Just curious, I am creating a cover for a song that I will be releasing soon on some streaming services and the cover I have designed is pretty simple, minimalistic, mostly original except for one part in the center which I cut out, resized, and put some effects on, from a copyrighted image. I wanted to see if I use this if I will be infringing upon the original creators rights to the work or if my alterations are enough to make it a creation of my own. Obviously, I do not want to infringe on the original creators life so if I would be at fault here I can be sure to create a piece of my own to take its spot. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

1 Answer 1


When you take someone else's work and modify it to create a new work, you are creating a derivative work of their work (the underlying work). Both the author of the underlying and the derivative work have rights on the derivative work, and to use (publish) that work you need permission from both.

Therefore, altering a photo made by someone else and publishing it without their permission is a copyright infringement - just as it would be to use the unmodified photo without the photographer's permission.

  • When push comes to shove, the question becomes one of whether the copyright owners care and whether they can convince the finder of fact that your work is, in fact, "derivative" and is based upon THEIR particular work. It's quite possible that two nearly identical photos have different origins and different copyright owners.
    – Upnorth
    Aug 21, 2017 at 2:42

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