Veni, Vidi, Ventus --
The randomly chaotic and crafty scribblings of a deranged, wannabe artist allowed too many colours in her Crayon box.

Surgeon General's Warning: Some content of "From Pooka's Crayon" may not be suitable for: work, blue-haired little old ladies, the politically-correct, rabid moonbats, uptight mothers, priests, chronic idiots, insurance claims agents, Democrats, children, small furry quadropeds from Alpha Centauri, or your sanity.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Prevalence of Public Domain Thinking


Seriously. Last few days have been particularly unpleasant on a professional front. Lots of BS going on with several major players pulling copyright infringements, and of course the shit is rolling downhill and burying those that had made purchases. I'm lucky enough to have avoided all the products involved, but it's still making the whole scene really ugly. And like rats deserting a sinking ship, we're losing a lot of really good people that have had enough.

I've finally settled on being utterly disgusted with the whole mess.

If you park your car on a public street, does it become free for others who have not purchased the car to use?

When an artist's image is displayed in a public gallery, is it free for the taking?

So when you post an image/story on a public website, does it then become free for anyone to use?


No. Absolutely, positively Not.

The concepts are very much the same. Being able to view something in a public place does not mean that it has become "Public Domain." It is not "free," and the copyright and ownership belong to the creator, just as the car parked on the street belongs to whoever owns the pink slip for it.

For many internet users, however, the concept is foreign. They feel they have the right to take and use (and in too many cases, claim as their own) a piece that has been publically displayed.

Education of the legalities is a start, but it isn't a catch-all solution.

Time after time, the arguments crop up. Copyright is established the moment any form of intellectual property is created. A determined thief will claim this is incorrect, and unless it is filled with the US Copyright Office, the item is free for the taking -- a misconception that often leads to legal battles.

A signature and copyright line are most often not enough. A thief with graphic tools will merely remove them, and you're back to square one. In this case, your best defense is maintaining working files for proof that the image in question is your own. Posting your images in a public gallery can help, for it gives you a time and date stamp to assist in proof of ownership.

Watermarks are another solution, but as controversial as the entire copyright issue is itself. They deter theft by rendering an image unusable without obvious marks that it belongs to someone else, but they also ruin the image for viewers as well. It takes a lot of effort for a thief to remove one, but is the volume of complaints worth it?

Digital watermarking services such as Digimarc have their own problems. The effort required to remove one from an image is staggeringly simple.

And despite proponents claims, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act is little help. ISPs and web hosts are learning ways around it so that they don't have to defend copyrights. They require that your personal information be added to the forms -- which will then be forwarded to the thief -- without any information on the offender in return. This is how Lycos/Angelfire works, from personal experience with them.

Think about that -- if someone has already stolen your work, do you REALLY want them having your complete home phone number and address?

Community watchdog groups are showing better successes. "Know thy neighbor" has proven invaluable in many cases. Users wander internet galleries, and by knowing their fellow artists, are able to easily recognize works that are being illegally distributed and showcased by others. Unfortunately, all it does is point out the offenders. The copyright holder still has to struggle with the offenders website to get the infringing works removed.

So where is the solution? Obviously, education on copyright myths and law is a start. Awareness of the problem and the determination to make a stand and do something about it will get further than sighing and letting it go. It's not an issue to be taken lightly.

There are no hard solutions, at least for the moment.

If it's not YOURS, don't take it. Didn't your mother teach you better than that?

Potential infringers are being sent the message that as long as they and the store can make a few quick bucks off someone else's work, all they'll get is a little slap on the hand and a red face when they're caught.

What's the current tally on Important People in the texturing zone that have been caught with infringments in the last few months?

What is that telling the community?

Trust? What's that?

I do commercial images on a regular basis. I get paid for this. I can't afford disasters like this, and neither can anyone else that recieves money for their work.

I'm now to the point that I won't use ANYONE's textures for anything. Texture packs that permit commercial works from them have been tossed out of my folders and into personal use only. I won't use anything in products that I didn't take the photograph of myself. I don't care if I was given permission to use them.

Purchasing? Oh, just forget it. I've spent some 80% of my store income right back into the store in the past. I can't remember the last time I bought anything because I can't risk it.

Your average consumer may not be paying attention to what is going on.

But I guarantee that the professionals, and the potential infringers sure as hell are.

The Right Thing needs to be done, and the only way that can happen if there is a consistent policy towards infringement that is KEPT, regardless of who the merchant might be.

I'm not taking sides. I don't know any of these people. I don't care how nice or generally honest and caring they are, or how rude or obnoxious they are, or how long they've been ... (insert any and all "I know this person and..." comments as required).

If you are getting paid for your images, and something within it is an infringement, YOU can be sued for its use. YOU can be held responsible for that inclusion. Your client can be sued. You will no longer get work from that client because they were sued. As the end user, YOU pay the penalties for the infraction of another.

It isn't a matter of how nice someone is, what their personal standing in a community might be. As an end user, if I cannot absolutely verify the origin of something, I cannot allow myself to use it, especially in a commercial venue.

Bottom line: As an artist, and a fellow merchant, I'm concerned as hell about the results.

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