Collage = copyright?

Hi all—I occasionally make collage cards. I send the originals out but also take a picture so that I can get them printed professionally. Recently I got one flagged and cancelled for copyright infringement. I have deep respect for copyrights so would like to understand. Is it infringement if your finished work resembles the brand imagery too closely? Even if it is your own creation?

Here is the self-made collage card in question. I am not trying to sell this in an online shop - just get a few copies printed for PC sending. I did use a copyrighted image as my model for the collage, but built all the creatures myself out of small, unrelated pieces of paper.


This is a difficult question and as far as I know it’s a legal grey zone.

I think this may be the problem here, but the question is who defines what is “too closely”? :thinking:
After all, the nature of collage art is to use some else’s work, be it magazines, photos, pictures, paintings, printed work etc., and use it to create your own art.

In my opinion (but I’m no legal expert) it should be okay to send your Snoopy collage, especially since you don’t do it to generate profit from it and neither do you claim Snoopy to be your own creation. Maybe you could try a different printing service and see if they will reject it, too?

I must admit, I’ve never had any of my collage cards printed for fear of overstepping some legal red lines. I always send out the originals and only keep scans for my private archive.

:green_heart: :fox_face:


If you don’t want to sell it there should be no problem at all. All artists have been copying other artists’ works and ideas through all times - as long as you don’t make profit out of it I don’t see any infringement of copyrights, at least none that are prosecuted by law.


I think the problem is, this looks too close to the recognisable image. They don’t want to get it mixed to the original one. Did the print house flag it? I’m sure they will play safe and not want get trouble themselves.

You can do “fan art”, but not mass produce (having it professionally printed would be then, I suppose?). Also, in fan art there should be something your own. (edit. I think some don’t accept fan art published, as it’s under their right to “make up” more things around a character. I don’t remember if one was Garfield?)

Some are very strict about this, while others take it as compliment, it’s hard.


As I understand it, under U. S. law she would need to contact the copyright holder of Charles Schulz’s work to obtain a waiver.


That is quite puzzling. I did a casual search of “Peanuts” characters and found this image entitled “Giddy Up.” I am not an expert on copyrights, but I have a hunch that the character on the right was the one that “too closely resembled” a protected image.

Your reason for producing your item may be admirable, but it still may be on a shaky ground. A couple of years ago, I was shopping in a huge garden center near here. I uploaded a video to Facebook as I walked through the center. A day or two later, I got a notice from the Warner Brothers Music Group that my video had copyrighted music playing in the background in my video! While I was filming, I was oblivious to the music playing in the center; in this case, it was the song “Take On Me” by the group A-ha. I explained what happened to the company. The Garden center licensed the music (apparently). But this shows how serious the companies view protected property.


I think here the answer is yes. This is not you own creation, you copied the image that looks a lot like for example this:

but using different technique.

And copying it if it’s not mass producing, it could be distributing (sending many of the same to members?) which you are not allowed to do as you don’t hold the rights.

I think this is a little different.
Snoopy is a trademark (I believe), so if you would like to use it “legally” one should buy a lisence to get a right to use it in what you do.

I don’t know if it’s sold to use in products that they already have themselves, and maybe that’s why it’s flagged, so it’s not to be confused with the original.


Very good question. Yes, people use pieces of art of other persons in all times. But the rules might have changed through time. And the rules depend on the country - where you are, where the printing company is located and the figures you use. As others pointed out, it’s a grey zone. This means: You will only know what the legal rules are, when a court makes its decision about it. Maybe it’s safe, maybe not.
In Germany, as far as I know, you can use other peoples work only if the knew thing you make from it, has some artiistic value. Which means, your piece of art must have something really knew, not the piece from someone else in the main focus. What do these words mean? Well, the court, who makes the final decision, says, if it is in this case or not.
In short: Yes, it’s a risk.

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That all makes sense. I made the collage out of pictures of vegetables so I thought that would be different enough, but your explanation is the right one. Thanks!

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I think I would understand this more if I had directly cut out images of snoopy and Woodstock from a magazine. But I built these myself from small, colored pieces of paper. If I had made the Mona Lisa out of collage would that have also been infringement?

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Mona Lisa is in the public domain because Leonardo da Vinci died more than 70 years ago. It is free to be exploited


Thanks to all for weighing in!! I really appreciate this community!!

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You’re totally right. my example was not the right one :wink: what if I had collaged the Instagram logo? Or a minion?

This is a very good article explaining about fan art legal fair use.
I think making collage can be categorized as fan art


Now you are speaking my language with this resource!!! Thank you for sending it.

I don’t think my work passes muster here. “There has to be something different about the purpose and message of the new artwork that makes it distinct from the meaning and messages of the original.”

Super interesting - thanks!

When I learned to paint, the teacher said she was ok with students using her designs to learn, display, and give as gifts, but never to sell. I think as long as you are not profiting from your inspirations, you should be good.

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Another difference between sending the original collage and getting it printed is that the printer is being paid for a service which involved copyrighted (and in this case probably also trademarked) contents, and some overzealous copyright holder may cause them trouble for that.

Depending on many details of what is happening the printer may have the right to print it, but they would risk having to prove it in court, so it’s sadly reasonable for them to play it safe and be quite restrictive on what they accept.


When in doubt, one can always visit the relevant copyright laws. Here’s the link for Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17). A lot of reading … :yawning_face:

This is so good, I like it better than the original source material!

I would try a different printer. Do you mind sharing who you used?