Artistic license

Artistic license (also known as art license, historical license, dramatic license, poetic license, narrative license, licentia poetica, creative license, or simply license) is a colloquial term, sometimes a euphemism, used to denote the distortion of fact, alteration of the conventions of grammar or language, or rewording of pre-existing text made by an artist in the name of art.


The artistic license may also refer to the ability of an artist to apply smaller distortions, such as a poet ignoring some of the minor requirements of grammar for poetic effect.[1] For example, Mark Antony's "Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears" from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar would technically require the word "and" before "countrymen", but the conjunction "and" is omitted to preserve the rhythm of iambic pentameter (the resulting conjunction is called an asyndetic tricolon). Conversely, on the next line, the end of "I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him" has an extra syllable because omitting the word "him" would make the sentence unclear, but adding a syllable at the end would not disrupt the meter.[2] Both of these are examples of artistic license.

Another example of artistic license is the way in which stylized images of an object (for instance in a painting or an animated movie) are different from their real life counterparts, but are still intended to be interpreted by the viewer as representing the same thing. This can mean the omission of details, or the simplification of shapes and color shades, even to the point that the image is nothing more than a pictogram. It can also mean the addition of non-existing details, or exaggeration of shapes and colours, as in fantasy art or a caricature.

Certain stylizations have become fixed conventions in art; an agreement between artist and viewer that is understood and undebatable. A striking example is how in simple cartoon drawings' monochromatic white parts on a dark colored surface are immediately recognized by most viewers to represent the reflection of light on a smooth or wet surface.

In summary, artistic license is:

  • Entirely at the artist's discretion
  • Intended to be tolerated by the viewer (cf. "willing suspension of disbelief")[3]
  • Useful for filling in gaps, whether they be factual, compositional, historical or other gaps[4]
  • Used consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally or in tandem[5]

Dramatic license

Artistic license is often referred to as dramatic license when it involves the glamorization of real-world occupations for the sake of exciting television or cinematic experience.[6] For example, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and other police procedural programs typically omit completely the more mundane aspects of the occupation such as paperwork, reports, administrative duties and other daily "business-oriented" aspects which in reality often constitute the majority of police work. They will also present other duties with much more action, suspense or drama than would be experienced in reality. The same is also true for many military-oriented adventure stories which often show high-ranking characters being allowed to continuously enter dangerous situations when in reality, they would usually be restricted to command-oriented and administrative duties.

Controversy and criticism

Artistic license often provokes controversy by offending those who resent the reinterpretation of cherished beliefs or previous works.[7] Artists often respond to these criticisms by pointing out that their work was not intended to be a verbatim portrayal of something previous and should be judged only on artistic merit. Artistic license is a generally accepted practice, particularly when the result is widely acclaimed. William Shakespeare's historical plays, for example, are gross distortions of historical fact but are nevertheless lauded as outstanding literary works.[8]

Critical voices are sometimes raised when artistic license is applied to cinematic and other depictions of real historical events. While slight manipulation for dramatic effect of chronology and character traits are generally accepted, some critics feel that depictions that present a significantly altered reality are irresponsible, particularly because many viewers and readers do not know the actual events and may thus take the dramatized depiction to be true to reality. Examples of films and television series criticized for excessive use of dramatic license include Disney's Pocahontas, Mel Gibson's Braveheart, Oliver Stone's Alexander, the HBO series Rome, 20th Century Fox's The Greatest Showman and Showtime's The Tudors.

Writers adapting a work for another medium (e.g., a film screenplay from a book) often make significant changes, additions to, or omissions from the original plot in the book, on the grounds that these changes were necessary to make a good film.[9] These changes are sometimes to the dismay of fans of the original work.


  1. ^ Harvey, Thomas Wadleigh (2008). A Practical Grammar of the English Language. BiblioBazaar, LLC. p. 263.
  2. ^ Herzberg, Max John (1933). Off to Arcady: adventures in poetry. American book co. p. 35.
  3. ^ Davis, Tracy C. (2005). "Do you believe in fairies? The hiss of dramatic license". Theatre Journal. 57 (1): 57–81.
  4. ^ Goodsell, David S.; Johnson, Graham T. (2007). "Filling in the Gaps: Artistic License in Education and Outreach". PLoS Biol 5 (12). doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050308.
  5. ^ Esaak, Shelley. "What is artistic license?".
  6. ^ D'sa, Benicia (2005). "Social Studies in the Dark: Using Docudramas to Teach History". The Social Studies. 96 (1): 9–13.
  7. ^ Toplin, Robert Brent (2002). Reel history: in defense of Hollywood. University Press of Kansas. p. 1.
  8. ^ Barroll, J. Leeds (1975). Shakespeare Studies: An Annual Gathering of Research, Criticism, Reviews. Ayer Publishing. p. 306.
  9. ^ Film review (1999). Issues 14-16. Orpheus Pub.
Arc (programming language)

Arc is a programming language, a dialect of the language Lisp, developed by Paul Graham and Robert Morris. It is free and open-source software released under the Artistic License 2.0.

