Sunday, June 22, 2008

Canvas on Demand and copyrightability

Patry's recent post on Meshwerks, which addressed the copyrightability of certain digital models of cars, came to mind when I came across an ad for Canvas on Demand, which takes photos and puts them on canvas, either in photorealistic fashion or with a brushstroke-like effect. The site explains:
PhotoRealistic™ Style
Our artists evaluate your image then balance and enhance the color, then adjust the sharpness and contrast levels accordingly. We repair minor imperfections and optimize for canvas. Choose this style when you want to maintain the integrity of the original, when the photo has a group of people and the faces will be small or for landscapes with fine detail that you wish to maintain.

BrushStrokes™ Style
We follow the same process as photorealistic, then, using a specialized tablet and stylus create brushstrokes by hand to give a beautiful painterly effect. Choose this when reproducing portrait style photo where the subject’s faces are prominent or anytime you wanted the look of a traditional oil painting.
(Side note: those are silly trademark claims for generic terms.)

There are interesting questions about whether Canvas on Demand produces copyrightable derivative works in either case. Both with photorealism and brushstroke effects, there are decisions to be made--the site positions them as artistic decisions--but there is also an attempt to achieve a certain result, and even if the process requires time and skill, that doesn't necessarily translate into copyrightability. I don't think the questions are very different as between photorealism and brushstrokes. There may be a greater concern with the photorealistic versions for interfering with others' ability to create their own photorealistic versions of the originals, but both are medium translations, and both processes might be used to create either copyrightable derivative works or uncopyrightable reproductions, depending on the specifics.

1 comment:

Theo said...

I think it can become a major problem if you start to play with some one else's work. I am sure if you ask different legal experts they will give you differing opionions but in the case of Canvas on Demand, I do not think they have much to worry about unless the originating artist or photographer complains. Personally I will delve into it carefully. For instance at FinerWorks they do the same thing as Canvas on Demand but if the staff there notices an image is not not being submitted by the artist or photographer for the puprose of adding the simulated painting effect, they will not reproduce it. Its more of a liability policy then anything but probably the wiser choice.