Is it okay to use images without permission or crediting the artist?

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Jorick, Oct 9, 2015.

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  1. In light of the serious business debates happening here lately, I feel like it's time for people to rage at each other over something pointless instead of real political issues. Enjoy.

    Probably everyone on this forum has used an image without getting explicit permission from the owner. Your avatar, your appearance images for roleplay characters, images used for scenery and such, any of them could be an image you grabbed without asking the artist if they were fine with it. It's also probable that many of you have never bothered to clearly give credit to the artist when using images, such as by naming the artist and linking to the source. From my experience, the norm on roleplaying sites seems to be that people go snag whatever image they want and slap it into their post, rarely ever caring to make sure that people know it's not their property. That got me to thinking and wondering what other people think about this issue.

    Why do people seem to be totally okay with using images as they please? In most circles that would be considered copyright violation, theft, or perhaps even plagiarism if the person implies that it's their own creation. Is this just an unspoken law of roleplaying communities, that copyright means nothing as far as we are concerned, or are people just ignorant about these things in general? Aside from general musings about the community as a whole, how do you specifically feel about potentially illegal or unethical use of images? I've also got a couple questions specifically for the two potential sides I see forming on this matter.

    If you think it's fine to use whatever images whenever you want without caring what the owner wishes, how do you justify it? Why doesn't or shouldn't copyright law apply to your image usage? If you have a legal justification, how is it okay ethically and morally speaking? Have you ever actually considered that you might be doing something wrong in the way you use images, or is this the first time it's being brought to your attention?

    If you think it's not okay to use an image without permission or crediting the artist, how exactly do you decide whether or not you can use an image? Does just giving the artist credit make everything fine in your opinion, and how clear exactly do you think such crediting has to be? Does there need to be an explicit statement that the artist is okay with people using it, or is the simple absence of a "don't use my art" message good enough for you?

    If you sit somewhere in the grey area between those two extremes, what are your thoughts on the matter and how do you answer any of the above questions that apply to your position?
  2. Too many questions! Aaaaargh!

    We've only had a few dicks on Iwaku who have claimed exquisite artwork to be their own. Most of the time there is an unspoken understanding among roleplayers that the shit you're seeing has been thieved from far better individuals.

    My own justification is that I am not making a profit from the picture. It is simply being employed for pleasure.

    Hence why I remove the images whenever I take a roleplay down the publication route.
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  3. Whenever I use an image that isn't official artwork from some form of public media, I do my best to find and link the source and credit the artist by name because it's someone's hard work and intellectual property. I always ask myself if I would be okay if I saw art I created being used in somebody's roleplay, and usually I lean towards no, unless I was credited. I would mainly feel offended or violated if the image was for a very specific character I created and somebody was claiming it as their own.

    And that's one reason I have largely stopped using a lot of images for characters in RPs is because I am kind of trying to make my character fit that image whenever I do, and it's kind of limiting. I feel like I should be able to create a character using my words without a visual aid for the most part. It's good practice.

    When it's something like official artwork for a game, comic book, or movie, something that's widely known as the property of an established company, I don't bother because people generally know who the image belongs to, and it's already all over the internet. Case in point, my avatar. My gif in my sig I never found the creator for, so unfortunately I can't really give credit.
    #3 Dervish, Oct 9, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2015
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  4. @Jorick

    Great topic!

    On other roleplay sites I have frequented in the past, this was considered a major topic of contention. It was outright expected of you to credit others and/or provide proof that you have ownership of an image if you did not credit.

    To this day I tend not to use artwork/anime/other in my images if they're required for an rp. At least if you use beyonce or some other well known person as an image, most people kind of get the gist that you don't own that shit and that's not you.

    My justification for the images though mainly lies in the fact that fanfiction and/or rp is a thing. Do we credit JK Rowling or Tolkien every time we write about Lotr or Harry Potter in fandoms? Or Walt Disney or whoever the fuck else that we write about? They sat down and put manpower into that stuff too.

