0

I am a photoshop enthusiast, and I have a doubt regarding a specific scenario, however I am very agnostic to law, and there is a scenario where I can't find appropriate information by myself.

So the scenario is the following:

  1. I download an image publicly available on the internet. The image would be "media" addressed to the public, and copyrighted (that could include images from a model's photo book, or screenshots from a film, or similar, depicting people).
  2. I modify it. Including: filters, contrast, lighting etc, addition/subtraction of details or elements. NOT including: faceswaps, modifications that would shame or affect negatively the reputation of the actors on the image.
  3. I share it in a way that I don't make any economic profit out of it, and clearly stating that it is a modified image (not sure if inside the image, or in the caption under it) and state who is the legal owner of the original image.

Would my action be illegal?

Example:

  • I take a screenshot of Iron Man 2 film, turn the colors of the armor into green, and add a couple of mounted guns on the shoulder. Then I post it on reddit stating that it is a modified image, that I don't have any rights of it and that it belongs to Marvel Studios.
4

Generally, it's illegal. You are creating a derivative work and you are not allowed to do that without the permission of the copyright holder.

Some jurisdictions may have exceptions, such as fair use under US law. However, this generally protects uses that are intended to comment on or parody the work. It doesn't sound like that is the purpose of your image modification.

NOT including: faceswaps, modifications that would shame or affect negatively the reputation of the actors on the image.

That doesn't make it legal.

I share it in a way that I don't make any economic profit out of it, and clearly stating that it is a modified image (not sure if inside the image, or in the caption under it) and state who is the legal owner of the original image.

That doesn't make it legal, either.

2

That would usually be an infringement of copyright, by creating a derivative work without permission. The fact that the original image is "publicly available" and "addressed to the public" would not matter. Neither would the fact that you don't plan to make a profit.

However, some "publicly available" images have been released under a permissive license, such as a Creative Commons license. In that case, you may do whatever the license permits, because you have been given permission. If the license permits the creation of derivative works, you may do that, but not if it does not. If the license has a "share-alike" or "copy-left" provision (as some but not all do) you would have to distribute your derivative work under the same or a compatible license, if at all.

If you are in the US, the exception to copyright known as 'fair use' might apply. See This SE question and its answer for more detail. There is not enough detail in the question to offer even a guess as to whether this would qualify. The lack of commercial use would favor it, but the lack of any comment on the original image might weigh against it, although that is not required.

Relying on fair use is always a bit risky, because you can't know for sure if your use is a fair use until and unless you are sued for infringement, assert fair use, and have the court uphold you.

Note that although copyright infringement is illegal, it is usually treated as a civil wrong, not a crime. Unless the copyright owner chooses to sue, or perhaps issue a take-down notice or a copyright strike on your host, nothing is likely to be done. There is no telling whether the copyright holder would choose to sue. (Mass duplicators of pirated CDs/DVDs are more likely to be subject to criminal charges for copyright infringement.) Damages, if someone wins a suit for infringement, can be quite light or substantial.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.