Altering someone else’s design material creates a new work; is this acceptable? How much does the original have to change for it to become acceptable? A visual look at the process provides more questions than answers.
Long-time readers of this site will perhaps be familiar with some of the design theft issues discussed in the past, and their outcomes and consequences. It’s an issue I’ve had no choice but to keep a close watch on.
But the question of theft of design material is an interesting one, because most have different definitions of when a piece of work can be considered a rip-off. How much does it have to look like the original? How much has to be changed for it to be considered a new work? Is it even ethical to start with someone else’s material and create your own work out of it? Even if the final result looks nothing like the source?
In an attempt to visualize the problem, I’ve put together this series of images. Starting with a relatively mundane photo of Vancouver’s skyline, I’ve applied a layer of effects and modifications in each step to progressively create a completely different final image.
Assuming the photo I started with was copyrighted by someone else and I wasn’t licensed to use it, at which step of the design process above does the work become ‘legitimate’? Discuss.