View Full Version : A Newcomer's Concern

08-03-2010, 09:24 PM
Alright, I'm a newbie here. However, I have something that is worrying me.

I have a map I'd like to post on here. It's hand drawn and colored, and I've put more work into it than I have any other. Honestly, I did it with the intent of posting it here. I've looked through this site a lot, and I love the stuff I see, and I would be honored to have you wonderful people look at my work and hopefully give me some much wanted comments/criticism. I've also read some on how to post my map and the copyright rules. I know that anything I post on here is my work legally. If it was featured, then CG could post it on their homepage and other sites could possibly link to it (I think?).

However, I can't help but worry. What is to keep someone from taking my map, calling it their own, and doing something else with it? What are the best ways to protect my work from theft or copying by some less-than-honorable individuals? I'm not so arrogant as to believe that my map is so amazing that people couldn't help but try and take it, but I'm still rather protective of it. I'd eventually like to base some short stories in the little world I've created...I'm actually currently working on a political map (several actually...spanning several centuries) and a basic history (some things more specific than others at the moment). The idea of anyone taking my work and calling it their own makes me very reluctant to post it on the internet.

Again, I'd love to post my work on here and have you all look at it. However, I still don't feel exactly safe doing it. Does anyone have any words of confidence?


P.S. I'd like to make it clear that it's not this community that I'm wary of. Though none of you know me, I have a great amount of respect for all of you. Most of these maps simply blow my mind, and give me something to aspire to. It's people on the outside that I'm more suspicious of. It's not my intent to offend anyone.

08-03-2010, 09:31 PM
You could put a watermark or put your signature/name on it. That would avoid people from calling it their own.

08-03-2010, 11:09 PM
You can put disclaimers in your post like "Not for commercial use" but that really doesn't deter anyone. Ultimately, anyone can save the image of the map to their hard drive and put it up in some out of the way place that only a few know about and take all the credit for it and you may never even know about it. I'm betting that sort of thing happens all the time (cuz we've seen it many times before here) - dude sees a cool map, saves it, shows his friends, and tells them that he made it. However, the jig is up when they ask him to make a map for them the same way and he can't so they begin to doubt the first map was his. The dude may come back here and put up a request for a map that matches your style and that should raise red flags about his intentions. Most of us here keep what we call "Inspiration Folders" where we save cool stuff or neat ideas to explore in the future - whether it be a technique for hills or forests, cool continent shapes, neat tricks, etc. and we sometimes explore these things later in our own work. Nearly all of us give credit where it is due saying something like "I saw a neat thing by Mr X and here's my take on it". If your map goes into a published book and someone comes along and says "Hey, you stole that map from my friend cuz I've seen it before" you will certainly not have to deal with any legal questions as the dude who lifted your map knows that he did so and would never call you out on it...just his unknowing friends would. So those folks you can just ignore. Should your map just linger on a shelf somewhere for the rest of your life then there's no harm. Should you see your map appear in someone else's book then you can call them out on it and you might actually win the case but you'd lose a lot of money to the lawyers. Should the book sell millions of copies you might be able to get some royalties out of it whether you sue him or agree to something out of court. So, in the end, if you post it you should just assume that the world has seen it and someone somewhere has a copy saved...it's the way of the world. You always have your originals and the courts can settle things if push comes to shove. Not much of a confidence booster but I'm a cynic about trusting other people.

08-03-2010, 11:15 PM
My best advice is to never post full resolution images and never post the "source" file (PSD). Unscrupulous folks can still steal it and say it's theirs but you'll win any actual legal discussion of ownership if you can produce the original files at a higher resolution than they can. To my mind, the legal issues are the only ones that really count...any "reputation" issues (i.e. some schmuck claiming your map is their work around the Interwebz) are more easily resolved and less important.

08-04-2010, 02:48 AM
Anything you put online will eventually be taken and used without your permission. But as Ascension and mearrin69 have said, you can easily take steps to protect yourself legally.

