Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Can I use screenshots of art programs?

Dear Rich: I tried to search the blog to see if this question had already been asked, but the search function isn't working. Or maybe it's a problem on my end. Either way, I'm sorry if this is a repeat but I really need to know! Right, I had a question. I'm a digital artist, and a lot of my fans have asked me to put out a book showing how I accomplish various styles that I do, essentially like a cook book for digital art. But in order to show people clearly which button to press, which brush to use, which tool to use, I need to use a few screenshots of the interface. They aren't the main focus of the book, but it's really hard to explain what I'm trying to teach without sometimes showing exactly what to do. I use a bunch of programs, from well-known ones like Adobe Photoshop to lesser-known ones like ArtRage. Do I need to obtain permission from the creators of these programs to use these screenshots? Yeah, you're right, there's something funky with our search feature. We did find this entry. As you can see, the party line on screenshots is that they are infringements. But as we mentioned, it's unlikely any software company is going to chase someone who uses screenshots of the program in a "how-to" book.  First, the shots likely qualify as a fair use. Second, it would be remarkably counter-productive to sue because books like yours help to popularize the programs. The only case we found in which a company sought to stop screenshots involved Sony (who you think would be friendlier to fair use) and they lost that one. So, we think the coast is clear for your book.