I would like to apologise in advance that this post got a little tl;dr. I added section headings so you can skip to the sections you are most interested in. I covered a lot of topics such as Intellectual Property, Copyright, Creative commons, Miss-atttribution and ‘Renders’, Creative Communities and lastly, User Generated Content and Collaboration.
Intellectual Property, Copyright & Creative Commons
Art is a personal process that is often conducted alone in a closed studio. But what happens when you open that process up to a collaborative space? And how can you share your work freely with the world? Don’t worry the internet has got your back. Although, we know that the internet is a massively public space where your every post will live forever even if you delete it. So how can you manage the dangers associated with the loss of control over your own work, created by the nature of the internet?
In order to discuss how we can protect our work, we must first understand what Intellectual property (IP) is. IP is defined by IP Australia as
“a term that describes the application of the mind to develop something new or original. IP can exist in various forms; a new invention, brand, design or artistic creation. “
So how can you protect your IP? For the purposes of this post I will only be discussing Art, literature, music, film, broadcasts and computer programs; All of which are protected under the copyright scheme. Unlike Patents you don’t have to apply for copyright, it is automatically assigned to your original work. This means you own the rights to how your work is shared and used. Something that is important to note is that only “the owner’s original expression of ideas is protected, though not the ideas themselves. The owner has the exclusive right to use, sell or license the copyright work” (IP Australia). This means that you can create a beautiful original character and only that drawing of them will be protected not the character itself.
Understanding copyright is important because it is a very powerful tool at your disposal when it comes to protecting your work. Although if you’re trying to use online publishing methods to get your name and work out there, it can make it more difficult for your work to spread. This is were Creative Commons come into it all.
Creative Commons are a set of licences that help creators outline the rules they wish others to follow if they decide to use creative works. Almost all of the CC licences require a reference of attribution to the original artist (with the exception being content licensed under the Public domain). Other rules include Share alike (requiring the product created using the licensed work, to be shared under the same CC licence); No derivative works (meaning the original work cannot be altered in any way); or Non-commercial (restricting use of the original work in materials used for monetary gain). These rules can be applied in various combinations to allow the artist maximum control over how their work is used.
If you’re interested I found a short video by CommonCraft that explains both copyright and creative commons in very simple terms. (Unfortunately they restrict the embed feature to members, so I couldn’t add the video directly to this post).
Mis-attribution & ‘Renders’
So now that we have a good understanding of how Copyright and Creative Commons work let’s apply it to a real world situation. In the art community there is a common issue with the creation of ‘renders’. A render is traditionally defined by Wikipedia   as
“The process of formulating, adding color, shading, and texturing of an image.”
“The process of generating an image from a 2D or 3D model, by means of computer programs.”
A common problem that has arised is the incorrect definition of a ‘render’, which is circulating art communities. The incorrect definition is as follows
“A closed vector path, or shape, used to cut out a 2D image in image editing software. Anything inside the path will be included after the clipping path is applied; anything outside the path will be omitted from the output.”
Meaning the character or object is ‘cut’ out of the background. This however, is actually the definition of Deep-etching or a Clipping Path. Additionally, these ‘artworks’ are rarely attributed to the original artist.
Knowing what we know about IP, Copyright and Creative Commons, it’s easy to see that this practice does not correctly follow the licensing rules and regulations. Unfortunately, even with the current laws it is difficult to discourage this kind of behaviour and the best sites can do is the remove art and ban users who re-offend.
Creative Communities & User Generated Content
So if you take into account how even with the best efforts of law on our sides there will still be issues of art theft and mis-attribution, why risk online platforms for exposure? Wouldn’t offline methods work better? Not necessarily.
No matter what method of sharing you use there will always be risks involved and you shouldn’t be discouraged so soon. One of the main benefits to consider is that online platforms give you access to a wider audience and a large range of associated benefits. Depending on where you share your work online these may be slightly different, but I’m going to draw from my experience with DeviantArt.
One of the main benefits I have found is access to large community of people who have a shared interest. The community is full of people with varying knowledge and I have found it to be the main contributor to my learning experience. There are lots of great artists who are always so generous with their knowledge and do a great job at answering questions. Additionally, it is inevitable that you will be more experienced in something than someone else. This means you will have an opportunity to experience the opposite end by sharing your knowledge to help others learn. This is a priceless opportunity because, to steal the wise words of Roman philosopher Seneca, “While we teach, we learn” (Additionally, I found an interesting article by Annie Murphy Paul in TIME that explores the phenomenon she calls The Protégé Effect).
Beyond the benefits of online communities there is a unique opportunity for ‘User Generated Content’. In my time on DeviantArt I’ve seen a couple of interesting instances of this. Instances that go beyond users submitting their work to the community and instead incorporate the community into the artworks. One example of this is Collaborations.
Collaborations can be a lot of fun and can incorporate as many people as you want. They involve multiple artists contributing to a single artwork, this can be each artist contributing a character to a scene or one artist drawing the line art and someone else colouring it in. Another example was from an artist I ‘watch’, who called out for their community to submit a one word comment. The artist then took these comments and incorporated them into a single artwork.
It is these unique interactions that would not be possible without the connection between Artists and the Internet. If you have anything interesting you’d like to add or any questions let me know in the comments below. Or let me know your opinion, what you think is the biggest advantage the internet provides the creative community? This can be artists, writers, or makers of any kind. Also let me know what you create and share on the internet? I’d love to know more about what you are all interested in.
And if you read the whole thing, thanks soo much!
Have a good day~