I was delighted to see so many followers both here and on my Facebook page share and enjoy the Halloween wallpaper art (above) I created but there were a couple of examples where the artwork had been amended and altered quite drastically. Before I go on a boring long rant, I thought I would begin by posting a brief guide on good practice concerning shared images (which applies to all original content, not just mine):
- On Facebook, it is completely fine (ie positively encouraged) to use the ‘share’ function and show off the artwork on your timeline. We love this!
- In cases where the ‘share’ function does not work (Facebook can be annoying like that) then downloading and re-posting is also fine, but do include a link or tag the author/artist.
- Sharing on Instagram is fine too, just do a screengrab and post on your IG account, but don’t forget to hashtag the author/artist.
- Written content on blogs should not be repeated in full – instead, post an opening paragraph and link back to the original blog. This way we all get to share a little link love.
The upshot of these basic guidelines is that sharing, tagging, linking and other forms of credit and acknowledgment to the original artist/author/creator helps us promote our work to new people. I make no apology that whenever I offer wallpaper artwork, it is in effect a cheap way to advertise my brand. I hope that by offering something cool and unique, the tradeoff is accepted. For people who do want to amend and alter the design, or perhaps use it as a tattoo etc then I’m not hard to contact – a simple email requesting permission to use the art for this or that and I can usually respond swiftly.
A bit naughty
Whenever something of mine has been purloined and used inappropriately, I try to defend my IP quite vocally. In the course of doing so I have met with many responses that attempt to justify the actions of the content pilferer. Here are some commons responses:
1. Oh man I had no idea – you said it was free so I just added my own logo but your signature is still there.
My response: my desktop wallpapers are free for personal use, that means please use it on your computer, avatar etc but I still am the copyright owner. Don’t delete my logo and replace it with your own. That’s passing off my work as yours, or at least, implies I am endorsing your brand when that is not the case. You are basically using my art as a free advert for your school/company/organization.
2. Chill out man, it’s only a drawing.
It is! You’re quite right and there are many more ills in the world. But it is a drawing that has taken me 12-14 hours of my time, plus a lifetime of experience and skill to achieve. It took you maybe 60 seconds to erase my logo and replace it with your own graphic.
3. Well I see you’ve ripped off stuff yourself, so pot calling the kettle black, no?
Hmm, good one, you got me. I have created several pieces I like to refer to as homage pieces. They were heavily inspired by a well known culturally popular meme, symbol or product. They are a respectful nod to something that I personally like. In my own versions, I have executed the designs in my own vision using my own linework. I have changed huge portions of the overall design to the effect that the final product alludes with a knowing wink to something more familiar but (to my knowledge) doesn’t infringe any direct copyright or trademark.
4. That wasn’t me, it was our designer, who has gone away and now I cannot contact him.
Aha- the mystery anonymous ‘designer’. How he manages to get gigs all the time is beyond me. In past cases where a company has stolen my artwork, each case has been blamed on a mystery designer who has hot tailed it outta town. Hard to believe.
5. You should be flattered. It wasn’t done maliciously.
The emotional intent of the plagiarizer is neither here nor there. It doesn’t take away from the fact that someone edited, amended, altered, distorted and passed off my work as there’s. but yes, I am sort of flattered but if flattery was your intent, I’d be much happier if you kept the artwork intact.
6. It’s not commercial use, I only added my logo but not making t-shirts or patches or anything.
Commercial or no, altering someone else’s artistic work without permission is copyright infringement. The fact that no money or product is involved doesn’t detract from the fact that my work was used in a way without my permission.
7. You should have contacted them first before unleashing all your followers hate messages.
I’m not responsible for the words or actions of other people. I do usually ask for removal or correction of the image prior to making it more public.
8. Well it's your own fault for offering people wallpaper art, they're just gonna do what they do regardless.
Yup, I see that now. In today's age where movies, music, photos, artworks, whole books etc are downloaded and shared without regard to ownership, it is now the norm to just do what the hell you want with other people's IP. I think it's important for me to make a fuss however - inform and educate people of the appropriate ways to enjoy and use my artwork.
I mocked up a jokey version of my Halloween piece with gigantic opaque watermarks - see below. It was intended as a joke, but when I posted it on my FB page, some people took it seriously and moaned they could not now see the artwork.
The work of artists, musicians, writers and other content producers have been plagiarized, stolen, amended and altered since time began. The power of Photoshop and the ease with which an image can spread on the internet has accelerated this phenomenon. That doesn’t make it right nor normal nor acceptable. But I will concede there are some grey areas when it comes to using the work of others to create entirely new pieces. The artist Shepard Fairey is a famous example with his re-working of popular images.
I hope this post can offer some insight into the way a content producer feels and some advice about the best way in which to enjoy, use and share that content with others.