View Full Version : When does art become 'yours'?

11-23-2010, 03:31 PM
I've lifted quite a few textures I liked from other people's maps, and tweaked and fiddle with them to get them just the way I wanted them. I've put quite a lot of work into many of them - at what point is the work not the property of the original artist?

Right now I'm doing maps just for fun, and to share with other D&D players, but a LOT of what I do is emulating other people's styles (to mesh better with the official maps from settings I work on). At some point someone may ask me for brushes, vectors, textures, etc... and I don't think I can really give-out stuff I modified, can I?

Aside from that, I'm afraid to post some of the stuff I've done here, because I used 'lifted' textures, rather then draw my own (I'm just not that great an artists). For instance, my current project is to extend an existing map (from the core D&D setting), which means the center of the map was actually made by someone else, in it's entirety. I'm not sure what the rules are regarding stuff like that.

11-23-2010, 04:56 PM
A lot of the folks here use patterns and textures from websites so I don't think that you'll have any problems until you start claiming something is yours without some sort of disclaimer like "original pattern by such n such and modified by whatshisname". If you're trying to make money off of that then I'd be inclined to say don't even try it cuz it might cause you some headaches (it all depends on how much modification is there and someone could argue that point for a long way). For our purposes here, it isn't really all that necessary to say where you got all of the patterns from...include that sort of info if you want. I use patterns all the time but they're all Photoshop default patterns and I use them in such small areas it's hard to notice them...so that means post em if ya got em. If you're going to make a map that extends from someone else's map then just say so and I think you'll be fine there, as well, so long as you don't try to sell the whole image with the other person's map. You could chop up your parts and sell those cuz the original map isn't on there. If people say "hey, that looks like so and so's style" then say thank you I tried really hard to get it to look that way.

11-23-2010, 11:26 PM
The line between a derivative work and one that is sufficiently changed as to be considered a new work is a very wide and fuzzy one. Most elements such as brushes and textures come with fairly open licenses—images made with them are usually fully copyright of the individual who used the elements. Many of them do require an acknowledgement of their use, but many do not. Modifying a texture or brush and redistributing it is where things get a bit hazier. My own feeling is that if the original can still be identified, and/or the element could not be made without the original as a base, then the original artist still has a claim to it. In that case, you should examine whatever license that texture is available under carefully to see what rights you have and can pass along.

That's one of the reasons we recommend cartographers take advantage of the CC licenses—they spell out clearly what uses are allowed for a given map or element, and they even specify what can be done with derivative works. Of course, there are some "gotchas" with CC licensing (it's incompatible with the CGTextures.com license, for one thing), but generally speaking, it's a very good idea to use it.

If a map is fully copyright protected and not CC or otherwise licensed, then all of the original elements on that map are likewise protected. I can recall a specific case of someone cutting up one of Mike Schley's maps and using the buildings as stamps to make a new Schleyish map. Mike rightly objected to that: every individual house on one of his maps is his property (or more likely, the property of Wizards of the Coast). Mimicking his style, though, by drawing the buildings from scratch is allowable, so long as the resulting map does not replicate one that Schley already made. Style is not protected by copyright.

So there are no hard and fast answers, and you're right to be cautious. The best thing to do is to ask permission where you think permission might be required.

11-24-2010, 05:11 AM
found a page that talks about copyright from a collage artist point of view, this is pretty close to what you describe by borrowing bits and pieces from others. But a quick sum-up says ... its a greyzone ;)
you can see it here (http://www.funnystrange.com/copyright/index.html)

personally I only choose textures that are absolutely free to use, without credit mostly, but most textures I build myself in photoshop.

11-25-2010, 07:07 PM
Nice reference Tilt. I was going to say that collage is comparable to making maps from others' symbols/shapes or bits - you beat me to it.

Let me quote from that article:

Most important to the collage artist is that a derivative work can only include copyrighted material if it is created by the owner of the copyright on the original material, or with that person's permission. This means that making a collage that includes photos from National Geographic, Rand McNally maps, or pictures of Andy Warhol paintings, is illegal unless you have obtained permission from whoever owns the copyright on those works.

I have been told that copyright law does not apply to collage as it does to other derivative works, because collage is recognized as a special art form worthy of special protection. Nothing in my research confirms this or anything like it. So I am sadly forced to classify this as a myth. (Would that it were true!)

