Fair Use Guidelines
Can I use another artist's work in my collage without copyright infringement?

Where's Andy Warhol when you need him?

LARK Books recently put out a call for entries for an upcoming book about using found materials to be published in their popular 500 series.


The book to be titled, 500 Found-Object Works, is scheduled for release in Fall 2010. I waited until after the postmark deadline of March 15, 2009, to avoid affecting the number of entries to the book, but there was a very disturbing proviso in the call for entries.  It said,

"Due to trademark considerations, very few works featuring recognizable brand names or logos will be accepted."

I and perhaps many others could infer from this comment that if you sent work with recognizable trademarked logos or brand names that you would likely be rejected and would not be included in the book.  That is what prompted this thought. Where is Andy Warhol when you need him?

                   Campbell's Soup Earrings
                       Harriete Estel Berman

Andy Warhol made himself famous by using the iconic Campbell's soup can label for his signature image. His Brillo boxes are another example. Didn't Andy Warhol's precedent clearly demonstrate acceptable Fair Use examples of using trademarks and brand names in art?  Apparently, we are taking big steps backward instead of forward.

It is disturbing that a publisher has self-censored all art or craft that depicts trademark and copyrighted images, especially a book about found materials, before the images of work were even submitted. This is despite the long history of Fair Use and the world-famous precedent established over forty years ago by Warhol.

Yes, the doctrine of Fair Use has some specific requirements to be applicable. Yes, I understand that the book publisher needs to be concerned about copyright infringement when they publish a very popular book.  But it sounds like the lawyers are running the company instead of the editors and curators.  Freedom of speech is a highly valued privilege of the United States which just got silently stepped on.

Lark Books could have issued a set of Fair Use guidelines to help artists understand the law and let artists know that submitted work would be subjected to Fair Use considerations.  Then after prospective work is selected but prior to publishing, the lawyers could veto infringing work, if any. That is one way it could be handled.  

There must be other alternatives.  But it seems like paranoia and excessive fear have narrowed our lives more than we might realize.

Now I wonder how the book can possibly be as powerful or as interesting when this "don't even try" censorship has been stated in advance to all potential artists and makers. 

I use found materials all the time and feel very comfortable working within the Fair Use doctrine. What are the rules governing Fair Use? Read ASK Harriete Fair Use Guidelines in a recent post and look for other posts about copyright law and Fair Use on this blog.

Best Regards,


This post was updated on December 20, 2021