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Recoloring an Image You Don't Own

Hello, A-B! Question for y'alls!

Someone on a forum I run decided that he wanted to mod and recolor one of those personality core icons that're floating around on FA. Here's an example from the original artist.

The person who commissioned theirs saw someone pretty much directly recolor the icon they commissioned and got mad and told them that what they're doing is wrong (since it was their commissioned he recolored) and the guy is refusing to.

The recolorer later makes a thread about it saying:

No, seriously, this is so aggravating I'm laughing my ass off!

This is Copy pastaed from my face book, to put it into perspective.

Grrrrrrr. The artist who made the original image of my newest avatar (A Portal Personality Core) Made me take it down, because it's theirs and I respect that.
I didn't steal their work, never claimed it was mine, even though I photoshopped the thing this morning AND they're offering a commission at approx $11.
I shopped the thing in all of five minutes this morning.
AND respectfully took it down, even though I'm not legally bound to do so (As VALVE holds copyrights on it, they can't put a Copyright on their work)
AND THEN they offered to sell me a commission on it, even though I already have the look i want with my own photoshop job
AND their price is $11 dollars, when it took me five minutes this morning.

AH HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA ..and now *wipes a tear from my eye* He's accusing me of stealing HIS work, even though he stole from valve, who actually OWNS the Personality Core Copyrights and used his theft to profit, where as I modified for personal use.. oh god...

Regardless if Valve owns the rights to personality cores, he's still stealing an artists rendered work. What kind of argument do I propose to him before taking down his icon?

Much appreciated!

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( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 9th, 2011 01:49 am (UTC)
Uhh, I don't think valve can copyright "round robot eyes" etc. Those ought to fall under parody/fair use.
Taking someone's linework and modifying it? (not making something "inspired by" the art, but modifying the art itself) Yeah that's theft... technically the artist, not the commissioner probably has the copyright.
Well anyway the guy's being a total jerk about a reasonable request. And no I don't think the original commission is any kind of "theft" or infringement.

Edited at 2011-05-09 01:50 am (UTC)
May. 9th, 2011 01:57 am (UTC)
Hum, maybe a better explanation:
IF the original artist was taking screenshots of Portal, and photoshopping those for commissions, THAT might be infringing on valve's COPYright. Because it is using a COPY of something from valve's game!
But the idea of "personality cores" is more of a trademark issue, and as far as I know, parody is allowed, as long as you are making something that a) won't be confused with valve's product and b) enjoyment of the new product is based on recognizing what the original is from.
No matter what, taking a COPY of an artist's work and modifying it without permission violates the artist's copyright to that particular work :P

sorry for all the edits... done now :P

Edited at 2011-05-09 01:58 am (UTC)
May. 9th, 2011 01:51 am (UTC)
I'd think what you said would suffice: "Regardless if Valve owns the rights to personality cores, he's still stealing an artists rendered work." The original artist did not take official game art into photoshop and paint over it, and sell repaints. Though the character(?)/object in question is copyrighted, the artwork is theirs. Two wrongs don't make a right, so stealing their artwork and saying "I can do it because it's not your character" doesn't fly.

Although honestly... the original artist shouldn't really be profiting from something that's copyrighted anyway...
May. 9th, 2011 01:58 am (UTC)

The artist still owns the copyright to the image, derivative work such as fanart is still copyrighted and therefore cannot be altered or redistributed without the copyright holder's permission which would be the artist, the only impact it being fanart has is that Valve as the company that owns the copyright on portal as a whole and any applicable trademarks can make them take it down.

Theft of rights is still theft, someone doesn't have to claim something as theirs to steal from someone. Even if it's derivative work, the artist who created it still retains their copyright to it.

I'd tell him two wrongs don't make a right, if it did vigilantism would be legal.
May. 9th, 2011 05:41 am (UTC)
This. Just because the "original" artist wasn't actually that original doesn't give you the right to use their work. "Tu quoque" is a poor defense (though arguably both have unclean hands).
May. 9th, 2011 02:06 am (UTC)
Someone correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't this violate the Moral Rights?
May. 9th, 2011 02:17 am (UTC)
If it was the same image modded and recolored post a trouble ticket and FA staff will remove it as a violation since it was done without permission.

Oh it's on a forum, I read that wrong the first time. .

Remove it and tell the user that the original image was not created by them and they did not have permission to recolor and use the image.
Nothing more needs to be said. If you don't allow art theft/recoloring without permission than that's the only reason you need to remove it.

If that's not in your forums rules for icons you should revise your rules so it's stated clearly that icons must be done by or for you and recolors are not permitted without permssion.

Edited at 2011-05-09 02:20 am (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
May. 9th, 2011 05:03 am (UTC)
I guess the issue is because they just recolored someone elses lineart rather than making their own thing.

That said, I could make lineart that looked exactly like that in about 5 minutes, myself. Even though I made it myself it would still be called a copy because this guy thought of personality core icons first, right?

I think recoloring someone elses lineart without permission is wrong, but I also think its wrong to sell icons that are pretty much vector traces over something the artist doesn't own in the first place. The artist can't lay claim to a concept they don't own, they do own the lineart, but the lineart is like I said pretty much a trace in and of itself. Give anyone a pic of wheatley and adobe illustrator and they could make it if they know how to click and drag. All the guy is doing is adding ears and changing the eye design and using a paint bucket tool and charging money for it. It's not like other icon trends where the person usually actually DREW the commissioner's OC's hair, clothes, etc.

So can someone steal something that the other person doesn't truly own?

