I reopened my Etsy store, previously used when I used to get my designs printed onto t-shirts, but now used to sell my paintings!
As I mentioned last night, I'd spent ages photographing and uploading my art to Artgallery.co.uk , well I had an e-mail..and then a phone call.. my work was rejected from the site due to copyright issues.
As my day job is a library assistant, I'm aware of copyright, just as I learned about copyright when I did my music degree, so I'm always careful about where I get my reference photographs. I tend to use either my own photographs or get images from sites like Unsplash, where photographers upload images for people to use for whatever they like, royalty free:
"Unsplash grants you an irrevocable, nonexclusive, worldwide copyright license to download, copy, modify, distribute, perform, and use photos from Unsplash for free, including for commercial purposes, without permission from or attributing the photographer or Unsplash. This license does not include the right to compile photos from Unsplash to replicate a similar or competing service."
You don't even have to credit the photographer, but I always do, as I think it's important to give credit where credit is due. I also contacted the National Portrait Gallery when I used their photo of Laura Knight as a reference, and in that painting I added so many things (colour, an arm..) so it wasn't a direct imitation.
I think my willingness to credit the photographer was my downfall, as the guy said on the phone, so many people pass the reference images off as their own. To be fair the man was quite apologetic. The issue was that you have to send, with the sold painting, a "certificate of authenticity" saying you own the copyright, which he argued I didn't. My argument would be I do own the copyright to the painting (you can hardly confuse it with a photo, it's not that good) and I referred to the Unsplash Terms, but it wasn't to be.
This is the problem with being a portrait artist. Short of keep painting my children, the only people I can get to agree to being painted, I haven't got people lining up to be painted. I can't afford to pay a sitter so I really have to rely on the generosity of photographers like those on Unsplash to find my references. My photography isn't all that great either! Looks like I'll just have to go out with my camera more, but then taking pictures of strangers??? I don't want to head into landscape art, maybe flowers and animals...
To cut a long story short (too late) I asked for a refund, and toddled over to Etsy, where a certificate of authenticity is not needed! On the plus side, Etsy don't ask for the 35% commission either (there are some fees), so I was able to drop my prices! I may also be able to add some craft type things on there too, which I wouldn't be able to on Artgallery. I'm toying with the idea of adding prints-to-order on Etsy too, but I'll see how it goes...
Ed mentioned that I just should leave out the part about using others photos ("they'll never find out") but I don't think I could in all conscience. I am an ethical artist!