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Re: JAMES GURNEY



As Brian Franczak has pointed out, there is a question of ethics when it
comes to basing your work on another artist's copyrighted work, and, of
course, the question of copyright law violation.

The sculptors among us are no doubt aware that there are people out there
who make a profit by molding and casting up exact replicas of an artist's
sculpture, in clear violation of copyright law (and ethics).  This practice
has been observed in the resin "garage kit" market, particularly when a
sculpture is produced by an artist as a limited edition, and is thus a
rarer, more expensive, and more sought after commodity.  On the other hand,
many small time garage kit artists produce resin sculptures based on
well-known film characters without paying for the proper permission.  This,
again, is a clear violation of a copyright, assuming the image has not yet
passed into the public domain, as such works do with the passage of time. 
Either of these aforementioned copyright violators could be prosecuted
under U.S. laws.  At the very least, these copyright thieves would be
required to cease and desist their illicit operations.

Gurney's works are more in the "gray area" of law and ethics.  James Gurney
is demonstrably a talented painter of great imagination who has produced
many colorful works.  On the other hand, the hallmark of a prolific and
profitable artist of his ilk is his economy of effort, and this is where he
clearly parts company with the likes of Mark Hallett, who takes
considerable pains in his research, and creates works that are much more
"original" in nature.  But, as others have pointed out, the skeletal basis
for the prehistoric animals depicted by various artists is essentially the
same, so a certain amount of common ground is inevitable.

The phrase I have encountered in this regard is "substantially similar." 
An artist may not legally produce a work and claim it as his/her own,
worthy of copyright protection, if it borrows from the original work of
another artist to the point of being "substantially similar" to the other
artist's original piece.  In this regard, Gregory S. Paul has written to me
that he doesn't want anyone basing a work on his drawings if the pose of
the new work is identical to the pose he has illustrated.  On the other
hand, artists may use the proportions and shapes on view in his skeletal
restorations, even though they are the result of Paul's research and
artistic effort, because that, in part, is what they are for.

What exactly is meant by "substantially similar," and how strictly is this
enforced?  Could or should James Gurney be brought up on charges for
appropriating the image of Mike Trcic'c _Daspletosaurus_?  Beats me.  It
would seem to be one of the more mysterious aspects of modern law, prone to
subjective interpretation.  And copyright law has done little to address
the area of multimedia, internet, and world wide web communications, so
this area is very murky, indeed, and caution is advised.

Ralph Miller <gbabcock@best.com>