Personally, I stopped worrying about it a while ago and uncopyrighted the majority of my maps (unless a client paid for them), so anyone can use them for whatever purpose they want, be it personal or commercial. That path certainly isn't for everyone, but I guess my point is that sometimes we just need to let go a little and focus on why we make maps. For most of us, the benefits we receive from sharing our maps, getting constructive criticism and learning as a community far outweigh the potential risk of some schlub stealing our content and claiming it as their own.

If you're worried about it, I suggest you put a license notice in your signature (Creative Commons is a popular one) so anyone taking your work has seen explicit reference to your ownership. That, coupled with your ownership of the source files, should be enough to protect you legally.

08-04-2010, 03:07 AM
Putting on a watermark or sig has already been said but if you do it than put it on in a way that makes it impposible to remove by cropping without destroying other noticeable details of the map. If someone sees a map than they can tell has been cropped they're going to ask about the rest of the map which can put the taker in an awkward situation. Of course people can remove the watermark in photoshop but if they have that kind of talent than they should really be making maps, not stealing them. Also, I've done a map at full resolution, or even full size in most cases and alwasy keep the psd file.

Not wanting to hijack the conversation but if you see a map and have questions about it, is it okay to post a sample of it here for inquiry if you reference where you got it?


08-04-2010, 04:09 AM
Watermarking was mentioned earlier and has been discussed before.
There is a method of invisible watermarking that costs M-O-N-E-Y for a form of protection. I once subscribed to Digimarc for a basic watermark ID - I notice it now costs $50 per year and you can watermark 1000 images for that.
Basically your ID number gets encoded into the image and programs can read it. Digimarc maintain your record and number and people can look up the owner of the watermark. I did it for a year or so and I'm attaching one of my watermarked images (NOT a map - sorry) so you can play with it. (My "Olly" sig has nothing to do with the Digimarc watermark btw)
Basically something like Paintshop Pro has a View-Watermark pop down menu, if you use that on this image it should show my number (354519) and let you look up the Digimarc website registry of that number. Since I haven't maintained my payments for registry they seem to have lost me! No matter. The principle is demonstrable. PSP also puts a Copyright symbol on the PSP image window (that's nice!... erm)
As an experiment you might like to try cropping and messing around with the image to see how much or little it takes to mess up the watermark? The theory being - I guess - that you have to do sufficient "damage" that makes your own original more provable as the original.
Does that make sense????

edit: this watermark was done back in 2003 so they may have improved the thing since then

08-04-2010, 11:48 AM
Id say if you post something on the internet or make it public in any way then it gets copied whether copyright or not and by people who are commercial, and even government sponsored so if the information is secret enough - dont post it. Next I would agree with above posts - are you wanting to stop people copying or want to be legally the owner in case of copying cos thats two different things. Next I would not CC license any work which you might one day publish in a book. Thats gonna be a no no to the book publisher.

Thats interesting about the watermark Crayons. I looked at your image and seen the Digimark noted and saw how robust it is. Not bad really. Copes with resize and some slight blur but 10 degree rotation took it out. Also I noted that if you clamp the black then it goes too. I think this is a good idea in the way of registering that this image is owned by you in a kind of digital signature kind of way.

However I would just like to submit the following image for your appraisal Crayons.... you might want to try it ! I think this says everything you need to know about these paid watermarks. So I do hope they have improved it since then.

08-04-2010, 12:55 PM
I had and have the same concerns and questions you do. Personally, I figured my best work is yet to come and I thought that if I wanted to learn to do art in this digital world I would have to take some chances along the way. Yeah, I look at my settings/attachments here and see that folks are downloading my images. I can't figure out why they would download some of the little scribble experiments but whatever. In the long haul, I learn with every post of mine. The advice to not post at full resolution is probably the most certain protection. If they don't have all the pixels you do and/or don't have the full size image you have all the proof it is your work. I always sign my pieces but that is easily cropped. Also state your reserved rights or whatever along with the image.

