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Submitted on
January 14, 2013
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Hello everyone! In this “Common Misconceptions” blog we’ll be discussing “crediting” and basic copyright issues that have been circling around our community! As always, if you have any issues after reading this (or have any other points to add/knowledge to share)

:bulletred:I can upload images I like that I found from around the internet

Absolutely not.  This is DeviantART, the images you upload should either have been made by you, or you have permission to upload them.  It’s also expressly against dA’s terms of service. If this is something you do, I warn you to stop. This is an offense that can result in being suspended or banned from deviantART. Furthermore, this is theft pure and simple. Don’t take anything that doesn’t belong to you.  You wouldn’t want someone taking your hard work and using it without permission, so don’t put another artist in that position. This is what dA has to say about copyright infringement straight from the Copyright Policy:

"Some examples of copyright infringement (this is only a partial listing) can include:

  • Placing a photograph or creative work online without proper permission.
  • Using a creative work commercially.
  • Adapting a creative work of one medium to another, such as making a book into a movie or a photograph into a painting.
  • Modifying or editing a creative work without proper permission."

:bulletred:Ok, but I said the images aren’t mine, and I credited the owner
Saying "I don't own this” is not enough to cover the fact you don’t own the copyright to an image; neither is saying something like “_______ character is copyrighted to _______.” Once again, don’t post images that do not belong to you, or without written permission from the owner. Here is some more information from the Copyright Policy: 

  • In most cases it does not matter how much of the material you have used. Whether it's a single frame, a few moments of audio, a short clip of video or any other sampling it's still considered to be copyrighted and you still require the owner's permission for use.
  • It doesn't matter how you obtained the material, it's still considered copyrighted and you still need permission.
  • It doesn't matter whether or not you've credited the proper owner, it's still considered copyrighted and you still need permission.
  • It doesn't matter if you are not selling it or making a profit, it's still considered copyrighted and you still need permission.
  • It doesn't matter if you can find other people using things without permission, it's still considered copyrighted and you still need permission.
  • It doesn't matter if you've edited it a little bit or made a few alterations, if it's recognizable it's still considered copyrighted and you still need permission.
Basically, if it ain't yours, you've got no right to use it without permission. Plain and simple.

:bulletred:Wait, so doesn’t that mean fanart/fanfiction is stealing?
No, and here’s why: those who make fanart do so with their own hands. There is no unauthorized use of the character(s) or storylines involved.  The biggest difference between simply uploading an image of Sailor Moon and actually painting one yourself is the fact there is no direct copying involved. The only time things can get a bit sketchy is if the artist making fanart wants to sell an image. Here is the official info on fan created artworks:

"Original fan art are those works in which the submitting artist has done 100% of the work but the work itself depicts characters, scenes or other themes which were properly created by another creative person. 

When creating fan art, which essentially copies from an established source, it is considered good etiquette to credit your inspiration. Please note that it may be considered unacceptable to precisely duplicate your inspiration by directly tracing or copying every single detail so that it is difficult to tell your work from the original, so please be certain to add your own personal touches and style.

Fan art should not feature screenshots, official artwork, scans, copyrighted photographs, or similar items."

I made that last bit bold for a reason. There are folk out there who think it's ok to draw over screenshots, add stills to an image or remove the background from Pokemon cards...GUYS that's still not ok. The work has to be 1000% original, meaning if you didn't draw/paint/sculpt/scratch/write/photograph it with your own skills, you can't upload it here. 

:bulletred: I want to reference a picture I found online, is that ok?

Unfortunately, there’s no right answer to that question. In most cases, if you are not directly tracing the image, painting over it, or manipulating it as is, you are probably ok to use it as a reference. However, be aware of where the image originated. If a professional took the image, it may not be the best idea to reference it without permission from that photographer. The only way to be absolutely safe in referencing images is to either shoot your own reference images, or make use of the great stock available here on dA. Once again, more info from the Copyright Policy: 

What Sort of Things are Copyrighted?

