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Don't get your panties in a knot.

We all hear the tooting of angry horns around here about the recent "defining" of traced artwork on dA. Some of you reading this right now are probably groaning in your chair about how much this is "blasphemy" and "contradictory to the spirit of artwork and community" and blah blah blah.

fourteenthstar mentioned that they have a lawyer. A very good lawyer. And that this lawyer had gone over, in depth, the issue of tracing and told them that it was perfectly legal for users to upload traced artwork to dA. So I did some sleuthing of my own on copyright laws, their protections, and violations to find out what was true and what was hearsay. Here's a tidbit of what I found:

While copyright law makes it technically illegal to reproduce almost any new creative work (other than under fair use) without permission, if the work is unregistered and has no real commercial value, it gets very little protection. The author in this case can sue for an injunction against the publication, actual damages from a violation, and possibly court costs. Actual damages means actual money potentially lost by the author due to publication, plus any money gained by the defendant. But if a work has no commercial value, such as a typical E-mail message or conversational USENET posting, the actual damages will be zero. Only the most vindictive (and rich) author would sue when no damages are possible, and the courts don't look kindly on vindictive plaintiffs, unless the defendants are even more vindictive.

      The author's right to control what is done with a work, however, has some validity, even if it has no commercial value. If you feel you need to violate a copyright "because you can get away with it because the work has no value" you should ask yourself why you're doing it. In general, respecting the rights of creators to control their creations is a principle many advocate adhering to.




From a Q&A that's similar to the issue at hand:


I learned how to make an image with a tutorial. Is that image mine?

      If your resulting image from the tutorial is a reproduction or derivation of the tutorial writer's original image, the image you created is not held in copyright to you.

      The tutorials are copyrighted to their creator. The original image is in copyright to its creator.

      The use of images created from these tutorials are restricted to and by the terms of use (license) of the tutorial writer as the creator of the original image.

      However, some techniques may not be copyrighted due to the limitations of methods or procedures to accomplish a task, create an effect or produce a file.





What does this all have to do with Tracing and dA? It means that tracing is legal, so long as the original artist does not object.
So there you have it. A reproduction of someone elses artwork is perfectly legal and is, technically, in no way owned by the person who reproduced the artwork, despite the words "copyright" being applied to said reproduction. Copyrighted material is different from copyright ownership.

:bulletgreen: If you are not comfortable with the idea of people reproducing your artwork (even if it's purely for personal use or practice and doesn't affect you or your artwork in any way), you need to define in your artist comments (or in the copyright section of the metadata of your files) that no one is allowed to reproduce or derive your artwork. Should you encounter artwork of yours that has been traced and you do not want it existing on dA, you are within your rights to report it and have it removed.

:bulletgreen: If the original artist has not objected to traces/reproductions of their artwork being uploaded to dA in any way (written or verbal), any report for deletion to the Help Desk will be rightfully denied.
This does not make stealing art okay. An exact or edited copy of an original is still theft. Tracing is different in most cases because it is not artwork that has been copied physically/digitally from an original. A tracing is a reproduction or derivative based on original artwork and that is not theft.

With that said, if you don't say anything or don't care, it is up to the reproducer of your artwork to contact you for permission or not and is strictly a moral and ethical issue.


TL;DR

      Tracing is legal and within everyone's right to upload to dA as their own, so long as:
- the original artist does not object in any way
- the tracing does not contain elements of the original (i.e. a direct copy)
- the artwork does not adversely affect the original artist (in which case the artist may sue for damages)
- the original is considered of value and distributed without consent.

      The law is pretty clear and yes, tracing is legal under the most common circumstances. If you don't like that, then you can very well protect yourself easily by being proactive or you can address your concerns to people that want to change copyright laws, but in no way is dA being contradictory or illegal.
Add a Comment:
 
:iconk-i-k-i-a:
k-i-k-i-a Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
I see tracers all over on DA.. on anime screenshots, it's very easy to tell
Reply
:iconchocofit:
chocofit Featured By Owner May 2, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
thanks for this helpful writing. 
Reply
:iconshinobody:
Shinobody Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Okay, so - by this logic, tracing artwork that is being sold in an online shop (like Gumroad), or is a Patreon exclusive, IS illegal? Because at this point work has commercial value, and original artist is losing potential sales to the tracer?
Reply
:iconadaww123:
Adaww123 Featured By Owner Edited Aug 26, 2017
if i trace an image just for get their pose then draw different character and edit some pose, is that my own copyright & legal? thanks and sorry for bad english
Reply
:iconl-l-arts:
L-L-arts Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
I didn't know it was that serious to trace. I often traced digital art to paper and convert it to traditional. But now I feel guilty. :saddummy:
Reply
:iconblue--rosa:
Blue--Rosa Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
A lot of here artists  on dA/tumblr/twitter also forget that in the concept art industry and even the animation industry a lot of tracing actually happens, I even had a teacher at my own Uni say to me that "in an effort to meet client deadlines, a lot of us concept artists would cut corners by using other peoples stuff as bases to work off of" this sometimes also included textures and even photobashing and if it involved character creation, using someone elses character turnaround as a base.