I was watching a professional artist working on a piece and he said, "Anything I draw, I can draw again. Usually better than the first time." So, if you had to, you could recreate a map by hand and it would probably be better than your first version anyway.

It is the Internet and is filled with people lacking in moral fiber, someone somewhere is going to take your artwork and wallpaper their room or something. Are they going to make millions off of it? If they can do that with mine, I want them to contact me because for a small share I'd be happy to provide them with a heckofa lot more. :) Clearly they have a business savvy I lack.

I'm also 43 years old and figure I've only got so many decades left to do this. I can't afford to horde my art in the top of my closet any longer. If I get ripped off I'll be livid, but anything I create I can do better so in the end I figure they are only getting my leftovers. Time for me to step out of my comfort zone.

If you go sign up on diviantArt they have a setting to put their watermark on anything you post there. It's free but it wouldn't be the same as hosting it here and you might not get as many comments/critiques simply because some might not want to navigate away from this site.

08-04-2010, 01:22 PM
I agree. It's better to have your work up and get comments than for it to be hidden away in case someone were to steal it and use it for their own nefarious means. There are cases where people have reposted guild work on other sites. But the people here are good at spotting it, and in all cases so far the person who has been reposting it has taken it down (and usually been very apologetic in the process).

08-04-2010, 01:47 PM
Jax: You have to download an image to be able to view it; the web browser does that automatically as soon as it hits the page. The download stats don't say anything about how many people have actually saved your images to their hard drives, as that activity (barring some javascript or flash trickery) is invisible to the server.

As with everything, securing your work against theft is a matter of evaluating the risks and taking reasonable measures to guard yourself. Who wants it? What measures are they likely to take to get it? How much do you want to inconvenience yourself to protect it?

In the case of these maps, the major "threat" comes from people who gather large collections and can't be bothered to track where the images come from. Then they post them all on another site without attribution. Something as simple as putting a visible signature on the image, preferably with a link to your own website or deviantArt page, will protect the image. If you really think there's a risk that someone will try to pass your work off as their own, then the best solution is to keep that work under wraps. That sort of thing is quite rare, though; I am not aware that it has ever happened to someone here. It helps that this is still a relatively small community and fantasy mapmaking in general is a very specialized niche. There aren't many places where a map could be posted that one of us won't eventually see it, and if it's not in one of those places, then its exposure will be so low as to be immaterial.

So the big question to me is: How much do I stand to gain by posting here? Nothing is as beneficial to a piece of art as a good critique. I consider the risk of theft to be quite low and the advantages to be quite good.

If you're still concerned, though, consider posting just a segment of the map—enough so that we can see the style and technique so we can give you some feedback, but not so much as to compromise your ultimate use of the map should that segment get out of control.

08-04-2010, 01:49 PM
Nobody can responsibly give you any words of confidence. If you share it it will be shared.

Many people will respect your wishes but it is highly likely that some will not.

The bright spot I can offer is sort of a left handed one:

A substantial element in the value of an image is confidence and appreciation of the artist. Should you have 100 pieces of art and nobody knows about you, your art collection is worth less in value and utility than if you'd given away 10 of those pieces and became famous. The remaining 90 are worth more than the previous 100.

That presupposes that you'll produce more than 3 pieces of work. But showing off your work is the best way to get feedback and inspiration. You will likely create more work if you share it.

It is of course everyone's right to determine what they do with their work and how they share it. I think many creative people mistakenly keep work rather than set it free. They lose the attention free work might give them. As they progress in their skills your earlier work becomes more valuable as a calling card than as an ultimate achievement. The work you release for free may not be paid for in dollars but it will be seen by more eyes and get you more responses and attention. Free work that resembles the buyers needs is the best way of establishing yourself.