The easy answer to this question is that just about any creative work you might find should be considered to be copyrighted by default.

A work is not required to have a copyright statement printed on it or near it in order to be considered copyrighted so do not assume that the work is unprotected simply because you cannot see a notice written anywhere.

Also do not confuse the fact that a work is publicly available with the idea that it is public domain or free for use. Being easy to find on the internet does not affect a work's copyrighted status."

:bulletred:What if I want to sell my fanart?

It is not allowed on deviantART. The originals of fan created artworks are creative works in their own right with their own copyrights. Once again, here is the official info regarding this: 

"deviantART does not allow the sale of copyrighted characters or works.

While artists can upload fan art as a deviation in their gallery, they may not make fan art available for purchase as a print without violating copyright and trademark protections. 

Fan art that does include copyrighted and/or trademarked materials require formal written permission from the original copyright/trademark owner.

You may be seeing Fan Art available as prints that are clearly violations. Please note that images submitted through standard print accounts are not checked by our quality control staff until someone orders the print. At this time, the images that violate the prints guidelines (found in the FAQ) will be rejected. The buyer will be informed informed and not charged for the rejected print."

:bulletred:I actually DO have permission to use this copyrighted work, how do I prove that?

dA has a handy dandy form for that that can be printed, signed by both parties, scanned and uploaded to dA during the submission process under "submission agreement." That form can be found here:…

:bulletred:Well, if I use Stock, how should I credit the stock artist?

The easiest answer to this question is be aware of whatever terms the stock artist has in place. Most stockers here on dA have journals with their rules for usage and crediting. In the event that there are no list of rules, the polite thing to do would be to let them know you used their image, but first and foremost make it known in your artist comments. If you would like to make a print available of the image, BE SURE that the stocker has agreed to allow prints (and it is perfectly reasonable for them to say no) .

Hope this helps any of you who may have been confuzzled about crediting here on dA :D The next blog will be more about copyrights and what to do if your image is being used illegally, and the following will be about dA etiquette, stay awesome!



This blog is basically going through some of the rampant misconceptions surrounding crediting and basic copyright infringement that occurs here on dA daily.
Add a Comment:
Internetexplorer968 Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
If I don't have a copyright on my drawings (because I can't afford one), then somebody stole my work on DA, and then uses it for their own, I can't do anything about it?
Xadrea Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Re-read this journal please :) 
divergenthp Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
What about commissions? Are you allowed to pay for fanart that way?
Xadrea Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
I always say be careful when it comes to selling fanart. Normally, there's no danger or worry in making a profit from fanart, especially commissions. However, issues can arise if you're turning out large profits while appropriating or even using copyrighted images/characters/stories ect. For example the app game "Flappy Bird" (never played it myself) was taken down by its creator because he was using scenery oddly similar to some old school Nintendo games. Rather than wait to be sued or bought out, he stuffed his money in his pants and ran :XD:
Inuranma44 Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2013  Student General Artist
Can I ask if we were to use a reference from another work and make a completely new and stylized version of it? Sorta like the way Alice X. Zhang does her work?
Xadrea Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
That's called appropriation :) It's kind of a fine line and depends on how much you were going to reference. If it's a lot, you should probably try to find out if you could receive permission to do so.
Inuranma44 Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2013  Student General Artist
Ah okay. :) I usually don't like referencing a lot. I mean, I want the viewer to know what it is but at the same time, I want to put my own spin to it. :D
Xadrea Featured By Owner Jan 30, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
Referencing is essential for learning how to draw/paint certain objects. You shouldn't shy away from it for fear of copyright infringement, there's plenty of ways to get reference images without getting into trouble :)
Inuranma44 Featured By Owner Jan 30, 2013  Student General Artist
Oh phew... thanks. That's been something that's been bugging me for a loooong time. :D
Xadrea Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
glad to help :)
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