I really don't know where to even begin with this, but I will stumble through it all the same. I am not sure if I will come to any conclusions or deliver any answers, but maybe I can get a(nother) conversation going. This is something that has been around forever(?) and will likely be with us indefinitely. It goes by many names: borrowing, incorporating, appropriating, stealing...
This is not an easy subject and everyone has an opinion and draws their own lines on what is allowed and what it too far. There are also SO many different ways these acts are committed. Sometimes art is used and is unchanged, sometimes art is used unchanged with a new persons name attributed to it, sometimes the art is modified to some degree, sometimes the art is recreated so that the heart and soul of the original is still there but the details are changes, and sometimes the ideas or creations of two or more things are just shoved together to make a 'new' thing. To me, these are all interchangeable.
An article popped up on my Facebook feed and I was a little curious. The article centered around a fan made set of Star Wars themed Magic the Gathering cards. I figured all of the art had to be swiped since the lead in graphic was obviously from another Star Wars project. I poked around the article and the cards a little and quickly found not only my art being used but many other pieces that I recognized as friend's work or work used on projects I had worked on or knew of.
Article in question. Not going to link to it, but I am sure you can find it.
Okay, let's get some things out of the way... "They are not making any money from it, how are they hurting anyone?" "This is the highest compliment!" "They are just fans making something for themselves and fans." "They are making something NEW and are not at fault." Nope, nope, nope, and nope. At worst they are thieves and at the least they are severally taking advantage of MANY people and the COUNTLESS hours of time and effort that went into creating the original artwork. And not just the hours of time of the artist, but all those involved in the production of the original. The art directors, writers, game designers, etc are all tied into these types of actions.
Looking at this through the lens of just me and my two pieces that are involved with this, let's break this all down. First, something that is RARELY, if at all, done was that I and the rest of the artists were credited. This in and of itself is an miracle, and I wonder if the original MtG cards had not always included the artist names if the names would have ever been included. So, one good thing, I guess. Now for the rest...
My Salacious B. Crumb painting that I originally created for the Fantasy Flight Games release of the Star Wars Card Game now is being used on a custom made and distributed Star Wars themed Magic the Gathering Card. I am 100% sure that no one that owns that art was contacted about this usage.
My art seen here was created for the Fantasy Flight Games release of the Star Wars Card Game. FFG / LFL / Disney own the art and all usage rights. I am allowed to use it for promotional purposes and that is the beginning and end of it. DONE. This person has taken card art I did for a company and used it unchanged, save for cropping off my watermarks, copyright info, and most of my signature and is now using it as a card illustration. There is no evolution here, there is no transformation, the art is being used in the way it was originally intended.
As far as the 'not making any money' argument, when someone illegally downloads music to listen to, they are not making any money from it. They are enjoying it for what it is and doing so without the creator or owner being rightfully compensated. Once that person has that illegally obtained music they can pass it around, for free, harming the creator even more. No money is being made, but there is still a victim. We are fooling ourselves if we want to draw distinctions between a song and a piece of art. If it is taken and used without the creator / owner being compensated for their time and effort then it is equally wrong.
My Arcona Rumor Monger, also created for the FFG Star Wars Card Game. Again seen here unchanged except for the removal of watermarks, copyright, and signature.
Obviously time and effort went into writing and working out the cards and their mechanics. That goes to whomever put this all together, they made that. They did not make the art and I am 100% confident that the time they devoted to making the stats for the cards is a drop in the bucket compared to the time and energy of the artists. Not to mention that the card template, icons, etc are all trademarked or copyrighted by Wizards of the Coast. Just because someone worked really hard to make something new and then used the property of someone else, in no way justifies it.
'This is made by a fan for fans' ... and your point is? Why do we make excuses for something that is wrong? If the art is so important to the finished product then you REALLY need to be an adult / professional / thoughtful person and either do what has to be done to make / buy / license the artwork or you go without. Or in the least, NO NOT POST IT ONLINE FOR ALL TO SEE.
I know we live in a time where Google offers up images without limits and that we share things online. BUT the rules have never changed, it is just so much easier to take without penalty and share without consequences. I am sure these people would feel a lot differently if they were the victim, but maybe they wouldn't. Maybe they don't value their time and effort, maybe they think they have done right by everyone, maybe they would never imagine that they have done anything wrong. I have dealt with plenty in the past that feel justified to take whatever they want
and attack any that question them. I really feel sorry for them, but it does not grant them immunity or justification.
These are my two cents, for what they are worth.
I have had some additional thoughts after this post originally went up:
These pieces were work for hire, the client hired me to make the work, payment for services rendered. They own it and have the copyright. It is their fight if this would ever escalate to a legal matter. They would have to send the cease and desist, they would have get their lawyers involved, it is their dog in the race. For better or for worse, this did not involve a piece of my own art. I can not act on this unapproved usage of my these painting.
That said, I have still been harmed. They stole my time and a part of my life. I spent a part of my life to make these paintings. While I was compensated for the work, the payment in no way actually comes close to compensating me for the time and effort that I spent on these paintings. I do some of these pieces because I want to, because they mean something to me, as a way to better my skill set at the same time I get a little money and a published piece, etc. By these pieces getting used without compensation to me they are taking advantage of that time I invested in making them. I could have used that time to do any number of things and I chose to make a painting for a client and this person(s) has come along and taken that from me. A part of my life that I will never get back. I think this get to the heart of what angers me so much about these types of behavior. These people leech off my time and effort, and the effort, time, and money of the client, without any consideration or compensation.
Say you are waiting in a restaurant for your meal. You are very hungry. As the waiter brings you your food some other person comes by and eats it all before it get to you. You of course will not have to pay for that meal and another will be made for you, but you have been wronged all the same. This might not be the best analogy, but I think it gets the point across. The major victim is the restaurant, but you needed that food and now you lost the time that had already passed to make it. NO ONE would be okay with being the hungry person in the scenario. Yet music, art, games, and more is constantly being stolen without thought or concern.
Okay... I think I am done now.
That is all for another exciting Wednesday on the blog, see you have here on Friday! Until then...