Most people with very little are convinced to value it highly by people who have a lot to sell. Keeping your small contribution from the public eye also reduces your stature and enjoyment of your art. That in the end can be too big a price for you to pay.


08-04-2010, 01:52 PM
If it was featured, then CG could post it on their homepage and other sites could possibly link to it (I think?).

Just a note on this. We only select featured maps from the finished maps forum, so if you only post in the WIP forums, no worry. I'd also suggest if you do post in the finished maps forum to include a comment stating "please do not consider this map as a featured map". We will certainly respect it.

-Rob A>

08-04-2010, 03:04 PM
Thanks for the clarification Mid, I had wondered if that was the case but wasn't sure. Now I know and it makes better sense.

Great comments on here so far folks, it helps me to relax that inner urge to over protect my creations as well.

What would it take for us to have our own CG watermark ala dA has? It seems we have had this conversation a few times and maybe we should look into the possibility of making one available for whomever wants to use it. (If this is going to hijack the thread maybe I should post this separately).

08-04-2010, 06:50 PM
We just had that conversation a few weeks ago, and somebody posted several designs, but I can't for the life of me find the thread. I was going to put one on my solar system map.

08-04-2010, 07:29 PM
Look in that thread about the keychains, Red and tilt were putting up images there.

08-04-2010, 07:39 PM
nowadays I put my name in the bottom corner of my maps, and then descretely placing my insignia in the map so that it cannot be cropped out.

08-04-2010, 08:21 PM
Immolate nicely put "creative commons licensed. . ." and the license's logo/sign in his wheel of time map (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?10585-June-Entry-Wheel-of-Time-from-Falme-to-Fal-Dara). It is not very visible, but you would have to destroy part of the image to remove it.

08-04-2010, 10:33 PM
Thats interesting about the watermark Crayons. I looked at your image and seen the Digimark noted and saw how robust it is. Not bad really. Copes with resize and some slight blur but 10 degree rotation took it out. Also I noted that if you clamp the black then it goes too. I think this is a good idea in the way of registering that this image is owned by you in a kind of digital signature kind of way.

However I would just like to submit the following image for your appraisal Crayons.... you might want to try it ! I think this says everything you need to know about these paid watermarks. So I do hope they have improved it since then.
Re: "Fake" Image
Very nicely done! I hope you had fun with that? :)
Ultimately, resolution, is the key, as mentioned, or more simply, perhaps, keep a few of the stage images as you created it. The digital watermark is just another tool in the armoury, I guess. The fact that I no longer use it rather expresses my valuation of it (and my work!) and being able to fake it so that it looks like my work is rather the opposite of the intent here?:D Unless of course you want to destroy my non-existant artistic reputation! I wonder if I could sue you for deformation or something - is it libel or slander??? :lol:
That, ultimately, is the question, as someone stated earlier. If someone claimed your image as theirs, would you take them to court? How much money and effort is it worth? How much money do you want to pour into the lawyers' pockets? It depends on who stole it and how much you could get out of it.
Sadly, some internet bozo lifting your design and pasting some nekkid porn (or something) on it and using it for their website is probably going to lose you money in legal fees --- and the really big boys won't steal it, they'll pay an artist to do one for them just different enough to get past the law...

I thought about all this stuff back in 2003. I tried the digital watermark because it was cheap and I could easily afford it. A few years on, now, and it seems a bit dumb but what the hey?
My advice is: don't worry about it but be aware... if you can, sign it normally, don't publish at full resolution, keep all your notes and previous versions, then have a glass of wine and share it with like minded people.
One last point - if you go public here, there are "witnesses" to your claim.

08-05-2010, 12:28 AM
Well, you people pretty much have me convinced! A quick question now, how do I post something at lower resolution? I currently have a PDF and JPEG version of a scanned copy of my map. Is it possible to post lower resolution images of a scanned hand drawn map? Or is such a thing only possible with computer generated images?

