- 1 What can I upload here?
- 2 Can I upload art of my character I commissioned from an artist?
- 3 Can I upload art I found somewhere?
- 4 Why don't you let people upload art they found elsewhere, and just put up a DNP-list?
- 5 Can I upload someone else's art if I give them credit?
- 6 Can I post trademarked characters?
- 7 Can I post copyrighted characters?
- 8 Can characters even be copyrighted? Some say they can't!
- 9 I made a parody of someone else's character, it's fair use, will SoFurry allow that?
- 10 Can I upload (heavily) traced artwork?
What can I upload here?
You can upload works that have been created BY YOU or FOR YOU. That means if you drew something yourself, or you paid an artist to draw a picture of your character. In both cases, you either hold all or part of the copyright. If you drew something yourself you're obviously the sole copyright owner, and if it's a commission showing someone else's character then both the artist and the character's owner hold part of the copyright in what US copyright law calls a "joint work".
Can I upload art of my character I commissioned from an artist?
If you pay an artist to draw a commission of your own character, you are holding part of the copyright of the final image. This is called a "joint work" in US copyright law since both of you contributed your intellectual property to create a single, inseparable work.
On top of that, it's commonly accepted practice in the furry fandom that the commissioner may repost the art someone else made of his character. Bottom line: Unless something else has been agreed upon beforehand, both artist and customer can post the image in question.
If you can, please link to the submission in the artist's gallery so that he gets comments and feedback as well! If the artist is not on SoFurry yet, you could help us by convincing her/him to join up!
Can I upload art I found somewhere?
No. Do not upload art that you simply found somewhere. This is a copyright violation and will result in a warning or, if repeated, a loss of you posting privileges.
Why don't you let people upload art they found elsewhere, and just put up a DNP-list?
A DNP-list is a list of artist/authors who expressively stated that they do not want their works to be uploaded on a particular website. That's not how copyright law works.
It's the other way around: You have to get permission from the copyright holder to distribute his works.
We cannot encourage people to upload stuff in violation of the law, and a DNP-list changes nothing about the illegitimacy of such practice. We have to stop such violations as soon as possible, and we feel obligated to educate our users about the actual rules that govern the redistribution of artist's works.
Copyright law does not recognize anything like a "DNP-List". And just because an artist has not complained yet, does not give us or anyone else the right to redistribute their works without their knowledge and approval. Copyright does not protect only those who complain!
It's not just a matter of law and order though. Actually, it's also about common courtesy towards artists. If you want to post someone else's art, just ask them! Better yet, get them to join SoFurry and make them post it themselves! That would benefit both the fans AND the artist!
Think of it this way: If some dude posts someone else's hard work on a random imageboard on the net and gets two dozen comments with praises, don't you think it would be more appropriate for said comments to be posted on the place the artist uploaded his/her work themselves?
Can I upload someone else's art if I give them credit?
No. Just like it does not matter if there is a DNP list or not, it also does not matter if you "give credit" to the original artist.
Actually, this slightly changes the way you infringe upon the artist's copyright: If you post art WITHOUT giving credit, claiming it as your own work, you are stealing his work. Giving credit to who originally made the work changes the infringement to a so-called "unauthorized redistribution".
But make no mistake: Both are copyright infringements. It's just that the resulting liability is different, since unauthorized redistribution is a matter of civil litigation, while the former is a federal offense. (Usually a misdemeanor, only if the offense consists of the redistribution of 10 or more copies having a retail value of more than $2,500, the offense is a felony)
Can I post trademarked characters?
The purpose of trademark is to establish brands that help consumers to identify products. Since posting fan-art of Mario would hardly result in a kid in the store being unable to identify the Mario game he wanted to purchase, trademark law does not apply.
Now if you were selling stuff that contained trademarked items, it becomes a different story altogether...
NOTE: This only covers the trademark aspects. Since everything is also copyrighted however, please note the related question: Q: Can I post copyrighted characters?
Can I post copyrighted characters?
The "but" concerns several exceptions:
1) Fair use. This is a very complex subject, but let's just say that SoFurry usually views fan art as parody and thus exempt from the rule. NOTE: SoFurry does not permit posting "hate art" of other people's characters.
2) The copyright owner gave you permission. This is usually what happens when someone commissions a picture of his/her own character.
So the bottom line is: Feel free to post fan-art, don't post hate-art, when in doubt ask.
Can characters even be copyrighted? Some say they can't!
The official US website on Copyright, copyright.gov, states that: "Fictional characters have to be sufficiently well-established to be eligible for copyright protection"
While it is not further detailed just how well defined a character has to be, it's pretty apparent from that statement that characters CAN be copyrighted.
Furthermore, as quoted from http://www.ivanhoffman.com/characters.html:
The Protection of Fictional Characters: ... The character as described textually has to be protectable by copyright, meaning that it must have sufficient originality to satisfy the requirements of the statute. If the character as described is merely a “stock” character, there may not be sufficient originality to make the character protectable.
In "Gaiman et. al. vs. McFarlane et. al." the court stated:
Although Gaiman’s verbal description of Cogliostro may well have been of a stock character, once he was drawn and named and given speech he became sufficiently distinctive to be copyrightable. Gaiman’s contribution may not have been copyrightable by itself, but his contribution had expressive content without which Cogliostro wouldn’t have been a character at all, but merely a drawing. The expressive work that is the comic-book character Count Nicholas Cogliostro was the joint work of Gaiman and McFarlane—their contributions strike us as quite equal—and both are entitled to ownership of the copyright.
- US copyright law mentions criteria for copyrighting fictional characters
- Precedence cases of actual lawsuits establish this as legal practice.
Bottom line: Yes, characters can be copyrighted. A character description can be enough for that to happen. Whether or not your character is sufficiently distinct however, is another matter. In the case above, note how the judge mentions that once the character is named, drawn and given speech, he was well defined enough.
Always keep in mind what they say about the law: three judges, five verdicts...
I made a parody of someone else's character, it's fair use, will SoFurry allow that?
Yes, if it isn't hate art. We specifically forbid this in our AUP. So while fair use may grant you that right, we reserve the right to determine what content we allow on our site.
Can I upload (heavily) traced artwork?
Short answer: Without permission no. Long answer: Depends on the level of tracing, and artist permission. If some parts are traced and other parts not. It is allowed with referral back to the reference artwork. If the artwork is heavily referenced from an other piece of art the same rule applies. Be sure to refer back. In both cases it's common curtesy to ask the copyright owner(s) if you are allowed to reference or trace. Just linking back does not give a free pass when the artist files a copyright complaint. These complaint will be dealt with by a case by case basis.