Big companies and big time artists don't really talk about this stuff because it does "look bad" and of course looks bad on the company they work for, but tracing happens often. Also, I've heard if the copyrighted material only has 30% of it reused for something it comes under fair-use? I believe that Youtuber's are having troubles with this at the moment. 
Reply
:iconanastasiapitbull:
AnastasiaPitbull Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'm a professional artist myself but wow the tiny thing "trace is illegal if u in the company" I'm self learn artist.:-)  I used to trace I was a kid but now I draw on the computer and paper like a pro. Im expert at art such a dogs and cats and chibis.:-) 
Reply
:iconsoftyrants:
softyrants Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2013
What about screenshots from cartoons (like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic)?
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:iconnokari:
nokari Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2013  Professional Interface Designer
What do you mean? Used in what way?
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:iconsoftyrants:
softyrants Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2013
To make bases.
Reply
:iconnokari:
nokari Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2013  Professional Interface Designer
The purpose of tracing is to learn how to draw through hands-on experience. Making a base does not do that and it's really your own base, it's copying and sharing what is essentially someone else's base.
Reply
:iconsoftyrants:
softyrants Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2013
Tracing is basically making a base out of something to learn how to draw it. >_> Bases, to me, are things that people make whether it's original or traced off of something else. And typically, these bases are blank (bald, nude, etc) so that you can draw hair and clothes on them.
Reply
:iconnokari:
nokari Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2013  Professional Interface Designer
For yourself and yourself only, not to be given out as bases for others.
Reply
:iconredconvoy:
redconvoy Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I am a self-taught artist. The only time I trace is when I pen my own drawings with different thicknesses on tracing paper as to not destroy the original pencil drawing that I created. I don't use tablets. Don't like them. When I see a picture of a character that I like that I feel that would fit in my story, I ask the permission ALL OF THE TIME of the original artist and if they want a synopsis of what I am going to create, I give it to them for their approval. I have gotten three permissions between two different stories doing this. It is common courtesy to ask first AT ALL TIMES. The work might not be copyrighted, but the person who created the original character or work put a lot of time and effort into it and I know that the three artists that I borrowed characters from put a lot of time and effort into their work. I wouldn't insult them by not asking. I wouldn't trace their characters either. I would have to reference or do it by memory.

I personally don't approve of tracing because it doesn't really teach. I feel practice makes perfect because that was what I was taught. I had to do that and I am still perfecting my work.
Reply
:icondeviantroid:
Deviantroid Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2013  Student Digital Artist
Those losers will not learn at all when they read this. Not only the tracing issues, but the other rules I know that people are breaking is drawing inappropriate art.
Reply
:iconsilvuewolf:
SilvueWolf Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2013  Student Artist
Probably unrelated, but I wish that the tracers on Colors! Live gallery will get permission to trace other people's art or have proof that they did. Some of them are tracing dA art for the purpose of making them 3D, and it really makes me wonder if any of them know how to ask for permission since tracing is just so common on Colors! at the moment.
Reply
:iconzayit:
Zayit Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2013
It's nice that Colors staff made an announcement regarding this article. [link]
Colors and dA are much alike in that way, but with both- it is hard to get the users to give credit or permission where it is due. At least dA has a nice, easy to use reporting method for the entirely stolen art pieces, whereas Colors only has a mature flag which still makes it visible to at least half of the community of kids who secretly hit the "show all mature paintings" button.
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:iconwolfgirl391:
wolfgirl391 Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2012  Student Digital Artist
so you cant use base?
Reply
:icondemonreapergirl:
demonreapergirl Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
you can use bases
Reply
:iconwolfgirl391:
wolfgirl391 Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Ok thank you for telling me because i thought you wernt aloud 2 use them
Reply
:icondemonreapergirl:
demonreapergirl Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
welcome
Reply
:iconmikufan900:
Mikufan900 Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2012
Is it ok if I draw on paper and trace it on my computer? .^.
Reply
:iconmothquake:
mothquake Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
if it's still your work there's no problem :)
Reply
:iconnokari:
nokari Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2012  Professional Interface Designer
Yes, absolutely! :)
Reply
:iconmikufan900:
Mikufan900 Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2012
Thanks for letting me know :3
Reply
:iconmikufan900:
Mikufan900 Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2012
Oh
Reply
:iconazley:
Azley Featured By Owner May 10, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks, it's really helpful and a great article :thumbsup:

Unfortunately people won't stop to hunt down colorists unless we have a official declaration on what is allowed and what isn't in DA's FAQ / Policy-section.
Reply
:iconnalafontaine:
NalaFontaine Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
the problem gets even worse when people who have traced lie about having traced in the first place. Misleading people who are so blind as not not notice they are being lied to.

You need to cite your sources, it's just proper etiquette, and faq#572 says that FANART (which is filled with a lot of traces) is not acceptable if there is no proper credit given.

Tracing should not be promoted on deviantArt. This only encourages all the little wannabe superartists by making them think they are popular when their traces get blindly faved for some odd reason.

