Copyright Hurts my brain

my frustration picture I took of myself
I took a class as a part of my Graphic Design degree, a business class slash copyright laws for artists. I passed the class...but it still confuses me terribly.

After creating some pretty awesome Photoshop watercolor (see post) & text images (will post), because I'm not trying to sell them, I'm pretty sure I'm ok on the copyright, I researched the net for copyright laws on the following:
using photo images of celebrities
using old photo images of celebrities
copyright on photo images of vintage Hollywood photography

I tried every conceivable possible search engine combination of words for this topic. What did I find out?

My brain hurts.

I found out that unless you have the written consent from that photographer you can NOT use their image. Thank God for photographers (me being one) unless....

Artists use the likenesses of well-known individuals as a means of expressing messages within the content of their artistic creations. However, it would be disingenuous not to acknowledge that, in many cases, using the likeness of a well-known figure would likely raise the value or level of interest in a work of art. The issue this article addresses, then, is when an artist can incorporate a person's image into his or her work without running afoul of the right of publicity. Or, to phrase it another way, when can a person object to the inclusion of their image in an artist's creation?

An individual's rights of privacy and publicity in the use of their likeness are part of the laws of the various states and, as such, are not unlimited. The First Amendment to the Constitution assures freedom of speech, and, beyond any question, art is speech. Discussed below are the attempts by the courts to balance the artist's right of free speech and the subject's rights of privacy and publicity, and provide an answer to the questions raised above.

As a result, right of publicity laws vary from state to state. For example, while some states hold that the right of publicity terminates upon a person's death, at least one state allows the right of publicity to extend up to 75 years after the death of the individual. Clearly, artists must be particularly aware of the application and scope of the state statute they subject themselves to if they chose to incorporate a person's likeness into their work.]

The right of privacy and the right of publicity are two bodies of law that are related but distinct.
They are related in that they are focused on an individual person, but are distinct in addressing
two different types of personal rights. The right of privacy is intended to protect an individual from
the discomfort of having private facts divulged publicly or being portrayed in a derogatory way.
The right of privacy exists only during a person’s life and cannot be transferred as if it were
property. In the U.S. these rights are enforced under state common and statutory law.
The right of privacy is often referred to in tandem with the right of publicity.
Courts in the U. S. began in the 1950’s to recognize the right of publicity as separate from the
right of privacy. It wasn’t really until the rise of sports and entertainment celebrity that
unauthorized commercial use of personal images became enough of an economic threat to
prompt legal recognition.

The right of publicity establishes one’s persona as private property, and protects one’s persona
(generally, name, likeness, and voice) from unauthorized commercial use. The right of publicity
can be assigned and, in some cases, can be descendible (able to be bequeathed and inherited ).

Can't I take an image and change it to make it mine?
No. Because one of the exclusive rights granted under copyright is the individual right of the copyright owner to create derivative works from their original copyrighted material.

-Modifying or altering an image is infringing upon the copyright owner's rights unless expressed permission is granted or the modification falls under fair use (which is highly unlikely).
-In a few court cases, a modified image was not considered infringement because the original image was no longer recognizable due to the extent and variety of the alterations.
-Altering or modifying published works is strongly not recommended because most artists, writers, musicians, photographers, etc., can recognize their own work even through modifications.
-Many people believe the "myth" that if they change an existing image a percentage (10%, 30%, etc.), then they can legally use the image. Be advised: that is not the law.

 Holy crap I'm still confused. BLAH!

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