    I think that it is implied and so long as we intend not to profit from it and/or unlawfully claim it as their own work, then it is fine.
    #4 Decimate, Oct 9, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2015
  5. I think that's largely because it falls under fair use and parody law. There's been numerous instances where companies have ordered cease and desist orders to individuals for creating something based on their intellectual properties, which is why you often see artists or video creators making a fan project based on an IP do long form credits that say who exactly owns the IP. One example off the top of my head is DBZ Abridged, where the creators open every video up with a disclaimer saying who owns DBZ and asking the audience to support the official release. It's largely so they aren't ordered to take it down or get sued.

    If there weren't fair use and parody laws, any company who owns a trademark on a character or IP could order you to take that shit down or face the consequences, even if it was for something as simple as a roleplay character or avatar. You're using their property without permission.
  6. Doesn't the same technically apply with the pictures you use depending on the circumstances?

    I dunno. I still think there is a ton of implied going on here with a lot of them. It's up to the person individually to do so responsibly so they don't get whacked.

    That's just me though. I don't know anyone who was contacted (outside of outright stealing work from dA) over an rp/fanfiction pic.
  7. I couldn't tell you the specifics because I'm admittedly not well versed in all of that, but basically if the fair use and parody laws weren't something that existed, if you used an image of a trademarked character, there'd be nothing really stopping a company from "protecting their intellectual property" and forcing you to stop if they discovered it.

    But if you mean something like an artist on say DeviantArt who saw somebody using their image without permission, I don't think there's a lot they can do, unless they filed for a trademark, which, let's be honest, isn't feasible. This is why a lot of artists put a water mark over their images to say it's theirs so nobody can claim the image was a creation of their own. I've heard of people contacting administrators of other sites with proof that somebody stole their art (or more commonly, roleplays) and the result was the admins either deleting the thread/ image or even banning the account.

    While I don't know of anyone personally who's had their art used in roleplays without their permission, it's impossible to know unless you stumble across it somewhere else on the internet. I imagine a lot of artists know their art's being used by other people, but aren't overly worried about it. I can definitely imagine some people in other circumstances being very defensive over it because they felt violated. Imagine, if you will, a religious artist finds his or her character's being used by somebody else in a smutty roleplay. It would probably feel some some invasion of the body snatcher shit.
  8. A'ight. Normally I'd say "here comes the logic train again, choo choo" but on this topic, I have my own personal feelings, so, I won't make the logic claim. Though, we should pop a myth right now.

    "Posting artist's copyrighted pictures to my characters is covered by fair use."

    Fair use (or fair dealing as we brethren and sisters of the Commonwealth call it, tut tut, cheerio!) is the following, folks.
    • Commentary: You're not making any commentary on the picture (ex: review/critique), so, no, not covered here.
    • Search Engines: This explicitly protects the likes of Google, Ask, Yahoo, Bing, DuckDuckGo, and so on. This does not protect you, because you are not a search engine.
    • Criticism: Again, just like commentary, you're not doing this. Not covered here.
    • Parody: You'd have to be insane to think that straight copy-pasting someone else's artistic talent is somehow a parody. If that counted, someone could literally copy-paste the entire original trilogy of Star Wars, label it a "parody", and get away with it. So... Nope. You're not covered here, sorry. :ferret:
    • News Reporting: Remember how you aren't a search engine? You also aren't a news agency. You can't pretend to be either of those things, a court of law would shoot that down without any hesitation.
    • Research: You're not using it to become a better artist, nor are you using it in some sort of study or essay. Try again.
    • Teaching: This provision is specifically directed toward public and private educational sectors. This is why a high school English LA teacher can show you various "PC" movies he or she has lying around their classroom. This does not cover art theft "borrowing" a picture. You're not providing an educational service, and don't delude yourself into thinking otherwise.
    • Library Archiving: You're not a library. Please, please don't pretend that you're a library.
    • Scholarship: Surely you don't think you're covered by this, do you?
    None of the above covers your art stealing ass, in the same way that none of the above would cover me for illegally downloading a copy of Star Trek V: Shatner's Ego returns. Even in the four factor balancing test, your ass is still not covered. Because the only one that you could even try to argue could cover you for fair use, is... "the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work."

