Wednesday, April 15, 2009

When is a Copyright Holder Not a Copyright Holder?

When they blatantly steal a piece of artwork by putting their name, signature and/or copyright information on it!

I (Jozef) say "NO" to signature tags, tubes, letterhead and stationery, slight animation, frames, backgrounds, advertisements, menus etc. Almost once a week I get a request via DeviantArt from another DeviantArt member who seeks permission to use my artwork for the above uses. In each case I reply thanking them for their interest, but at this time, I'm not giving permission to use my art in this way. I also thank them for their respect and understanding of me and my work.

I put my artwork on display to showcase it, to present my ever growing body of (art) work, and my declaration of copyright ownership to that work. I do not put my art on display for it to be arbitrarily used by other parties with little or no policing, or more alarmingly... used without my permission.

Recently a DeviantArt artist decided to use my artwork as a signature tag for herself. This was done without my permission or knowledge. It was only because of the vigilance of another DeviantArt artist who alerted me of this usage that I found out about it. In response, I wrote to the offending DeviantArt artist, asking them to remove it immediately from their DA gallery and the Gaia Online RP.

The artist's response was:
Um..Ok. I will remove it. Someone told me it was yours and I was going to tell and ask you but didn't get the chance because your dA page wouldn't load of my computer. But to tell you the true [sic] I don't see why I have to remove it from the rp (that isn't even mine) when I join your pic on PHOTOBUCKET therefore it is open for the public to use and it's not like I'm passing it for my own, please understand that."

Well there are many things wrong with this response. Firstly, you do need to contact me after the fact to get permission to use my artwork. If you do not have my permission before usage, assume you DO NOT HAVE IT. Contact me before you use it... and tell me what context you intend to use it. I can then make a decision as to whether I give permission or not. It is MY artwork, so I get to decide.

Secondly, there is more then one way to find me on the Internet. If you need to contact me, telling me a page won't load is not an excuse.

Thirdly, the pic placement on Photobucket is not approved, nor linked to its original owner, and therefore also a copyright infringement. It looks like there could be a whole lot of stolen or appropriated artwork on Photobucket. I don't see how one can assume that artwork collected in Photobucket is therefore copyright free and in public domain in any way. I'd advise against using artwork where you don't know the origin.

Fourthly, by posting on an original art gallery site like DeviantArt, you are presenting that the work is yours in copyright, or you have obtained or purchased copyright ownership of the image. And by putting your name (and only your name) to the image within the image, you are publicly claiming copyright to the work.

I apologise to Black Mermaid™ readers for a somewhat aggressive tone and stance on this, but really... I've had enough of the excuses. Don't use what isn't yours to use unless it's for promotional purposes of our products, blog or website.

And in case you're wondering, the Black Mermaid™ image above is the one that was used. The first one is how she appears on the "About BMP" page on our website, and the second one is as she appears on the offending artist (who we actually suspect could in fact be a teenager because her DeviantArt website has a collection of naive beginning art interlaced with professional pieces that appear to be so different in style and substance that they look as if they are the work of multiple artists). You may note that the second piece has a trident instead of what we call a bident. Don't let this amendment fool you – it is also ours. You see, when Bruce Love was part of the Black Mermaid Productions™ partnership, each of us was symbolically represented in the original image as one of the prongs of the trident. When Bruce left in 2003 and we revised our website from the BMP (Classic) to the BMP (New Wave) version, Jozef changed the trident to a bident. Both images were designed by Jozef and both of them are very much part of the Black Mermaid Productions™ website history.

On another note, we would like to thank all readers and artists who alert us to these copyright breaches. We really appreciate it.

And if you are interested in reading further about this case, Colleen Doran covers it from another angle (and with our original email responses to the copyright infringer) on her A Distant Soil blog from another angle in her Black Mermaid Swiped blog post. 

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