08-05-2010, 01:12 AM
Whatever the source - scanner, created, made with plasticine and photographed etc, if you have a digital image you can rescale it. Most standard graphics software packages - GIMP, Paintshop Pro and so forth - will have a facility to do this. With something like GIMP you load up the piccy, chose Image-Scale and play with settings and look at the results.
Then save the image as some other filename or type. Actually, to be safe, get into a habit of "Saving As" some other filename before you start tinkering with your original.
When saving compressed image formats like jpg, look out for the compression level options in the save dialogue. The choices are all about compromise.
It also likely that your scanner software, or a freebie package that came with it, can rescale images.

08-05-2010, 01:14 AM
I had the same question not that long ago (How to post a lower resolution) and I asked one of the experts here Torstan about it:

by reducing the dpi in the Image settings from 300 to 100 - and it automatically reduces the pixel dimensions of the image by 1/3. In Gimp I think you need to reduce the pixel dimensions yourself. I usually reduce the size by 1/3 as print is 300dpi and screen resolution is about 100. So you end up seeing it on screen at roughly the size you'd see it on paper.

Took me a bit to figure it out because I AM using Gimp but I think I got it now. If not hopefully someone here will point it out to me when I post something that is clearly full resolution. :) In Gimp there is 'Image>Scale image' where you can change the size of things as we;; as pixel resolution and so on.

edit: Ninja'd by Crayola :)

08-05-2010, 01:24 AM
Well there's a thing!! I'd never really considered that 300 dpi / 100 dpi thing! That Torstan's a clever one eh?:D

08-05-2010, 02:01 AM
Do be aware that changing the dpi won't necessarily rescale the image. For instance, in Photoshop if you don't have "Resample image" checked, it will only modify the way the picture prints, not the number of pixels present. It's always a good idea to control your pixels yourself instead of indirectly through a print resolution setting.

and the really big boys won't steal it, they'll pay an artist to do one for them just different enough to get past the law...

Not necessarily. Consider the case of Saul Steinberg and the movie Moscow on the Hudson. I've attached an illustration that Steinberg made for The New Yorker and the poster for the movie. Columbia Pictures lost that lawsuit.

08-05-2010, 02:07 AM
Ok, so how do you re-sample in Gimp? I for one would like to have this process down pat before I start producing things that sell. Thanks in advance.

08-05-2010, 02:28 AM
I think it's only possible with computer made images as I'm not that familiar with scanner resolutions. Normally you can set an image's resolution when saving it, in photoshop for example when saving an image of as a jpg you can choose a resolution on a scale of 12. You normally have to lower an image's resolution and size to make its memory small enough to post it on this site, so if your map is higher resolution, greater size thats still rather clean looking and takes up more memory than someone elses then you have a better claim to nhaving the original.

EDIT: I should have read the baove posts before responding, feel free to disregard this message.

08-05-2010, 04:00 AM
That's not resolution; that's jpeg quality. The quality slider determines how much the image is being compressed.

Resolution refers to two things: The dpi at which the image is being printed (print resolution) and its actual pixel dimensions.

08-05-2010, 07:58 AM
Woops, my mistake.


08-05-2010, 09:10 AM
Wow, thank you for all of the responses!! I now have a digital copy of my drawing in a lower resolution, and hopefully it won't affect the viewing too terribly much. I think it's only apparent when you zoom in pretty far.

So I now have a lower resolution picture to post here, and I have all of the original copies and such. I believe this is enough to reasonably protect a piece of work?

08-05-2010, 02:58 PM
Actually I've come to easily recognize the work of various cartographers just by viewing without seeing a signature. And their fans of mine that recognize my style as well. In one case someone pointed out a map which they thought was mine, due to similar style - I checked, it wasn't, but the thought exists that there are fans out there who know some of our styles and when they detect a map that might have been stolen, often it gets reported. So I'm not extremely worried, though I am always on the lookout.