Is vectorizing an image copyright infringement if the image is not CC/Public domain?
Is it okay to vectorize this image to make a poster out of it even though the image is not Creative Commons or anything like that? I'm not using any part of the image directly and only going to use it as a guide to make my own SVG version.
This is the image:
Here is original Image.
It says that it is CC licensed but the original NatGeo one isn't, I don't think.
I don't plan to make money off it or anything, I just want a nice poster and the quality of the original isn't that good.
Yes, a vectorized image generally counts as a derivative of the original, which means that distributing it without the original copyright holder's permission would be a copyright violation.
Of course, if you just want to make a nice poster to hang on your own wall, then you're probably safe — doing so may or may not be legal, depending on your local laws, but realistically, who's going to bother to sue you?
(Please note that I'm not trying to encourage you to break any laws, just stating a fact. You should find out whether your local laws permit this kind of copying for personal use, and make your own informed decision about whether it's wise to do so.)
If you intend to sell your poster, though, or even distribute it for free, I'd strongly advise against it — if for no other reason, than because the image you linked to looks very much like something that National Geographic might want to sell as a poster themselves. That might significantly increase their motivation to sue you if they find you stealing their potential profits.
I haven't read about anyone being sued for vectorizing, but I have read about someone being sued for pixelating.
After seven months of legal wrangling, we reached a settlement. Last September, I paid Maisel a sum of $32,500 and I'm unable to use the artwork again.
Pixelating is removing detail whereas vectorizing would be adding detail (if you do it right). If removing detail is punishable in a court of law, it's likely that this case can be used as a precedent for ripping off someone and increasing the detail.