    Technically, the likelihood of your theft actually impacting the sale of the item in question is next to zero. However, if there was an option to purchase a print or copy for yourself, and you chose not to do so, then used it for whatever purposes you desired anyway--not covered by the above bulletpoints--you committed an act of Internet Piracy. Just because it isn't a video game, doesn't mean it's not just as illegal. Rule of thumb: Ask yourself if it would be illegal if it was a video game. Yes? Then it's 99% likely it's equally illegal to do the same with music, art, or films.

    Now, where it gets to be a grey area, is that if I just post a picture of Mickey Mouse, most courts would consider it unreasonable to issue a take down notice. The web host cannot be held responsible for the actions of an individual user posting a picture of mickey mouse. If you were to create a thread talking about the picture, or used it as a gag effect (ex: a .gif file as a response to someone's post), that would be considered commentary and would be fair use. However, this does not apply to using the picture for an appearance in a character--you're not using it for commentary, don't even pretend that you are.

    Ultimately though, the odds that anyone will sue you or issue a take down notice for posting a picture of their art is next to zero. Most individual artists have long since given up any hope of the Internet being kind enough to fucking pay them. I'd argue that most, in fact, would be just as happy if you simply left a link to the work you took in question, so that they could potentially get more traffic. Also, if you use pictures with a public domain copyright (ex: Images hosted on Wikipedia), there's nothing illegal in giving an [img] link to one of their pictures. It's still hosted on their web service, so you didn't take it away from public domain.

    Personally? I get mildly irritated if someone posts a character with an appearance and doesn't even so much as go to the level of simply providing a citation to the artist in question. I don't throw hissy fits over it, but personally, I tend to avoid using pictures on the Internet. I'm a "writer" supposedly, at least, I keep being told that by scores of wannabe Tolkiens and Kojimas. Surely, if I am one, I can at least do the basic task of describing my character's appearance, right? If I can't do that, how the hell am I supposed to know how to describe their actions in character anyway? If I don't know how to describe a reasonable human in appearance, how the hell will I do it in actions? :ferret:
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  10. I imagine so. I started reading some source material on the subject a few minutes ago and basically the gist of the whole copyright vs fair use is tipped more often in favor of the public benefit. It's done on a case by case value and won't prevent you from being sued, but there isn't any hard and fast rule of what is fair use vs what is copyright infringement. The whole thing is pretty murky and even a lot of the articles agree that fair use vs copyright & the internet are all pretty much in infancy stages right now.

    So I guess the moral of the story is be as responsible as you can according to what I'm reading?

    It all looks really murky with a bunch of fancy lawspeak to me. I guess that's why I'm not a lawyer.
  11. When it comes to say my art work, I'm fine with people using it for what they want. It just means that my artwork is being shared. Should they credit me? that'll be nice. But if they don't, then at least the idea and art is shared. But, not many people share that view XD

    As for taking others art. Me personally, as long as it's for non profit things.
    When I find a pic online for one of my characters. I say that they'll look something like this. (Personally, I always found it odd how people put up a famous picture and say that is their character. I'm like "No, that's not billy with a beam sword, that's Luke skywalker with his lightsaber DX"

    Take one of my characters for example. Domenic Terenso (Normally goes by Demon-Tero, or just Tero) I'd say that he looks something like this.
    Show Spoiler


    That's not exactly what he looks like, but this picture is the general idea of what he would look like.

    Just saying that, one can probably assume that it's not mine. I mean If it was, then it woulda been drawn just as what Tero looks like, or the best I can draw him anyway.

