The basic definition of artistic license, should be known to all artists in their creative endeavours:

Artistic license (also known as dramatic licensehistorical license,poetic licensenarrative licenselicentia poetica, or simply license) is a colloquial term, sometimes euphemism, used to denote the distortion of fact, alteration of the conventions of grammar or language, or rewording of pre-existing text made by an artist to improve a piece of art. [wikipedia]

What we have aims to do, in this growing group, is to modify the term in such a way, that it is us; the artist, whom have control of our creations. Many a time it has come to light, since the integration of technology and creativity, that copying and theft will be part of the agenda. However, the state of affairs regarding the internet these days, has delivered a new actionable offence by individuals. Who simply believe that art on the internet is free, or there for them to do with as they please. This, from a creative point of view is becoming unacceptable. After all, us artists, we make a living from our works. Taking away, or misusing that ability to pay our bills is detrimental to our own survival. More poisonous is the way that many people (some creatives as well) misuse and reuse artwork in order to resell and make a living off the back of the creative mind.

What the Artistic License aims to achieve, is basically create a community of artists (hopefully in large numbers) that will work with an organised and legal body, to help each other, and for the purpose of individual complaints in a way that can register offenders, work to make better links with the reproduction industry, and look at ways where the creative soul can feel more at ease in putting out their work piece, without fear of the many aspects that are listed below. There are so many cases coming to light of different aspects by which artist’s images are exploited for the wrong reason. Below are some categorised areas of concern. If any of these have affected your operation as an artist, then maybe instead of feeling like a single voice in a sea of internet confusion and intricacy, that there could be a place where you could feel that like minded artists feel the same, support this injustice and work together in order that we all make a good living from our skills.

Image misuse:



Here is a good example of one of the  more common aspects of internet crimes against artists; image misuse. This is in fact one of the pieces of the founder of the artistic license movement, Rob Snow. He came across the image through a vigilant eye of a known associate of his. This led him to discover that two of his images had been used by the Greek bar to advertise a party. It must be pointed out at this stage that the artist had not agreed to allow the use of this artwork in such a way. After contacting the bar and graphic design who was responsible, the artist found a plethora of contradictions in statements coming from both of them. The designer said he know the artist and so though it OK to use his image. The artist later denied any knowledge of the graphic designer. Then the graphic design stated that he found it on a Tumblr website, so ‘assumed’ it was free to use (more that that later). They also tried several gracious attempts to flatter the artist, saying that they loved his work and it made his work look good, or it will be seen by lots of people. All of which would not result in a fee being paid for the image. When that was discussed the bar stated that the party would be that friday and they would be willing to remove the image then, after the party. Once the word lawyer was involved by the artists, they stated they thought it was worth €50. The artist stated he wanted a letter of intent, and removal immediately, and for the graphic designer to formally apologise. Not all the conditions were met, but at least the images were removed instantly.

Now, this type of incident happens too much on the internet, and without helpful eyes monitoring the chaos that is the websites of millions, it is really hard to discover how much misuse there is. There is undoubtedly a lot.

Idea/Image copying:


Another example of how some artists take their creativity to a questionable level. This is a comporary artists finding artwork that she likes by others, in this case the image on the left is artist Jiri Borsky. The one on the right is the poor copy. Although the artwork has been rendered in a different compositional angle, with a different rendering technique and so forth, it is undoubtedly a copy of the original in idea and feel. This falls under the illegal category of intellectual property theft. And to compound it more, the said artist (her name is Susy Brigden) is also not only an occasion idea their, but in fact steals elements and whole images from a lot of known people.

There are ways to combat this, which will be discussed in detail in other posts, but such tools that allow reverse image searching, and registering copyright on the artwork can be useful tools. The big issue as above is that this type of misuse is hard to track and discover. this was only really discovered by a vigil Facebook page, that highlighted another artist’s dislike in the said thief stealing her image elements. This artist will be added to the blacklist and as soon as the organisation is set in place, will be approached for some form of understanding on her flagrant copyright infringements.

Comparable copies:


This example was highlighted on a fantastic site that is actually set up for the sole purpose to spotlight infringements on image misuse. The site is called “You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice” and can be found here! This example also highlights a big issue, which is people/thieves taking an element or a concept of someone else’s artwork and changing in enough (in their eyes) to feel that they have created a completely new piece of artwork. Now, there is no doubt when placed side by side that this is a copy. The original on the left and the copy on the right. The sad aspect, which you can explore, just by looking at the logos, is that they both deal in the clothing industry. So, not only has Plivertees took the base logo design, but is in fact in the same industry. This type of “I like that, can we copy and change it slightly” is very rife in the graphic design industry. Working in the industry myself, I know how much clients (who feel that they are the designers) ask you to take someone else’s artwork and change it for their own means. This again is highly illegal and is not even ethically good as a designer. But many just don’t care.

Illegal Resellers:


This is a good example of a POD (print on demand) site that is allowing individuals to set up shop and actual steal other’s artwork and sell them for profit on their own store fronts. This is becoming a bigger and bigger issue, especially since the popularity of iPhone cases. Many people who have no creative flare at all, feel that they can get into the market by taking, as previously stated, artwork found ‘freely’ on the internet, and reusing it for their own profit. This case store has been closed don’t by Etsy several times and still rears it’s ugly head many a time to continue selling. The sad point, which in unlike many legit POD sites, is that the artist receives nothing from any sales made here.

