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06-21-2013   #3 (permalink)
Ethane
Break it up, son.
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Originally Posted by Shnao

This is similar to what my friend warned me about with my graphic design stuff when I made a tumblr. The stocks I use are from fan art. I take them and I crop them, and tear them apart. I'd imagine the original artist would either be flattered or very pissed off that I took their artwork and mutilated it.
It's called appropriation, and what will come as a shock to most people who scream out ART THIEF!, it's a legitimate form of art. Lichtenstein, Warhol, and Picasso are just three examples of famous artists who did exactly what you're doing now -- taking someone else's art to compose your own. There's absolutely nothing wrong about this whatsoever, and you should could continue doing this to your heart's content.

Of course, the uninformed have tried to muddy the waters with misinformation, half-truths, and flat-out lies. Here's just a few of these myths just off the top of my head:
  • "You must ask the artist's permission to appropriate a whole or a part of their work." Myth.
  • "You must credit the original artist if you appropriate the whole or a part of their work." Myth.
  • "You cannot trace other's work without their permission." Myth.
  • "You must credit the other artist if you trace their work." Myth.

Then there's the whole legality of all this. For instance:

"The artist can take you to court and sue you for copyright infringement!" The artist in question is going to need a lot of money and time in order to bring such a matter into court. Basically, they have to prove that (for example) you taking their artwork in a wholesale fashion that's well past what could be considered appropriation then and making a nice forum sig out of it has hurt them in a tangible way, mostly in the form of money.

I know of only one time where this very thing ever happened and that's when some guy named Todd Goldman (I think) takes designs, traces them, changes them a bit and then sells t-shirts that appeal to the scroungy hot topic crowd. Well, one day he found a comic on the internet that he really liked and did that once again, except the comic he filched just happened to be by Dave Kelly, who's the artist/animator over at Something Awful -- so you can imagine how that response went. I don't know know if it ever went to court but there you go.

So don't worry about it. If that makes them upset, then they shouldn't put their art up on the internet. Personally, I'm thrilled whenever I see someone do that sort of thing with my work -- a couple years ago a little independent band took one of my comics and used it for their album cover. Totally without permission. And I loved it.
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