    Avatars? I see it as images that either you think is cool, or describes who you are a bit to give people a feel of how you are, and perhaps how your post should be read.

    But something also relating, character creators. I've seen character creators say "Credit me ^^" But thing is though, they just supplied to tools for you to make your character. When you see an art piece, do you have to credit the pencil company? The paper company? In ink company? Take my avatar for example. That's basically what I look like in anime form more or less (the hairs a bit different, but options were a bit limiting)

    Or even soul calibur 5's character customization. I've made some pretty close versions of my characters.
    Say one of my characters Ash Roselina
    Show Spoiler


    This is damn near close. Only difference being his shirt probably doesn't have that V thing.

    So should one also credit character customization? If you look deeper into it, the hair is their art, the clothing is their art, everything is basically theirs, but the picture its self, you created, just with their parts.

    So what do I think? Honestly, I'm not really sure. The strictness of fair use seems to vary per person. Personally, as long as you don't directly say that an art piece is your's, then it's safe to assume it's not yours, and as long as you're not using it for profit, I think it's fair game. Should you credit? Yes. But it's not a necessity.
    #11 Pharaoh Shadon, Oct 9, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2015
  12. Personally I just tend to grab and use images as long it fits the following requirements.

    1) No Profit is being made
    2) I'm not claiming it as my own

    So if I were to ever enter an art contest, I'd be giving credit to the artwork in question.
    If I were profiting I would make sure the person gives approval for such uses beforehand.

    But in cases like my Avatar?
    I'm not submitting it into a contest, no one is harmed by me cropping The Master, Old Spice, Pokemon, Sun Ships, the Sun or a Baneblade.
    And no one is logically going to assume that it's my own creation... Well the end result yes, but not the individual pieces within it.

    "But Gwazi, you have an entire YouTube Channel of Cropped/Ripped Video Emotes"

    Yes, and notice how in the Title and Description of each and every one of those videos I give credit to the host?
    Therefore not claiming it's my own content.
    #12 Gwazi Magnum, Oct 9, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2015
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  13. I'm harmed.

    I have to fucking look at it. >:[
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  14. I greatly respect artists and feel one should always try to credit an artists. A lot of artists will post if they are fine with others using their art or not, so if an artists does not want others to use their work then one should not. There are other pictures out there. Sometimes it can be hard to find who created a piece, and then it is difficult to know what to do. If you use the art say you would like to credit the artist but don't know who the artists is. A lot of times someone will know.

    The art I use on this site (my avatar and character images) are commissions done by Celestial-Artistry
    Since these are my own characters and I paid a good deal of money for the pictures I would be upset if someone else used them.
  15. Reverse Google Image search. Since Fair Use protects Search Engine indexing, you can usually find the original source of a piece of artwork this way.
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  16. As an (amateur) artist, I think it's ok to use artists work without permission or crediting, at least in the context of a RP. I agree with what Asmosodeous has said.

    That being said, crediting the artist is mighty swell of you.
  17. FUN FACT: We occasionally get emails from artists that demand us to remove pictures that people are using for their roleplays, siggies or avatars! And they are totally within their rights to do so! Because if you did not get permission to use that image, or the image was not listed somewhere as free stock, or free to use, then you ARE technically stealing it. You can spout a lot of stuff about fair use and blahblah internets, but nope. O__O We're all a bunch of dirty pirate thieves.

    As for the morality of it, if you're not using it for a business, profit, claiming it to be yours, etc MY PERSONAL OPINION is that it's not a big deal. People have always used art, musics, and other stuff to enhance their funtimes.The internet just made that a million times easier. Most artists are glad to see their work spread even despite some bad thieving experiences. I've even had some of my own art and written stuff jacked and stolen by peeps. You just shut down the ones trying to claim illegal credits/profits and kinda shrug off the rest as free advertising. @__@

    Should we FORCE that on an artist though? Hell no. If an artist doesn't want their work used or shared outside of their controlled mediums don't use their stuff. It's the respectable thing to do.