This issue is also compounded by the way illegals take artwork and produce products in countries such as India and China, where manufacturing is very cheap, and selling it off the radar. There would be great sense of hope, if a body could be set up globally that monitored this type of activity across many continents, and the culprits brought to justice.

Watermarking/secondary theft:


This is an issue many an artist using POD sites feels is a contributing effect to the theft of their artwork, and use on such sites as above. The fact that a great deal of popular POD sites fail to apply a watermarking solution to the enlarged version of the images. Here are three examples of the more popular sites. And as you can see there are two enlarged views that can be taken and reutilised. Now the sites do state that the preview images are of a small dpi size not to warrant a watermark, but in the eyes of the illegal traders, they don’t care too much for correct printing dpi sizes. They want images that are physically big enough to place on the cases templates, etc, so they can get the products out there. Many of these images too, away from the thieves, can in fact be taken and reused by individuals for online artwork (as in example one), and wallpapers for phones and iPads.

The sites are not obliged to apply watermarks, but in a sense of morality and respect for the artists whom make them money, surely the application is not that much of a request. I participate in maybe some 15 POD sites and have found a good majority do add watermarking, or even allow you to apply as you wish. However, the popular ones seems to avoid this, and could be a key to why they are popular.




Another case found on the site is called “You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice”, which can be found here! The notion in some creative’s minds that artwork can be redeveloped in their own style, but taken from another artist’s original does not cross their mind as being an infringement to copyright. Now, the law is a little odd in manners of using photography, and I myself use many images found online as ‘referencing’ images. However, when the photograph is physically copied as a new piece of artwork based on an existing artwork in the image itself then this is a copyright infringement. As you can see in these examples, Miranda Josafat has taken two known photographic artists and duplicated their work exactly in compositional forms, regardless of being in her style. Once again, this is a simple example of something that is done time in and time out due to the global aspect of image sharing on the internet.

Fan Art Trademark/License infringement:

Mickey Fan


Now here is an example of a debate that I personally have had going on for some time. When something known and famous can be utilised by another artist in their own work. Now, many people refer to this art style as ‘fan art’. Fan art is an amateur’s appreciation of something, rendered in their style, and for all intents and purpose stuck on their wall, or fridge door. Now, the simple fact that many an amateur have seen a potential of making a few bucks by placing this type of artwork onto POD sites, or even selling via their own sites, makes the fact of transferal of money the infringement. You are simply not allowed to make money from another creatives artwork (regardless of their fame), without a license to do so. It doesn’t matter if it’s rendered in a different style. As the examples above show, this version of the original Mickey Mouse image (left) has been copied and styled by two (if not more) amateurs and have both got them for sale on sites on the internet. Now, Disney have Trade Marked Mickey, and has strong copyright protection on all their images, and for that reason, do grant licenses to reproduce. Anything not licensed and an exact copy, will be deemed an infringement by their legal team. This goes for many popular TV shows, characters, movies and celebrities. The basic rule of thumb of this type of work, is if you are copying something already done by someone else, unless you have been granted license to do so, then you can’t make money from it.

Social Media creditation:



This is not by far the final issue in this ongoing battle between creatives and misusers, but it has to be closed on this chapter somewhere. Further posts will cover in detail, more items, variants and so forth, of infringement and copyright neglect. There will also be highlights toward other practices, such as product, fashion and so on. This final notice is actually a way it should be done. But there are many examples of bad use of people’s artwork that have not been credited, and in some sense this one has not sort permission. This is taken from my Society6 site and if you visit the tumblr link, you will find that the image set there, is big enough and not image protected, so that thieves can take and use on cases, wallpapers and their own artwork. There are many things that can be done to allow this social media sharing to be more effectively monitored or controlled. It is hoped that the Artistic License can work with these social media sites to make infringements less common.

Some examples of how this can be reduced, is a little simple coding when sharing to have tick boxes that either verify you are the owner of the piece, that you believe the artwork to be out of copyright protection, or that a notification can be sent to the artist to seek permission to post the work. Some ideas to make the life of the artist richly shared, but equally protected.


Now, Artistic License is starting off as a small community that seeks the notice of all artists so that it can grow into a recognised outfit to help fit injustice for artists, both on and off the web. The aim is to address many of the issues raised here, so that industry connections can be sought to find solutions that help all concerned, and stop the plight of thievery and sell through. After all, artists make their living from what they share. We hope that you will spread the news, comment on the possible aims of the community, share experiences, etc. The first job is to get the numbers up. The post will leave you with this ‘well-known’ poster design that basically says it all. I must point out that I did do extensive research in finding the original design, to allow a credit, but find such a name. If anyone does know, let us know, and we can reaccredit the image. If you agree with it’s sentiment, then you need to follow and broadcast the communities intents. Let’s make a better world for the creative mind.

Artistic License

Artistic License

Author Artistic License

The head honcho at Artistic License that sets the code, follows the users and basically strives for the better justice in art theft on the internet. Any questions, email me.

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