Stop tracing , you'll thank yourselves later.
Reply
:icondeliciouskaek:
deliciouskaek Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is sickening.
Reply
:iconsephys-little-cloud:
sephys-little-cloud Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2009
A tracing is a reproduction or derivative based on original artwork and that is not theft.

I have to disagree. It's still a form of plagiarism, especially if the final product comes out exactly the same as the original. Therefore, I consider it intellectual theft, because a tracing is no different from a stolen idea.
Reply
:icongardenladyrose:
gardenladyrose Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2009
Or even looking at a bookor article and typing up what you see or writing it down for other, none quoted, use.
Reply
:iconjon-geist:
JON-GEIST Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2009  Professional Interface Designer
Never put your best work here. Only the kitchen scraps. Even then....its risky.
Reply
:iconmpmg:
MPMG Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2009
Makes sense. This would put tracing and fanart in pretty much the same boat then; the one that gets left alone until rocked by the powers that be. Which also makes sense since dA is more lenient on fanart tracings.
Reply
:iconfionacreates:
FionaCreates Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2009  Professional General Artist
legally right morally wrong.
Reply
:iconmonkeyman2092:
monkeyman2092 Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2009   Writer
I really think it's obvious rthat tracing is legal.
Reply
:iconscorpionousauterelle:
ScorpionOuSauterelle Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2009
Yes, of course, because a lawyer is trained to find loopholes to screw other people in the ass. Honestly this is still a load of fucking bull and you're just giving in to the whiny baawwers who wanna post their ripped shit.
Reply
:iconwhatura:
Whatura Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2009  Student Filmographer
I wish I could favorite this comment. I really, really do.
Reply
:iconscorpionousauterelle:
ScorpionOuSauterelle Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2009
Thank you.^_^
Reply
:iconrhoey:
Rhoey Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2009   General Artist
Amen to that.
Reply
:iconscorpionousauterelle:
ScorpionOuSauterelle Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2009
Thank you, I'm glad SOMEONE agrees.
Reply
:iconrhoey:
Rhoey Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2009   General Artist
You're welcome. Me too, to be honest.
Reply
:iconmornmeril:
mornmeril Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2009
What he is saying is that the people CAN NOT POST RIPPED ART and get away with it. What he is saying is that even though dA allows tracing, if the original artist of the art reports it, they WILL take it down. So what's the difference? None. Nothing changes in the way dA works. No-friggin-thing. So what's the damn problem?
Reply
:iconscorpionousauterelle:
ScorpionOuSauterelle Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2009
The problem is there are people who take absences from DA, who know nothing of this, so they can't protect their work.

One of these people is my best friend. So now when I see traces of her things, I can't do anything because nothing on her page says you can't.

I reiterate, it makes artists with actual skill and originality have to jump through hoops to keep their stuff theirs. -_-
Reply
:iconmornmeril:
mornmeril Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2009
Hey, excuse me! But if they publish their work it is in THEIR interest to protect it. I would simply inform the absent artist of what happened and have him/her take action.

I know it's cool to think you're fixing the universe, but really, there's nothing you can change yourself.
Reply
:iconscorpionousauterelle:
ScorpionOuSauterelle Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2009
Again. If they're not here for a while, or if they die.. Then what?

Also... I'm her best friend but I can't always get in contact with her. And why should she jump through hoops when she's actually posting stuff that's hers and that she didn't copy.

I know you think it's cool to think you're cool. But it isn't. And you're not.
Reply
:iconmornmeril:
mornmeril Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2009
If someone copies her work, the person has NO rights to that image. They can post it online, yes... but that image has no copyright on it other than those of the original image. So, your friend owns all the traces of her works, no matter who does them.

You can't fix the world by changing a few rules to suit only one side of a conflict. Forbidding any kind of tracing would be very harmful for, in exaple, the economy or education, as tracing is used in industry a lot (I will not get into where and when) and then, allowing some of it makes place for abuse... so it's a bit more complicated when copyright is concerned.
Reply
:iconscorpionousauterelle:
ScorpionOuSauterelle Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2009
I'm not saying people shouldn't trace at all, I'm all for tracing to learn.

But you shouldn't post it or use it. I know tracing is in the industry, and that doesn't make it right or okay. It's disgusting, even if you give credit.

And I don't care if she still has the rights, I know she does not WANT people using her work for anything. She took the time to make something of herself and learn to get to the point where she had original work to pose that was HERS. Instead of riding coattails.

And you know what? You can't change anything but laying on your stomach and taking it up the ass anytime someone bigger than you says some dumbass lawyers says it's okay.

Anyone with half a brain can see this is an exploitation of a loophole. And since it's obvious you don't have that half a brain, I don't have anything left to say to you.
Reply
:iconmornmeril:
mornmeril Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2009
Hey. I don't want my art traced. If I see anyone tracing my art I'm gonna sue the hell out of them. But I don't expect other people to sue them for me, nor will I ever. And if someone manages to get money out of my art because I just left some of my property unattended I have no one but myself to blame. And of course, I need to take action against that person anyway.

But that's me, with my job and my life and my knowledge of what can or cannot do. And I don't know about your friend but I would be pissed off as hell if anyone would go fight my fights for me. Honestly. Probably more than with my adversary.
Reply
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