    Otherwise it's POLITE AND GOOD ETIQUETTE to give credit and share the artist whenever possibly, though. And the easiest way to do it is make sure you link directly to the image from the artists website! Failing that, you can put the artist name in the filename of the image if you have to upload the image to your own source.
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  18. I'm an artist who actually makes money off of my work. I like to be credited on the work that I make that hasn't been bought- for several reasons.

    I also like people to credit me even if they have bought some of my work.

    Not that anyone really uses my work for anything but maybe a DnD character sheet...
  19. My opinions on this matter have been in flux for a few years, because I've had a hard time resolving my simultaneous interest in both Live and let live and Do unto others logic.

    Morally and personally, if a creator were standing right before me asking to have their creation removed from my unauthorized content, there would be no question. I have no significant attachment to this use of their creation; the least I can do is respect their wishes. I default to crediting, and I hope anybody whose creation is used in my own content is happy with that. But I also take into account the nature of the work while I'm sourcing it.

    Case-By-Case (open)
    Copyright laws exist to protect intellectual property in order to ensure creators are able to benefit from their efforts instead of spending manpower only to have it stolen away by a copier. Be that in the form of a patent or work of fiction, the spirit of this sort of law is to ensure profitability, and our manner of use can contravene that if we aren't careful about — not only which creators, but — which specific creations we make use of in our own content.

    Especially for small artists whose primary income comes from commissioning — from whom, by the way, we primarily obtain our repurposed art — uncompensated use of their content can be genuinely detrimental to their potential profits. Copyright laws don't exist so a creator can feel good about controlling the use of their creations, it's so they can, among other things, eat. And very seldom are for-profit creators acting out like a lot of teens on DeviantArt when they send a Do Not Post or takedown order.

    A commissioned work typically has already been paid for and privatized, and any digital copies of it are as righteously freely used as a photocopy handed to you by the commissioner (because one cannot quite own something that somebody else paid for). But this is an optimal case, and while generally what we end up dealing with, isn't the only possibility.

    Some artists freely display digital copies of their art because digital copies can't be put up and admired in your living room (unless you have one of those neat-o digital picture frames); what they're selling is a tangible, physical copy of that same image, in resolutions often far more detailed and on a much larger base than an A4 sheet of paper. And while you aren't really taking any profit away from them by repurposing that free, inferior copy, you are contradicting the spirit of their displaying it, which is to convince you to purchase your own copy so that you can do things like what we do.

    Particularly, we should be weary when repurposing anything that has exchangeable value. If what you're using could have been obtained from the original creator only through financial transaction, it's no question that what you're holding is an illegal copy likely the result of the creator's lack of attention to digital security when hosting the image (or a customer who distributed it unlawfully); and you can't fault them for that, because it's not your job to do everything in your power to protect your property from thieves, is it? If it gets stolen, you're still a victim of a crime.

    Commissioners are worthy of note, as well. If you purchased a car from Toyota and it gets stolen, Toyota has no special interest in your situation; you are the victim as the exclusive owner of the vehicle. Commissioners may under certain circumstances not possess these rights, but typically when one hands somebody money in exchange for a service, the resulting property from that service is unconditionally transferred to the buyer's possession.

    In the spirit of copyright, we shouldn't be making use of anything that a creator profits from per-copy. This is why digital piracy is so much less controversial, because very seldom are songs and games made-to-order like commission artists do. A digital copy can always be obtained freely as a result of the nature of the Internet; our responsibility is to ensure that our copies are already paid for by somebody else (or made for free, because artists do that a lot). And then, after that, our other responsibility is to respect a creator's wishes, because we aren't mean-spirited grumps (I hope).
    #19 Samster, Oct 9, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2015
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  20. I don't know who you are.

    But I will find you and I will love you.

    That's a Taken joke, everyone. Clap for me.

    Seriously though. I love you.
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