Artistic License (album)

Artistic License is an album by bassist Santi Debriano which was recorded in 2000 and released on the Savant label the following year.

Bowtie (sequence analysis)

Bowtie is a software package commonly used for sequence alignment and sequence analysis in bioinformatics..The source code for the package is distributed freely and compiled binaries are available for Linux, macOS and Windows platforms. As of 2017, the Genome Biology paper describing the original Bowtie method has been cited more than 11,000 times. Bowtie is open-source software and is currently maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

Copying Beethoven

Copying Beethoven is a 2006 dramatic film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and directed by Agnieszka Holland which gives a fictional take on the triumphs and heartaches of Ludwig van Beethoven's last years.

Everyday (Buddy Holly song)

"Everyday" is a song written by Buddy Holly and Norman Petty, recorded by Buddy Holly and the Crickets on May 29, 1957, and released on September 20, 1957, as the B-side of "Peggy Sue". On the original single the Crickets are not mentioned, but it is known that Holly plays acoustic guitar; drummer Jerry Allison slaps his knees for percussion and typewriter; Joe B. Mauldin plays a standup acoustic bass; and producer Norman Petty's wife Vi Petty plays the celesta aka celeste (a keyboard instrument with a glockenspiel-like tone, used in such classical pieces as "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy" from The Nutcracker). The song is an economical 2 minutes and 5 seconds long. It is ranked number 238 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".

Free Art License

The Free Art License (FAL), (French: Licence Art Libre (LAL)) is a copyleft license that grants the right to freely copy, distribute, and transform creative works.

Galactic Patrol Lensman

Galactic Patrol Lensman (GALACTIC PATROL レンズマン) is a Japanese anime television series based on the Lensman novels. The 25-episode series aired from October 6, 1984 to August 8, 1985 in Japan.

Harmony Gold USA dubbed a compilation of the first four episodes in a heavily edited form, which they released under the title Lensman: Power of the Lens. The other episodes were never dubbed. This compilation is no longer available on video, although it was available in the UK in the late 1980s. Despite sharing character and organization names, as well as central themes common to the books, artistic license produced a final product altogether different from the source material. The series was broadcast in Spain by TV3 in 1994.Although it was produced with the knowledge and consent of Smith's estate, the executors were so displeased with the result that for several years they rejected any other suggestions of adaptation.

Mahogany (email client)

Mahogany is an open source cross-platform email and news client. It is available for X11/Unix and MS Win32 platforms, supporting a wide range of protocols and standards, including SMTP, POP3, IMAP, NNTP (including SSL support for all of them) and full MIME support. The current official release version is 0.67 (published in August 2006).Mahogany is developed by The Mahogany Development Team (Founding members Karsten Ballüder and Vadim Zeitlin). It is licensed under a special Mahogany Artistic License similar to the Perl Artistic License but the developers also allow licensing the program under GNU GPL license.The program features an optional embedded Python interpreter. Python scripts have full access to all internal Mahogany data structures and objects and can be used to extend Mahogany.


Mojolicious is a real-time web application framework, written by Sebastian Riedel, creator of the web application framework Catalyst. Licensed as free software under the Artistic License v 2.0, it is written in the Perl programming language, and is designed for use in both simple and complex web applications, based on Riedel's previous experience developing Catalyst. Documentation for the framework was partly funded by a grant from The Perl Foundation.As it is written in Perl, Mojolicious can run on any of the many operating systems for which Perl is available, and can be installed directly from CPAN. Prebuilt packages of Mojolicious are also available for NetBSD from pkgsrc and for Microsoft Windows and other operating systems from ActiveState's Perl package manager.

Npm (software)

npm (short for Node.js package manager) is a package manager for the JavaScript programming language. It is the default package manager for the JavaScript runtime environment Node.js. It consists of a command line client, also called npm, and an online database of public and paid-for private packages, called the npm registry. The registry is accessed via the client, and the available packages can be browsed and searched via the npm website. The package manager and the registry are managed by npm, Inc.

