Fair Use Question of the Month: Analytic Writing About Art

by Zan Gillies


Dear CMSI,

I’m writing a book about the legacy of Keith Haring, examining his effect on modern activism and pop art. In order to demonstrate my point, I need to visually quote extensively not only from Haring’s work, but also from contemporary pop and graffiti artists, to show his influence. I can find adequate copies of what I need. But can I fair-use those paintings for inclusion in my book, or will I have to license each painting from each artist individually?





Keith Haring.

Dear Peggy,

You’re in luck – the Code of Best Practices for Fair Use in the Visual Arts covers your situation! Principle One, concerning fair use in analytic writing, states that scholars and other writers may quote, excerpt or reproduce copyrighted works when writing about art—within limitations that are really important for you to consider. Among others, you want your choices of illustrations to be linked to your analysis, and for that purpose to be your top priority in making your selection. But do check out all the limitations for yourself. If you find yourself meeting those in good faith, you’re well within the best practices of your field for employing fair use. Good luck!




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