Keep in mind... I DO disagree with recoloring other people's lineart. I just also disagree with what the artist is doing to begin with.
May. 9th, 2011 05:10 am (UTC)
Agreed. I don't think the artist really has the right to make money off this idea, but it's not as obvious as -- say -- My Little Pony commissions *cough*.

Hey, I'm not saying I don't like 'em. I'm just saying I wouldn't dare sell anything that related to fanart.

The icon-jacker is clever in that he knows the original artist is on shakier ground than he/she would be if the art in question was totally original.
(Deleted comment)
May. 9th, 2011 07:49 am (UTC)
That's about where I stand. I don't think the artist deserves to make money without any kind of trouble for this (but one could argue it's such a small deal they will likely never see any aggression from Valve -- doesn't make it okay), and I don't think a smarmy douche should be able to just go "haha" and jack the lineart to re-color.
May. 9th, 2011 05:48 pm (UTC)
I would also agree with this.
Both parties are in the wrong here, for different reasons.
May. 9th, 2011 10:31 am (UTC)
if i remember my copy protection lectures from university correctly, the "original" artist has zero ground unless he holds a reproduction license. also, if i'm reading the OP correctly, the only person in the wrong is the "original" artist, because they are charging for the original image, without said license.

the most that can be asked is if the guy who's recoloured could take the image down as a friendly action. he really has no obligation though, nor has any admin staff (infact, i'd hope any admin staff DIDDN'T. in some respects, them taking the "recoloured" image down would be worse than the guy posting it in the first place)...

i suppose, as an example, you can look at it like this... most icons in LJ are altered screencaps of movies/animations/comics/etc. they're alterations of a true copyrighted source. morally or legally it's WORSE than compared to some guy doing the same to someone's fanart. it's just more likely that the fanartist will QQ more because they have a misguided belief that they have some sort of legal/moral highground.
May. 9th, 2011 12:01 pm (UTC)
I've seen tons of people recolor game sprites like those SNK card things and those aren't their original linework which some people get angry over and some people don't. I dunno. Some people paid money for what someone else was able to do for themselves for free so people are gonna get pissed at that fact alone. All of this is such a gray area, but when it comes down to it, I say both are in the wrong in one way or another. The artist for making money off of copyrighted characters and the other person for ripping off linework.
May. 9th, 2011 07:56 pm (UTC)
An artist still holds the rights to their fanart, so it's kinda a moot point. Arguably, it falls under parody I'm pretty sure. If the artist is tracing the original lineart, then that's different but using the design and making furry versions makes it their own and yes, a third party copying that directly via photoshop is not OK.

It doesn't matter how much time that it took to rip it off. The artist was completely fair in offering to do it as a commission. The ripper-offer didn't account for how long the initial time to make the lineart from scratch etc which is probably factored into the cost (plus some people price some icons higher to keep them rarer, desirable etc)

If the thief likes his so much he should make his from scratch, that entirely eliminates the artist's claim since most ideas aren't copywritable, only their execution.

I'd tell him that even if he were in the right (which he's not) it's in poor taste to do.

May. 9th, 2011 10:04 pm (UTC)
But if I made lineart like that and it looked exactly the same, it doesn't matter how long it took me people would still say I'm copying.
May. 9th, 2011 10:06 pm (UTC)
Point being, they basically traced a portal 2 screenshot, anything made the same way in the same dimensions of the same subject matter is going to look largely the same. It's a circle with some lines on it and cel shading. It's not unique, it's not their idea, and its not right IMO for them to profit off of it.
May. 10th, 2011 01:15 am (UTC)
I don't think they traced it. Looking up pics it looks drawn to me. There's also personality beyond the original in the style of the ears,their placement etc so I don't agree with your point at all. I'll agree that icons of similar subjects are going to look similar, but there's a huge difference between being similar and outright stealing someones line-art. It may be a simple design but I do think that there are different ways to make icons of the same subject matter, for one, you can use a different angle.

EDIT I should add, the person in question ADMITTED to stealing the line-art so it's not even an arguable thing. Even if he IS in the right (which I don't agree) then he's *still* in poor taste.

Edited at 2011-05-10 01:18 am (UTC)
May. 10th, 2011 07:08 am (UTC)
Agreed, it's in poor taste. Regardless, I don't think Valve would be giving the original artists thumbs-up to make money off an idea based on their intellectual property, so I have to say I can't sign off on the original project, either.

Yes, it's a pittance in their eyes, but I'm not going to say I would fight for the original artist's right to make money off of it. So I feel, as some others do, that the legs the original artist currently stands on are wobbly, at best. :)
May. 10th, 2011 01:46 pm (UTC)
The OP wasn't asking about the original artist, only about the copy so I guess it's one of those ymmv. The original artist isn't the one "on trial."

I don't think it comes down to a simple fanart = wrong. I'm pretty sure the artist could argue parody on this one. You can't copy write ideas only specific designs so the artist could probably argue this one since they are custom and not copies of existing characters. Calling them personality cores creates an issue only if the phrase is trademarked. Because of this YOU may not approve but it might be perfectly legal provided he doesn't call them "Portal Personality Core" or anything like that.

Making derivative work by direct stealing someone's line art is never legal and should never be acceptable.
May. 10th, 2011 10:39 am (UTC)
Does anyone have the original image from Valve? Or a screenshot of said item which may or may not be traced?
May. 10th, 2011 01:28 pm (UTC)

There's lots of pics at the bottom. I personally do not feel it's been traced but ymmv.
May. 10th, 2011 03:45 pm (UTC)
I doubt it's traced; a circle is a circle and the design is fairly simple.
Pretty sure this falls under parody and that the original artist is fine, even if he's selling the icons. Unlike the person colouring his icons.
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )


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