Monday, May 4, 2009

Some thoughts about copyright

I wasn't planning on writing a post on copyright but felt compelled to do so. Just to make it clear, this is not about any particular issue or person, these are just my thoughts over watching what has been happening in the art world the last year or so.

With the internet, and our access to so many art sites, we are becoming paranoid about what we can and cannot paint. We are so fearful that we may be accused of copying an idea that someone else had, that we go out of our way to change our art until it becomes unnatural to us. If someone has added stripes to a folk art angel, we are afraid to add stripes to our folk art angel in case we get accused of copying them. I am not talking about blatant copying of an artist's work, obviously that is copyright infringement and should not happen. But a true artist wants to find their own style. They will take what they learn from classes and books, and put their own spin on it.

There is nothing that hasn't been done before. For instance, I created a series of ACEOs more than a year ago with a very specific subject matter and style(I won't give details here). These can be found online so I can prove when I did them. Last month, I saw 2 separate artists with the exact same idea as me, and one even used the same title I used for their series. One is a hugely successful Ebay artist, and I would never accuse her of copying me! Of course her skill level is much higher than mine, but the point is, nothing is truly original. I do not for one second think she was surfing the net, came across my amateurish art, and copied it. It was simply a co-incidence. She came up with the exact same idea as me. Now what worries me is if I continue this series which I plan to, someone may start harassing me and accusing me of copying her!!! Holding our cards side by side, you will know which ones are mine, and you will recognize hers easily, but she came up with this idea a year after I did mine. So what do you think of this little problem? If we have to constantly worry about stuff like this, we will feel stifled, and lose our love of creating.

How on earth do we get around this?

Let me repeat again, this post is not about any specific person. I only wrote this after seeing discussions over the last year about copyright.

Good Lord this is a long post, forgive me!

(the painting of Dorothy and Toto is one of my older works, I need to get back to that series soon!)

***UPDATE: After reading some comments, I'm afraid my post wasn't very clear. I was not complaining that someone copied me. As far as I know, no one has done this.
I have no problem with people copying other artists when they are learning, teachers tell you to do this. So you new budding artists out there, practice practice practice! learn from all sources, but make it your own. If you work on it enough, you will see your own style developing. Just don't copy one artists style completely, and try to sell it off as your own, this is where you will get yourself in trouble. I'm not an authority on this, so if you have any questions, please check out copyright laws. I promise no more confusing posts from me :-D


Fotf said...

Morning, i have read a similar posts recently on another fellow artists blog and am a bit torn. Whilst i agree that blatent copying is wrong none of us can be blamed by being infulenced or inspired by the work of others. I think those of us that are genuine artist with whatever medium will find a way of making our peices unique to us without as you say loosing what comes natural to us. I find copyright a real problem of late, i have started making felt peices and have been looking for templates.I'm not a great drawer but would prefer not to nick what belongs to someone else but so often it will say you can use it for personal use and nothing more. So have made my owls and they are all one offs for me and a friend that i GAVE an owl too and then i continue to make hearts and fill them with lavender or stuff them. How anyone can claim a heart shape to be there own when it's such a universal shape is beyond me. One well known magazine i emailed said they were happy for me to use their owl template on a small basis if i sold them but i did atleast ask. It's complicated i think which takes all the fun out of it. Keep up your work, maybe you could email the other artist and just enquire where she got her 'inspiration' from and see what she says?

Anonymous said...

Oh, this is such an upsetting mess. You have been so open and caring. I do not know what to say because of feeling it on the other side and know you must feel upset also.
Thank you for your warm comment, To be scared of your pencil lines!
I think I have found the answer to my problem, Have found a section on what is classed as copyright infrindgement.
I cannot say, don't let it get to you, because I have certainly let it get too me. Please hoping don't follow my example.
I love your art so much, your girls are so very unique and special. Love the colours you use, their faces.

Luv and hugs!


pinkglitterfae said...

hi everyone, I was hoping my post was clear, this was not about me. I have not been accused of copying, nor have I thought anyone copied me. I simply wanted to point out how easy it is for us to become paranoid. I originally didn't want to post about copyright because I can sympathize with both sides. It would feel horrible to see something of yours online, passed off as someone else's work.

I wanted to give you an example that it is very possible for two or more artists to come up with the exact same idea and concept without seeing each other's work, but why should one of the artists have to give up their work if another shows up much later claiming to be the original? It isn't fair. As long as the work in question is done in each artist's own style, I say live and let live.

Fotf I really doubt this artist copied my idea, she would have had to look through some of my sold work to find it. I believe she came up with the idea herself (there were 2 different artists I saw at the same time with this idea). It never even occurred to me to question either of them about where they got the idea. In fact, all I thought was: 'Damn, they did it better than me! lol!

The important thing here is that we all get inspired from our world, and that as long as we create art with integrity, done our way, in our style, we should be able to hold our heads high.

Jennifer Williams "Blueskysunburn" said...

As someone who as been accused of stealing an artists work (an atc I made used the same image and colors as another person and I got accusations) this is a strong topic for me.

I agree we are all influenced by what we see. It's specially hard for those that paint the same style or fad of work. It all blends together after a while.

I think the majority of people have no intentions of maliciously ripping off others' work and we should not be afraid of those few who do. What a horrible world would we be in if no one produced or shared any art because of the fear of being copied?

