Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wants to Use Images from Adult Coloring Books

Dear Rich: I enjoy coloring and crafts. I purchase adult coloring books by Dover Publications thru Amazon. The pictures I color are called mandalas. I color, decorate and frame the pictures. If I were to sell these at a craft fair would I be in violation of the copyrights? I am a 65 year old widow looking for extra income but I do not want to do anything illegal. I am only coloring pictures I purchased and am not putting my name on it. It is for decoration only. Please let me know. We're so ashamed of ourselves. When you used the term "adult coloring book," our minds foolishly lept to X-rated coloring books. Little did we know that the terminology is commonly used to distinguish a genre of non-kids coloring books. Please forgive us.
Right, you had a question. Yes, we believe that coloring in, tearing out, and then selling pages from Dover Publications is permissible for a few reasons. Without first considering copyright law, we can't imagine that Dover --  a company with a lot of goodwill amongst crafts artists -- would pursue legal claims against an 60+ artist selling single images from their mandala books at a crafts fair. (They'd be headed for a variation of the Streisand Effect!) In any case, you could probably make a decent claim under copyright law that your use is justified by the first sale doctrine. (Note that the first sale doctrine can be a complicated pointy-headed kind of issue, as we discussed in a previous post.)
Dover's Policy. In any case, we looked at Dover's policy as expressed in one of their Mandala books. Reproductions by a graphics service (you're not doing that) are prohibited. The policy also states:
"You may use the designs and illustrations for graphics and crafts applications, free and without special permission provided that you include no more than four in the same publication or project."
We're not sure that applies to what you're doing -- you're not assembling a publication or project -- but we think it indicates a level of tolerance for crafts people with similar projects. We think as long as you avoid selling reproductions of your images, and as long as you avoid using coloring books that specifically prohibit what you're doing, you should have a green light for your plan.