First off, what is a render? Renders are typically images or other media generated by software. 3D models and data are "rendered" into 2D images by programs like Maya, Blender, etc. Videos are "rendered" out of After Effects. The word also refers to the act of making art. You "render" an image by hand. However, the term has been wrongly (but now widely) used to refer to the act of erasing the background of already existing artwork, making it transparent and, I guess, easy to slap onto other backgrounds to use as signatures, banners, etc.
There is nothing wrong with this, as long as permission is properly obtained and credits are properly given. But that's usually not the case. Some people will even slap their own watermark/signature on the image and ask that people credit them instead for erasing the background :/
How they get away with it
What I find most infuriating is when I see these so-called "render artists" end up with thousands of watchers and on the front page because they've basically deceived others into thinking they drew the art themselves. And here's how they do it:
- They provide no credits, or provide vague credits (no link, or simply "credit to the artist"<—wow, that tells me nothing!). Even if they provide credits, it's still wrong to use work like that without permission! www.deviantartsupport.com/en/a…
- They count on the fact that most people don't read the artist comments. Even if you read it, vague credits are often assumed to be "oh, you used someone else's texture/brush," rather than "oh this is someone else's art entirely."
- They use the word "render" to trick people who don't know what it means. If you didn't know about this additional meaning, you'd think "render" meant they drew it, right? I've seen one guy respond to comments saying "It's so beautiful!" with "It's just a render, but thanks!"... If you didn't know the meaning, doesn't it sound like he's just being shy about his drawing abilities?
- Related to the last point: They reply to comments vaguely, never flat-out admitting they didn't draw the piece. When people praise them for the "amazing drawing," they thank everyone, never responding with "I didn't draw this!" Hmm...
- They make sure to steal only high-quality art from Pixiv, so their gallery looks like one of a skilled anime artist. Also, it's harder to get the work removed because the original artists have to report the violation and those original artists are Japanese.
What to do about all of this?
- If it's labeled as a render, of course
- If there's no background
- If the person's entire gallery is full of anime art with no backgrounds
- If the person's gallery is full of art with obviously differing styles
- If the person is posting super polished, high-quality art at a rate that seems impossible
Inform the original artist if possible. That's the only way to get the stolen art taken down, unfortunately. I wrote up a rough guide of how to contact Japanese artists a while back: How to contact a Japanese artist about stolen art
Lastly, please spread the word about renders. The reason why these people are able to get thousands of watchers, favorites, etc. is because they have fooled and continue to fool people who don't know what "renders" are. You can share this journal, or make your own post about it.