. tedh

    tedh PFG, Picture Framing God

    If I were an artist getting something framed and saw my work being displayed on the Internet without my previous authorization, I would never use that framer again.
  23. Daniel Smith

    Daniel Smith Grumbler

    Putting the clause for use in the work order and calling it to the clients attention and getting them to check/initial it will take care of most problems. May still have someone who objects after they see an image posted. You can always take it down while reminding them they gave permission - but you are doing so to ease their concerns.
    David Waldmann likes this.
American Picture Frame Academy 1-888-840-9605

The American Picture Framing Academy Learn Picture Framing Now

Share This Page

Sponsor Wanted