Padre (software)

Padre (short for "Perl Application Development and Refactoring Environment") is a multi-language software development platform comprising an IDE and a plug-in system to extend it. It is written primarily in Perl and is used to develop applications in this language.Padre is written in Perl 5 but can be extended by any language running on top of the Parrot virtual machine, such as Perl 6, through its plug-in system and its integration with Parrot. The development officially started in June 2008 but Padre has reused components that have been available on CPAN, and the latest version of Padre is itself always available on CPAN. Most importantly, it uses the Perl bindings of wxWidgets for the windowing system, and PPI to correctly parse and highlight Perl and to allow refactoring. The primary advantages of Padre for Perl developers is that full and easy access to the source code of their editor is available, and a unique set of "Perl intuition" features that allow the IDE to understand details about project structure and content without needing to be told by the user.

Parrot virtual machine

Parrot is a register-based process virtual machine designed to run dynamic languages efficiently. It is possible to compile Parrot assembly language and PIR (an intermediate language) to Parrot bytecode and execute it. Parrot is free and open source software.Parrot was started by the Perl community and is developed with help from the open source and free software communities. As a result, it is focused on license compatibility with Perl (Artistic License 2.0), platform compatibility across a broad array of systems, processor architecture compatibility across most modern processors, speed of execution, small size (around 700k depending on platform), and the flexibility to handle the varying demands made by Perl 6 and other modern dynamic languages.

Version 1.0, with a stable API for development, was released on March 17, 2009.The current version is release 8.1.0 "Andean Parakeet"

Rakudo Perl 6

Rakudo Perl 6 (or simply "Rakudo") is a Perl 6 compiler targeting MoarVM, and the Java Virtual Machine, that implements the Perl 6 specification. It is currently the only major Perl 6 compiler in active development.

Originally developed within the Parrot project, the Rakudo source code repository was split from the project in February 2009 so that it could be developed independently, although there were still many dependencies at the time. Rakudo is written in C, Perl 6, and the lightweight Perl 6 implementation "NQP" (Not Quite Perl).Rakudo Perl #14 was released in February 2009, codenamed Vienna after the Perl mongers group that had sponsored one of its developers since April 2008. Subsequent releases have used codenames based on Perl mongers groups.

The first major release of a distribution of both compiler and modules (named "Rakudo *" or "Rakudo Star") was on July 29, 2010.


SVK (also written svk) is a decentralized version control system written in Perl, with a hierarchical distributed design comparable to centralized deployment of BitKeeper and GNU arch. It is distributed under the Artistic License and the GNU General Public License. The primary author of svk is Kao Chia-liang (Chinese: 高嘉良). On June 5, 2006, Chia-liang Kao joined Best Practical Solutions, LLC, makers of Request Tracker (and also heavy users of SVK), and SVK became a Best Practical product.On May 28, 2009, Chia-liang Kao announced that Best Practical will no longer be actively developing SVK. Kao continued to develop SVK until the last release in March 2010, when development appears to have stopped.

Sande Zeig

Sande Zeig is an American film director and writer. She was the partner of late French feminist writer Monique Wittig. She directed the 2000 romantic drama The Girl.

Speedster (fiction)

A speedster is a character whose powers primarily relate to superhuman speed (also known as superspeed). Primary abilities shared by all speedsters include running at speeds far in excess of human capability (to varying degrees) and resistance to the side effects (air resistance, inability to breathe, dynamic shock resulting from contact with objects at high speed, etc.) that result from such velocity. In almost all cases, speedsters are able to physically attack opponents by striking them while at high speed to impart huge amounts of kinetic energy without suffering harm, although this has on rare occasion been lampshaded by characters discovering that they cannot do this and suffering severe injury from the attempt. A variety of other powers have been attributed to speedsters depending on the story, the origin of the power, and the established continuity and rules of a given universe.

The Ballad of Billy the Kid

"The Ballad of Billy the Kid" is a song by American singer-songwriter Billy Joel from the album Piano Man. It was also issued as a single in the UK backed with "If I Only Had The Words (To Tell You)."

TopHat (bioinformatics)

TopHat is a bioinformatic sequence analysis package tool for fast and high throughput alignment of shotgun cDNA sequencing reads generated by transcriptomics technologies (e.g. RNA-Seq) using Bowtie first and then mapping to a reference genome to discover RNA splice sites de novo. TopHat aligns RNA-Seq reads to mammalian-sized genomes.TopHat is a free, open-source software. It's available at

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.