Please note that the law is unequivocal: "Only the owner of copyright in a work has the right to prepare, or to authorize someone else to create, a new version of that work." This means that, if you want to get technical about it (and I assume you do, or you wouldn't be reading this) an unauthorized derivative work is illegal from the moment you create it. It doesn't matter whether you publish 5 copies or 5,000. It doesn't matter whether you sell the collage for profit or give it away. The act of creation is the infringement.

(Quote from http://www.funnystrange.com/copyright/derivative.htm copyright 2000, 2001 by Sarah Ovenall)

-Rob A>

Aval Penworth
11-25-2010, 07:19 PM
I remember one time at the Guggenhiem seeing an artist' exhibition, whose work was essentially giant photographs of old advertising posters and quotes printed across 10 foot canvasses. There was also a nude photograph of Brooke Shiels at 12. (child porn in another setting?)

The images were directly and obviously derived from other peoples work.

I am not sure how he got away with it. Mayby some boffin can explain it.

11-26-2010, 02:33 AM
the old advertising poster coud be past their copyright expiration date, or if he took the pictures himself in public space, its allready a greyzone of who the artist is, cause then its the picture of an ad that is the art and.. argggh.. brainmelt. But probably he just didn't care as he made "art", sometimes if your "gutsy"/"haugthy"/"secure" enough, people don't question you :)

11-27-2010, 04:39 PM
<snip>I can recall a specific case of someone cutting up one of Mike Schley's maps and using the buildings as stamps to make a new Schleyish map. Mike rightly objected to that...UH-Ohhhhh... :(

Guess I won't be posting any of my maps HERE then......

My brushes (I believe) are all 'open license', although a couple I haven't used yet do require giving the original creator credit.

ALL of my textures, however, are all lifted directly from other people's maps, and although I've tweaked the hell out of them, they are still easily recognizable.

And the set I'm using for my current project come directly from Mr. Shley.

11-27-2010, 07:27 PM
For your convenience, the conversation I referred to is here: http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?4756-Filling-a-need-for-a-missing-map

Mr. Schley's comments begin at post #16.

11-28-2010, 04:23 PM

Interesting read - thanks for posting that. Without seeing the map in question (the one from that thread), I can't compare what I have done to that guy's.... but I'm 100% positive Mr. Shley would have issue with it (when I say 'textures', I really mean I made patterns with his terrain features).

Not sure what to do with this thing now - its 95% complete and was a great deal of work. Basically, it looks like Mr. Shley himself extended the map of Nentir Vale (from the 4e D&D DMG) a few hundred miles outward. Except for swapping-out his icons for mine (mine are prettier :P), and adding-in four locales, the entire center of the map is his.

The idea was to place the Nentir Vale region within the Forgotten Realms setting, without disturbing any of the elements or lore from either setting. I have been making maps using the terrain from the official 3e FR map for quite some time - and ALL of the WotC designers are aware of them (and several use them - mine are more accurate), and I have NEVER been asked to remove any of them from anywhere (I did have one removed from DeviantART, but only because it contained a locale from an R.A.Salvatore novel, which was a completely different issue). In fact, THREE of the locales on the 4e Cormyr map were created by me, and I believe Mr.Shley did that map (using my Intellectual property in the process). Note that I made an official statement on the WotC boards (and candlekeep.com) that ANYthing I include on a Forgotten Realms map is considered property of Wizards of the Coast, including my homebrew locales (thus alleviating the issue of them having to have me sign something). I've even included that statement on several of my more popular maps posted at DeviantART.

I'm not sure what to do now - at least two current WotC designers said they were"looking forward to my take" on placing Nentir Vale in the Realms (over at Candlekeep) - the idea was to get FR players interested in inserting 'core' elements into their campaigns, which helps grow their target-audience (there is a new Nentir Vale product that will be released in the near future). Nothing I do is for my own gain, and if anyone has anything to gain it would be WotC. Originally I was going to replace Mr. Shley's terrain with the 3e FR terrain I have been using (like I did with the Returned Abeir map), but his art is SO superior to the 3eFR style that I thought it would better to move forward rather then backward with this amalgam-work.

Hmph - so I sorta have permission by WotC to do this (since they are aware of what I do and what I am currently working on), but I do not want to anger an artist I think is phenomenal and respect so highly.

