If you don’t make a copy, then copyright issues don’t come into play.
Making a model of a painting, photograph or drawing is a “derivative work.” If the painting, drawing or photograph is copyright, then normally a derivative work needs permission. There are exceptions. If someone takes a photograph of some common item, say, a shaker chair, and you use the photo for a reference to model a shaker chair, you probably don’t have a problem, since the shaker chair design is in public domain.
There is also the concept of “fair use.” You can use a limited part of a copyrighted work for purposes of reviewing the work (normally things like book reviews quoting passages from the work) or for educational purposes (a teacher can use a copyrighted illustration from a book full of illustrations as an example for the class.) In the CG world, you can use a drawing or photograph to model the subject of the drawing or photograph to train yourself in modeling techniques.
Where you would cross the line would be using someone else’s photograph as a game texture, where the game was published (whether for free or for profit) or using someone else’s drawing to make a character for an animation and distributing the animation (again it wouldn’t matter if you made money or not – you are making copies.) In these cases you’d need to secure rights to the photo or drawing. This is what keeps the sites that provide royalty free textures and stock photographs in buisness – they secure the rights up front, and offer the rights to you for a small fee.
It doesn’t have to be really formal. For example, a while ago someone published his drawings in the traditional forum. I liked one of his character studies, so I PM’d the artist and asked if I could use the drawing to model a character. He replied giving me permission. So I’ve modeled it, and if I ever need to use that character in an animation, I don’t have to worry about copyright infringement, because the copyright holder basically gave me a licence to make a derivative work, and I can use the derivative work however I want, since the derivative is my work, and my copyright.
Fair use is a term only for judges to use ;). You can’t go and say I “used it under fair use” but a judge can say it’s use was ‘fair use’ IIRC.
All material (Images, photos, literature and so on) are copyrighted upon creation, atleat in the majority of countries where copyright exists. Therefore, using it without permission is indeed copyright infringment,
In the eyes of law and a society of common sense, this is not a big issue in certain cases. For parodies to exist, a distinct relationship to an original must exist. Easily reproducable and natural occurances also are harder to maintain copyright of, so you can freely draw stick men, plants and animals and so on.
It’s also not just about the image created (i.e. a photo of a chair) but the scene as a whole. If you recreate a scene but using different objects you still pose a threat to copyright infringment.
When it comes to personal use. Copyright infringment is very small. You can use copyright material to create deravtive works, generally aslong as only 25% or so of the original exists. In education you are generally exempt from copyright for freedome of information etc… That is to say, teachers photocopying novels isn’t exactly for the students reading pleasure but for the educational purpose of the class which would be, for example understanding writing styles… Not to read an interesting book…
At most, you get asked to remove the infringing material. If you were profiting or otherwise slandering /effecting the profit of the original, then you could get sued.
Generally you would be okay if it was used as a reference, say to see how a perticular type of tree structure is. Copying it branch for branch, leaf for leaf will generally get you in trouble, especially if you pass it off as your own, is a commercial product which could therefore interefear with profits /devalue it or if it’s a photo your supposed to buy to use and you copy and pasted it from google images
Yes /No. Generally no. The scene would 1. be your interpretation of the scene. 2. If your not selling the image, and thus not profiting from someone else idea, then there isnt really an issue here. Again, if a scene matches up to perticular scene from a book and your claiming it as your own then you’d get in trouble.
The no-modification is an interesting claim, as even those who sale fonts say this, and i own many font that say they cant beb modified. That doesnt mean your not allowed to delete bits, add bits, and change bits. It generally mean you cant make your own font my modifying the original font.
Its not so much you cant use copyright material or infring upon someone copyrighted material (in non commercial senses)… Its all about a matter of common sense. generally, if you treat it as if you didnt copy, then theres usally an issue.
You are right, of course. But once a judge has said, “such and such is fair use,” it becomes case law and people can begin to rely on it.
The stick, in all copyright infringement, is being sued and loosing. Being asked to remove infringing material is done under threat of lawsuit. If you comply, the copyright owner has protected his rights, and you’re done. If you don’t comply, you can expect a letter from the copyright owner’s lawyer, and an expensive lawsuit on your hands.
To some extent, talking about copyright is like talking about speeding. Do people speed? Of course they do. Do they get caught? Only some of them. Can they use “everybody does it” as a defence? No.
So when someone asks “Is it ok?” there is a distinction between “Is this legal? Will I be vulnerable to a lawsuit?” and “Will I get caught? What is the likelihood of a lawsuit?” The answers to the first question is usually much more clear cut than the answers to the second. And, as Falk noted, this is a legal question and the exact answers depend on where you live.
In the United States, if a teacher routinely copies entire novels for class use and the publisher finds out about it, the publisher will threaten or initiate a lawsuit against her school district, the school district will probably settle out of court because there is no way they would win, and the teacher will be reprimanded and required to stop or loose her job. Excerpts of novels to understand writing styles, sure, entire novels, no.