Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Internet, Sharing, and Graphic Design

People often ask me why I allow my designs and resources to be used without credit.  Since I changed my terms of use to include different usage categories, I wanted to explain.

The short version is:

I like to share.

Most of my resources are things I made for my own practice, so I have more than I can use.

But, I'm trying to keep this site ad free and the best way I know of to do that is to have some levels of paid content.

If I had my way, everything on Encompass Rose would be for free, but if I did that, the site would have ads or it wouldn't last very long.

I would like it if people who made resources out of mine respected the "share alike" license, (Read: it didn't cost you anything, and you didn't make it all yourself, so don't use it to bribe people into joining your site and don't tell them they can't use it to make stock with.) but I'm not going to follow people around the net to make sure.

The long version is:

I started doing graphic art and design about twelve years ago.  I wasn't interested in making a career out of it, and mostly what I did was make really bad fanart.  It was a place to start, though.  I've learned a lot, and I've made some awesome friends through my graphic work.

The internet was a very different place back then.  It was a lot more open, and some people would argue that it was too easy to steal someone else's artwork.  I know that still happens now, but there is also more awareness--and even paranoia--about protecting one's work online.

Let me stop now and just say:

Art theft is a real phenomenon.

It's not okay.

If an artist or stock provider is nice enough to upload and share content for other people to use, they should be given credit.

Artists' terms of use should be respected.  Even if users don't agree with the way the artist handles TOU.

If someone uploads fanart or a fanvideo to share with others, that person's work and creativity should be respected.

With that said, when I got interested in design, it was the norm for graphic makers and designers to just post their content and ask for--but not insist-- credit and/or a link back.  Some people didn't care at all.  The internet was smaller, and there was a sense of community and personal connection that seems to getting lost now.  (That's not a good or a bad thing; it's just the truth.)

I have never taken a class or had any formal training.  Sometimes that's apparent.  I make novice mistakes and there are some techniques I just don't do very well.  Everything I know about photo editing, design, etc, has come from free tutorials and my own practice.  I'm not a great photographer, so I often rely on stock artists or public domain images for material to practice with.

I'm a lot better than I used to be though.  Eventually I started to realize that some of the textures I'd saved as backgrounds might be useful to other people, and that's how I got into providing resources and stock. I don't demand credit or try to control what people do with my stuff because I still think like I'm interacting on the internet of a decade ago.  I upload when I want to, because I feel like it, not because I want to have a reputation for providing awesome stock.  (Although that would be nice.)  I know that when I upload something to the internet, I have no real control over what happens to it, and somebody somewhere is going to use it for something I said not to--or use it without crediting me.

Do I like it when that happens? Of course not.  Some of my stuff takes hours to make.  It takes a lot of time to upload and I pay for file and image hosting.  It's not fair.  There's still nothing I can do about it.  So I can either accept that and go do something productive (like making something else) or I can spend time trying to police the internet and get all bent out of shape.

I've also learned that it is entirely possible for two different artists to create or strikingly similar work without any art theft or unauthorized use of someone else's resources.  My friend Jess (Lhinneill/stargatefangurl) and I do it all the time.  We've made graphics that were so close to being identical we couldn't tell them apart ourselves.  We've unintentionally created characters with backstories so similar that we ended up writing and/or roleplaying them as siblings.  More than once.  So, even when I see a piece of artwork that looks like mine (or looks like it was made with my resources) I can't be positive, and I've learned to err on the side of generosity.  Accusations of art theft are a big deal, and they shouldn't be made lightly.  They can really hurt someone's reputation and their feelings.

The bottom line is, there's just no point in being a control freak on the internet. There's absolutely nothing wrong with offering premium content to make a little money, but if your content is primarily free and accessible by the click of a mouse-button, people will use it.  Some of them will respect your terms and some won't. Most people aren't going to read or remember them if they're extensive.   Besides, the people who break them don't care that they're breaking them.

I do understand wanting to be credited and thanked for the work that you've done as a stock provider.  I would LOVE it if half the people who downloaded from me said thank you. I can even understand not wanting your content used in ways that advocate cruelty and intolerance. With child stock photography, I totally agree with stringent terms of use--although I still doubt that the rules are really enforceable without legal action.  That's the problem.  To restrict how and where people use ANY content that has been uploaded to a public server is pretty much an exercise in frustration.  You'll spend way too much time being frustrated as "the internet police," and I think anyone who's that uptight about where and how their stock gets used ought to re-evaluate the reasons they're providing stock in the first place.

Edited 4.13.13. for typos.

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