January 6, 2005

When is a Beak not a Cat?

After much consideration, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that what I’m about to do cannot be considered copyright infringement. I could be wrong, but I’m going to risk it.

Yesterday, I was browsing through Google’s Images page, looking for something totally unrelated to the story I’m about to tell you. While clicking through page after page of results, a thumbnail image of a painting caught my eye. It was somewhat abstract and quite striking … a black cat, perched on the back of an orangey-red upholstered chair, leaning around the edge of a dark blue wall to look out of a bright sunny window. It was all done in a very loose style, apparently with the heavy touch of a palette knife. (Whew! Sing it with me now all you Schoolhouse Rock fans … “Simply un-pack your adjectives…”)

A few pages later, I found the image I’d actually set out in search of and decided to click back and take a closer look at the painting. Upon closer inspection, however, I found that not only was it not a painting, it wasn’t even remotely related to what I thought it had been! Turns out it was a super-up-close photo (not quite macrophotography, but close) of a goose! His beak had been translated into the chair, and his eye into the cat. Where the heck the blue wall came from, I have no idea.

I was really disappointed. I’m sure he’s a very nice goose, whoever he is, but I’d really been taken with that cat painting. So, after much consideration, I decided that doing my own version of that cat/chair/window painting based off a photograph of a goose probably wouldn’t fall into the category of copyright infringement. (Besides, what’s a little potential legal difficulty against an excellent excuse to go out and buy a couple of new palette knives?)

If anyone with a legal background out there wants to argue my decision differently, feel free to e-mail me.