Actually, US copyright law says 70 years after an artist dies.
Feigning ignorance of copyrights is no excuse. If you call yourself an artist, or even a hobby artist then you SHOULD know this stuff! As artist we should hold ourselves to be responsible both morally and ethically when we create our art. If your unsure of the issue of "copyrights" you should learn it. Research is easy to do.
But let me back-up to this mornings email I received so you'll all know to what I'm referring. I received an email this morning from an artist, who had seen my Heart and Soul of a Woman, because she watched the WIP, so she was well aware of my piece. She send me a link to another art site "i draw and paint" and low and behold there was no doubt a copy of my Heart and Soul. Posted on that site today, it was flipped, the background was blue, the drape was black and done in pastels. There was no likeness as far as facial features go. The rest was exactly the same.
Now, I was like.. what the heck? But then, I looked at the artists name. I know her! I know her from Toad Hollow Studio drawing club, and she follows my blog! WHAT THE HECK! She absolutely claimed the idea, pose and concept as her own. I put many hours into that piece, along with my blood sweat and tears, not to mention all the photos and everything! I can certainly claim the original idea, concept and execution of my Heart and Soul of a Woman, and I can prove it. (don't ask to see the reference photos..it ain't happenin!)
How ironic is it that just to the right of this "copied" image was the "I draw and paint" sites copyright guidelines!!! Not only a wonderfully simply written easy to understand copyright but a wonderful little section on copying other artist artwork!!! Wow.!!
I posted a message to her, which she deleted. She also deleted my other messages, her replies, along with the image. She claimed she has no idea what I was talking about, but she doesn't realize I know from her IP address she downloaded that exact image from my blog on April 9th. She got way to defensive way to quickly.... which just confirms that she did copy my piece, in my opinion.
If an artist work inspires you to try something, or you have the desire to re-create what they did, you should always ask first! If the artist says No, then honor that. They have their reasons. Maybe you'll get a yes, as long as you give the original artist credit for the original concept and idea.
But as artists, we should RESPECT what our fellow artists create and accomplish! Honoring ones copyright should be a given.