1. you see artwork
2. you didn't draw this artwork
3. you use it without asking the artist anyways, for whatever reason.
It doesn’t matter where you find the piece, maybe a search engine; maybe a friend sent it to you. But here is how it works. If the person who drew the picture or holds the rights to the picture did not give you expressed permission to use it, you have stolen it. It is NEVER ok to assume that you have the right or permission to use it. Maybe you found it on a foreign site and you do not speak that language? Tough shit, if you can’t ask the artist for it and they can’t give you permission to use it, you can not use it.
Yes, it is THAT simple.
What is and isn’t stealing you ask?
1. Showing your friend through MSN or IM – no this is not stealing, you are showing artwork to your friend, you are not displaying it publicly or anything on a forum or on photo-bucket, etc.
2. What if I put it up on photo-bucket? – if you do not immediately take it down, photo-bucket IS considered a ‘gallery’ site, and leaving it in a public gallery to be access is indeed theft.
3. What about if I’m just showing it off on a forum? - always, always, ALWAYS link back to the artist with full credit and NEVER take credit for this work. If you can’t remember where you found it, you can’t post it, it is theft.
Copying and Tracing:
1. Copying a pose/outfit/character – most artists don’t care so long as you don’t post the work and claim it as your own. Referencing pictures is not considered theft. Copying things from pictures is. What’s the difference? Referencing is looking at something and learning how it works to benefit your own picture. Copying is looking at something and copying exactly what’s there. This could be simply a pose or an entire character.
2. Tracing – tracing something and posting it on the net claming it as your own is theft. You did not draw it, you did not create it, you copied it.
Copying and Tracing varies in degrees of severity. If it is a major part of your work, like the pose provide credit. If you are outright using the character or part of the character design (like the outfit) then always ask permission before posting it. This doesn’t apply to fan arts, but it never hurts to ask.
1. I drew so-and-so a fan art of their character – If you post it, ALWAYS send the owner of the character a link. If they ask you to take it down, respect that, but most wont, most artists are thrilled to receive fan art. Always credit the creator with a link to their gallery/site in your description for the character design. If not, you are stealing their character.
This applies to any kind of usage of a picture. Want to make wallpaper? Layout? Blog? Theme? Want to color it? It is this simple: No expressed permission from the ARTIST to use the image = theft.
1. What about personal things? Things that will never be shared or posted on the net? – this is generally considered fine, most artists don’t mind if you make yourself a wallpaper or theme for your computer so long as it NEVER leaves your computer. This is a touchy subject for a few artists, it’s always best to ask anyways.
Most artists are very liberal with their works unless it is from a personal series or one of their characters. You need not fear asking permission to use a work, here is the best way how.
How to ask an artist for permission:
1. Introduce yourself – a real name is always good as well as whatever alias’ you may use. If you are asking someone through DA, provide your DA name, if you are contacting someone from another site; provide a link to your site.
2. State which piece you are requesting to use – Provide links, most artists have many pictures and do not always know to which piece you are referring to. “That one of Link” that I get a lot, NEVER helps me, be specific and give the artist links to the works you are referring to. Always be specific “Can I use your art?” will never cut it.
3. Tell the artist what you want to do with it – If you are going to make a wallpaper, tell them you want to make a wallpaper out of it.
4. Always tell the artist where you will be putting it – If you want to offer it on your website, say so. “I want to offer the wallpaper on my site for others to use”.
5. Ask what kind of credit the artist would like for it – Some artists may request a link back to their site on your site under the wallpaper, some may want you to include credit on the wallpaper itself. This is ALWAYS up to the artist, do not presume anything. If you are looking to offer only one kind of credit. “I will only offer a link back to your site under the wallpaper” while an artist wants their site right ON the wallpaper, it will not work out. If you have an unbendable method of doing this, tell the artist.
6. Let the artist know you will let the see the complete product – An artist shouldn’t have to request it; all artists want to see what people are doing with their works.
7. Ask the artist if they have any special requests/requirements/guidelines.
Always be polite, never demand. Never apologize for ‘bothering’ them. Artists appreciate people asking permission first. A lot of artists may actually give you higher resolution, unwatermarked copies to work with if you come across well enough. If an artist let you use their art, it is ONLY for the requested purpose. If they give you permission to make that wallpaper, you may NOT go ahead and make a layout as well.
Coloring an artists work is using their work. This varies very much from artist to artist, some will be very open to it, others will not be. If you are asking to color a piece of lineart, always ask if there are particular colors the artist wants you to use. If you are coloring a very personal character of theirs, the least you can do is color it the proper colors.
And that is all I have for you today folks. I’ll add more as it comes up, but I hope this is helpful to you, or at the very least, didn’t make your brain bleed. I believe every person knows when they are stealing someone’s work. There is never an excuse to do it.
Below are some FAQ people have asked me in the past about having art stolen:
Q. Are you ever flattered someone though your work was good enough to steal?
A. No, never. A thief doesn’t use your piece because they love it; they use it because it is there. If not my piece, then someone else’s. There is no flattery in this. Say you built an amazing computer, from scratch, a nice, custom computer that is amazing, and then someone steals it. Would you be flattered or pissed? You repaint your car, awesome. Someone steals it and keys it. Are you flattered or pissed? Someone tapes you making an AMAZING sports play, then goes around claming that it was them out on the field. Are you flattered or pissed? I’ll tell you what, you’re pissed.
Q. Why do you get so touchy about someone stealing your work? Why don’t you just let it go?
A. Because every artist puts a little piece of themselves into a work. It can take months and months to finish a piece. It takes 2 seconds for someone to steal it. If someone stole your most precious possession, and you know who it was, would you just let it go? If you take pride in crafting or designing anything with your own two hands, you would understand this concept.
Q. Do you consider using stock theft?
A. If they follow the stock artist’s guidelines? Then no. If they break the rules, then yes.
Q. Why wont you let me use this piece!? I Asked!
A. If an artist says no. It means NO. Letting you use a piece of art is a privilege, NOT a right. If an artist says no, then bloody well respect that. I’m very liberal with permission to use wallpapers, fanarts and random characters that I do, but I rarely give permission to use a piece from say one of my manga.
Q. What about fan art? If I do a fan art of one of your characters do I need permission?
A. Not from me personally. I LOVE getting fan art of my characters.
And here is a nice little rant for you to listen to if you're still paying attention: http://www.ranting-gryphon.com/Rants/2rant-art_fans.mp3