Once Upon A Blue Crow said...

Amen. I've read several posts on another blog about this too. Seems there's some paranoia about it. I mean, I can understand if someone is blatantly copying everything you do, but to say someone is copying because they make a long collage dress or put polka dots on it or lines or whatever, that's ridiculous. Techniques belong to everyone and I think most artists are very visual and learn by seeing and incorporating what we like in to our own work. Same goes for ideas! More than one person can have the same idea. They're still copyright free aren't they? :)

Artiste Nouveau said...

My opinion on it is that there's only so often you can use the "inspired by" line. If I see an "artist" who continually paints subjets in the same or extremely similar styles but thinks it's okay because they've said "this piece is inspired by..." every time, then I consider them a mimic without any original ideas.

An artist will have fun exploring 'new-to-them' styles and techniques but they also have the courage (and the pure excitement!) to take those same styles and techniques and turn them into something more.

Facing your fears about actually making art and then silencing that inner critic once you have, I think, is the key. Once someone has done that, then they'll know the difference between mimicking vs. that amazing feeling that you get once you've created something completely 'yours'.

Tracy said...

the idea of copyright in art is actually a new one for me and very confusing. as an art student i was always taught that it was ok to copy artwork because that is how you learn. now you cant because of copyright issues. however artists have been doing so for centuries.

oh well.. stuff happens :)

Dottie Seubert said...

Well I think that is wrong no matter who is better. I always understood that every artist has a little something special that they have on every painting no matter how big or small you may incorporate a special heart or a line or something that will take you away from everyone else it is your marking with in the painting.
I feel your art is so sweet and inoccent, your little girls are wonderful and Happy, I will be getting intouch soon about you doing a special one for my
grand daughts room, if you don't mind.
I don't think you or anyone should have to have these concerns.
Take care
Hugs :o)
♥ ♥ ♥

Kims Art said...

This is a hot topic!LOL I, like you, believe everything has been done. I can even almost show proof. I believe when you put your art out there, it becomes inspiration for someone and if you think about it, even our old master painters thrived off of each other and some even traveled together to explore their art form. If a painting is drawn or painted by your hand it is your work! I have run across artist that are so similiar it is hard to tell who was first, but even in a situation like that, each artist can only do so many pieces and even if they sell prints of the work, as long as they did not do a line drawing of the other persons work, it is their work! Every artist uses the works of others for inspiration. That is why Somerset mag is so popular. We all feed off of each other and because of it some really cool looking things are happening in painting,collage and fiber. I have a ton of books sitting on my shelves and I bought them for inspiration. I may take a picture of someone work and have it sitting in front of me, but I have no intention of copying it line for line. I guess the bottom line is if the art work is created by your two hands it is your work. I guess if any artist would want to complain it would probably be Picasso. He has so many artist trying to copy him. I even took a painting class and the instructor passes around one of his works and said now you try it! LOL!

Mandala Michelle said...

Artists have been copying other artists for centuries. I don't mean blatant, stroke for stroke copies, but using other artists' styles and themes for inspiration. I think the real problem is the intention. Was the intent to learn and grow and try to develop your own style or was the person being lazy and trying to capitalize on someone elses ideas.

Bev said...

Sigh, I've just read all posts on this subject, and each one had something to offer...I agree that copying line for line is wrong, however since I'm so new at art I will have to say I love looking all all your work, yes each of yours, and find something I can carry with me that will help me create something good. Please don't let any of this cause you not to paint from your heart!!! That's yours...

Bev said...

Honey I really did get what you were wasn't about you at all...just that so many of us worry about infringing on other's work...I thought it was something that should be aired!!! Blessings my friend!!!

Rebecca Lynch Photography said...

I am a photographer and I deal and struggle with this all the time. I have a series of photos that I am working on called Abandoned and Forgotten, can see at It is photos of building and items that have been left behind for one reason or another and have started to decay, rust, etc. This is not a new concept you can google hundred of photographers that have taken pictures of old buildings and you can probably find that somebody else has called their series Abandoned and Forgotten as well. Am I copying? I don't think so because if I am then everyone else is as well because it isn't an original idea any more.

Another good point is what if I go somewhere and by chance take the exact same photo as somebody else. Example going to a National Forest like Yosemite or Yellow Stone. What if it happened to be the exact same view that Ansel Adams photographed. Am I copying or was it by chance? I think this is going to come down to style and chance. Of course I have seen Adams work and have even studied it in school, so maybe subconsciously I was copying.

Copyright is a sticky topic and outright copying somebodies work and trying to pass it along as yours is wrong.

Betty go ahead and continue with your series. It is something that you have done in the past and you are just returning to it and you shouldn't have to worry.

Fotf an idea for templates is clip art and royalty free images. You could also try magazines(editorial) and books(Audubon's, etc). Use them as templates and put your own style to it.

My thought on ATC's and ACEO's if you are using templates and images that you purchased from a store online or brick & mortar type, you are going to find similar or same cards out there. Most ideas are not original anymore because it has been done in the past.

Just my thoughts.

Renee said...

Betty I did not think that was confusing at all.


Michelle Eaton said...

I completely understand where you are coming from with this comment and I didn't find it confusing at all. I am a new artist and find it is very hard to paint freely. It is getting rediculas! Thanks for your comment though becuase I thought I was the only one feeling like this.

Michelle :)