Copyright Questions?

posted by ronna15 • 5 years ago

So, as said above, I have some copyright questions.

1. I have a design in mind that is inspired by the quote, “Make art not war”, which is obviously from one of Shepard Fairey’s poster. Now, can I actually put that quote in the design or does Fairey own it?

2. Again, I have another design inspired by the ever so famous phrase, “Keep calm and carry on”. I know the rights for this has expired and is technically public domain, but does that mean I can have the phrase in the design?

Thanks for to whoever wants to answer! :)


5 Replies

wotto wotto Artist from CA, United States

Hi ronna,

Good questions. Copyright law is a bit iffy sometimes because there are some grey areas. We at DBH air on the side of caution when it comes to anything close to a rip. I think if the design is ‘inspired by’ or ‘reference by’ a piece but does not feature direct elements of that piece without changes then you are ok.
Shepard Fairey was caught up in a copyright issue himself for use of a photograph.
‘Mark Art Not War’ I believe has been used prior to his use of it and I don’t believe it to be copyrighted but it would be worth further investigation.
‘Keep calm and carry on’ has been rehashed to death and I don’t think anyone will be hassling you about that one.
If you are changing a design to make it funny that would be classed as a parody. Ein Stein is a good example of that. One thing artists aren’t always aware of is that celebraties can protect their ‘likeness’ which means using their face on things is a no-no.

My rule is always if I think it might cause me an issue I steer clear of it.

ronna15 ronna15 Artist from United States

Awesome, thanks Wotto! I’ll do some more research on “Make art not war”, because I really love that phrase. As for “Keep calm an carry on”, I’ll go for it. I’m not even sure yet if it’s gonna end up in the design, but I like to have an option.

Also, I’m not gonna make a parody though. For KCACO, I really want to make a design to show people the true meaning of the phrase and why it was made because it has such an inspiring story if people take the time the learn more about it than remake it to “Keep calm and eat cupcakes”

Thanks again! :)

o0DaGal0o o0DaGal0o Artist from United States

I have created a t-shirt of a famous person from a drawing I did myself. I would like to use a quote by said famous person, alongside my design with famous persons name and quote in quotation marks. Would that be possible?

wotto wotto Artist from CA, United States


That’s a no no. Many famous people have their likeness protected by copyright and many shows and movies have their quotes protected too. It is difficult to find those that are or are not protected so we choose to reject 99% because we would rather not risk the chance that it is.

massha10 massha10 Human from United States

wotto, there is an interesting exception to this whole likeness thing (not 100% sure what the legalities are). Walk into any Moe’s store and what you have on walls are portraits that LOOk like famous portraits of famous celebrities, but are in fact portraits of “winners of famous people lookalike contest”, innocently labeled as such. So there is a way to make even that work…

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