I'd hate to start-over - I have done so twice already. :(

11-28-2010, 06:14 PM
My take is if the style and majority of elements are collaged or taken from some other source is to have an ask before posting/using policy. People are more then willing to let you know where their limits are and that way you can be consultative and inclusive in the process and prevent the problem from even arising. When it comes down to textures though it's really is a gray area because unless its copyrighted stock photos there's not way to even regulate or prove it's your creation. From what you're telling me is WotC is aware of your project and you have ties/lines of communication then there shouldn't be any issues because they are included in the process.

11-28-2010, 07:15 PM
I can get around the problem simply by posting the map exclusively on the WotC site - their own rules facilitate this (ANYTHING posted on their site becomes their property - there was a bit of an uproar over that some time ago). If I post THEIR property on THEIR site, their property (and anything I have added to it) then becomes theirs (again). That will probably work in regards to keeping them happy, and I can post links here and at Candlekeep to the relevant thread over at WotC.

I 'think' that will work....

However, that might just upset Mr.Shley all the more, which is something I DON'T want to do. I will have gone completely around him to the people who have bought his art from him, which he may construe as 'stepping on his toes', and like I said, I RESPECT and ADMIRE him. I specifically take-on obscure projects knowing full-well that they (WotC) will never actually pay anyone to produce what I do (mostly conversions), so as not to take work from real artists.

And like I said, its a little more then textures - I've created patterns with his terrain, and although I have tweaked the heck out of them, they are still easily identifiable as his work (which was really the whole point).

11-28-2010, 07:35 PM
Maybe you should just PM Schley and find out what he thinks. I'm not sure how often he comes by, but he does check in here from time to time.

11-29-2010, 01:23 AM
I am not a lawyer...there's your disclaimer.

WotC being what it is (a subsidiary of a major publicly-listed corporation) I find it hard to believe that it has any artists doing work that is not classified as "work for hire". If that is the case then it, not the original artist, holds the copyright to the art and can do with it (or have someone do something with it) whatever they bloody well please. That includes creating derivative works. In fact, they do this all of the time...every time they re-use an illustration and crop or collage or sepia-tone it or whatever.

It may be that M.S. is big enough to command a different sort of deal...or i may simply be wrong about how Wizards rolls. If I'm right about the WFH thing, however, then your project may be okay. If you're doing this with their permission I'd suggest simply contacting them and getting their legal department (or Hasbro's) to rule on the matter. That's the simplest, safest way. My suspicion is that, unless you yourself are under contract to produce these things, that they will tell you that you're on your own and that all liability rests on your shoulders.

11-29-2010, 02:37 AM
yeah, I'm with the general sentiment - ask for permission, and if you don't get it - change the middle of the map to your own icons as well. I for one am curious to see the map :)

11-29-2010, 07:15 PM
The problem lies in the fact that my original versions (there are several, which I fortunately saved) were done with other textures/patterns. At first the original 'official' 3e FR map textures, and then with some brushes I found here (doing individual treeas and mountains, rather then those abstract 'clumps' their official 3e maps used). I eventually decided to copy Mr.Shley's work because it was killing me to 'color over' such a beautiful map (seriously, I found it harder and harder to move forward as I painted over more of his terrain).

So what I have now is a homage to him - it was the only way of doing the conversion that would keep the integrity of Mr.Shley's inspiring map. And it is probably the finest thing I've ever done, if I do say so myself (not that that means a lot here - some of you guys blow me away with your talent).

I was over on the WotC site yesterday and noted they have made a LOT of changes there, and I can host artwork there now, which sort-of solves my dilemma (posting it to DeviantART or Photobucket would not have worked). Since I can point to the thread wherein a designer (THE designer working on the new Nentir Vale project) said he'd be "interested in what I come up with", that's sort-of like having permission.

Lots of 'maybes' there LOL - I have been using their IP for over two years now with their knowledge, if not their consent: technically, I don't think they can give me consent without opening a can of worms - its actually legally better for them to just pretend I don't exist (which keeps all the cards in their hand). If I ask them permission, they would be forced to say no, just to protect the integrity of their IP (an undefended IP winds-up in the realm of 'public domain').

For those that are curious, you can see the original Mike Shley Map of Nentir Vale HERE. (http://dndga.me/files/NentirValePlayerMap.jpg) I didn't post that - you can find it easily enough in dozens of places all over the web (which is how I initially discovered it). Just imagine it extended outward a few hundred miles from there.