Artisan Craft and Copyright Law
As a Community Volunteer I spend a lot of time pouring through the Artisan Crafts galleries looking for art that deserves a bigger audience. I dig through every little hidden corner of the galleries looking at every type of craft, made by everyone from the most watched members to the day old newbies. And every time I do this, I have to double check it all for originality.
My time doing this had shed light on a massive problem inherent in the AC galleries: copyright violation
Now, I'm not talking about the obvious I-stole-your-picture-and-uploaded-it violations. I'm talking about something much more subtle, to the point it feels like most of the perpetrators don't actually realise they're doing it. I'm often about to give someone a DD, until I read their description and find it completely devoid of credit. Rather than getting a site-wide feature, these artists end up on my blacklist instead. It all boils down to a lack of knowledge about copyright law, so I'm here to shed some light on it!
I love you guys. I love your work. I love to showcase your skills. I can't do that when your gallery is full of simple little things permission issues. Many of you do a great job at adhering to copyright law. But for the rest, we need to put an end to it. So follow on as I ramble on about copyright law -- there may be stuff in here you don't even realise you are doing.
Any time you upload a deviation that contains elements not created by you, you should credit your sources. Without credit, you are essentially saying, "everything in the deviation is my own original work," which may not be true. This seems obvious when it comes to many other galleries. If you use a stock image, you need to credit that maker. If you use a reference for a drawing, you need to credit that too. For some reason, when it comes to crafts people forget about this, but it's just as critical. There are many reasons why you should credit your sources:
- Etiquette: This should go without saying, but everyone puts a lot of hard work into their art. If you are using someone else's hard work in your own work, you really owe it to them to pay them due credit. Look after your fellow artists and their work, and they will go out of their way to do the same to you.
- Exposure: Most, if not all CVs (myself included), are incredibly strict about the crediting issues. If we see you have used uncredited sources in your work, we can only assume you do not have permission to use it (as well as inwardly frowning at the terrible etiquette on display). Most (again, if not all) of us will not give you a DD, we will not even give your a journal feature, and we might even disqualify your from any contests we're hosting.
If you use a pattern, a tutorial, or any kind of reference, it should be credited. There are unfortunately far too many pieces around the AC galleries that [glaringly obviously] are using external sources that are not credited. It's incredibly frustrating for us when we see a brilliantly executed craft piece we want to show off to the entire website, but can't because of concerns about copyright.
Are you a needlecrafter who bought a stitch kit? Credit the designer. Created a beautiful origami piece from a pattern you didn't design? Credit the creator. Amigurami/crochet/knitting patterns? They all should be credited. Downloaded a 3D model? Credit it. A papercraft model? Credit. A stencil? A vector file for laser cutting? Replicated a novelty cake from a cake decorating book? Credit credit credit!
Crediting your sources does not at all detract from your work. Your work is not lessened by it. It, and your artistic integrity, are only enhanced by it. Take a look at the following pieces as examples of appropriate crediting. These artists did not create the design, but were responsible for the skilled execution of it. They've all given proper credit in their description.
2. Transferring across mediums
This is another huge problem in craft. If someone traces a drawing, everyone knows this is a terrible thing to do. But people forget about it when it comes to cross-medium works.
dA's document on copyright policy lists this as one of the examples of copyright infringement:
"Adapting someone else's creative work found in one medium to another medium, such as making a book into a movie or a photograph into a painting."When you sign up for a deviantART account, you agree to abide by deviantART's Terms of Service, and this includes adhering to copyright law.
If you use any photo/drawing/etc and recreate that as a craft, you are taking someone else's creative work that they have ownership of. Just because you found a picture on the internet does not mean it is free of copyright. Even crediting the original artist does not absolve you of this responsibility.
A common misconception is that an artist needs to apply for copyright to have legal protection over their work, but this isn't the case. As soon as the art work is in a completed state (i.e. is physically realised rather than being an idea), it is protected by copyright. If you want to use it, the copyright owner (or someone they have authorised to act on their behalf) must grant you permission to use it. This protects your art as much as everyone else's.
There are an alarming number of cases through the galleries of people perfectly replicating a photograph or drawing in a craft medium (pyrography, papercraft and needlecraft being huge culprits for this), and for almost all of these there is no indication of whether on not the deviant obtained permission from the owner. If you've not stated that you obtained permission to use another artists work, a reasonable assumption is that you haven't.
Here are some more examples of people who used a reference from another medium and credited it. These artists used other mediums such as pixel art, digital art, stock images and photographs as references, and gave them due credit.
But really want to make that gorgeous image into a craft piece. What do I do?
Contact the original artist. Most people are completely fine with their works being replicated in another medium, as long as you give them credit and have the decency to ask first. I have approached numerous photographers and asked them if I could use their photograph to create a cross stitch image. I've never been turned down. In fact, most become really excited by the idea and ask for progress shots.
But nothing has the potential to anger an artist more than seeing their work used not only without permission, but without credit. I've had instances where I gladly would have given permission for the use of my work if approached, yet instead found myself angrily filing a DMCA takedown notice after being alerted to it. Take the time to seek permission, and don't get angry if you find you are not given it. You're not entitled to it. Instead see it as an honour to be trusted with someone else's art baby.
Also make sure you inform the artist of what you plan to do with their work. Is it personal? Is it for a commercial endeavour? You may find it worth getting their permission in writing, and signed by all associated parties, to avoid any dramas further down the track. Especially if you plan to profit off of it.
Some artwork is licensed for use under Creative Commons, and in this instance you do not need to seek permission from the license holder as it has already been given to you. The exact permissions given vary, so take the time to read what the artist is enabling you to do with their work. Many stock artists will also list their own personal rules for using the resources, which you must always abide by.
But I'm not selling it
Doesn't matter, it could still be considered an infringement by the copyright holder. If you are distributing the work, which you are by posting it on deviantART, you must adhere to copyright law.
So what if I don't?
For starters, you're going to rule yourself out of DDs and a lot of features. If you think your art is highly skilled but you've never received a DD and don't know why, copyright violation might be why. In our AC backroom, we have a blacklist of people who are not to win contests or get DDs because of serious issues we've encountered with their work and adherence to copyright law.
But you might find yourself facing much more important consequences than that. Artists on dA become impassioned by cases of copyright violation, and often actively seek out the owner of the original work to alert them to the problem. If the original artist finds your work and takes issue with it, they are entitled to file a DMCA takedown request and get your work deleted. In extreme cases you might even get permanently banned from deviantART. If you are causing a loss of revenue and/or the original artist has the legal power, you could even get sued.
In short, you can create a lot of trouble for yourself. And your karma points are bound to be terrible.
What about fan art?
Fan art is its own kettle of fish. When it comes to copyright law and fan art it gets really fuzzy. Most fan art is technically illegal, but a lot of corporations allow or even encourage it (mostly as long as you are not making money from it). dA/makepictures did a fantastic panel at Comic-Con about fan art law, you can watch the video here to find out more about it.