1. Topher75's Avatar
    After reading a rather obnoxious post on a theme developer's thread about artwork credit, I thought it was a good idea to post an information thread here so other developers don't get douchey messages on their threads.

    This is my understanding of things based on college classes from many years ago and work in the print/publishing/graphic arts fields. If there is an attorney on the message boards, please reply to this post to clarify and/or correct as needed.

    Anything you create graphically is automatically copyrighted. Every time you sign your name, you have a copyright to it. There is also a formal process by which you can register your copyright so others are aware you don't want them taking your work and doing what they want. A copyright just means you own that expression of an idea.

    Trademarks are different in that the image or expression of an idea is associated with a particular product or entity, whether that entity is a company or individual.

    Artists can license their work, meaning they are giving permission to others to use it and determine the terms of that use. There are lots of different kinds of licenses. In the case of artwork theme developers use, some may be license free, meaning no license is needed from the artist or distributor to use it. Some licenses may allow for free use, but only so long as the theme developer is not reselling it or selling a theme using it. Some licensing requires the original artist to be credited and nothing more. Of course, some licensing also requires the theme developer to pay the artist for use or pay the distributor. Even in these cases, the theme developer may be limited in what the artwork can be used for and may even be prohibited from selling themes created using paid-for artwork.

    The key is to make sure you understand what your rights are to any artwork you use. Simply typing "free mobile icon art" in a search engine is not good enough. Again, the artwork might be free in cost, but you may not be free to do what you like with it.

    Royalties are payments made on a per-usage basis. This is separate from licensing, but they are tied together. Regardless of the license a theme developer may have to use artwork, there may be a requirement to pay royalties to the artist or to the distributor. This means you will pay for each use of the artwork.

    This is also confusing because a use generally does not mean each theme you use it with a theme development project. Instead, it is each copy of your theme that you sell or otherwise publish. So, if you post screen captures of your theme and the artist's artwork is shown, you may have to pay a royalty. If 1000 people download your theme, you may have to pay that royalty 1000 times whether those downloaders paid you for the theme or not. Just like licensing, the key is to understand what your obligations are to the artwork creator and distributor.

    The best option for theme developers is to learn to create your own artwork. Then you control what you do with it. You also have control over what others can do with it.

    The second best option is to find artwork that is license-free and royalty-free. Good luck. It's out there if you search hard enough. If anyone has good options for such artwork, another post listing that all in one place would be awesome.

    I hope this is helpful information. I think I've said everything correctly, but I'm not a communications lawyer by any means. So speak up, any attorneys. We could use your free advice here!
    Last edited by Topher75; 11-21-09 at 06:56 PM.
    11-21-09 02:55 PM
  2. WizKid3's Avatar
    This is a nice bit of information. I've been a graphic designer for over 8years and while I've never been to school for and the creative licenses or laws, this all looks correct.

    I think a problem a lot of amateur theme developers are having is finding quality images to use & not having enough experience or knowledge to create their own. This can remedied by using stock image sites (they're out there, just gotta search), of course some of these require you to buy an image or pay a fee for an determined about of downloads, but it's worth it if you're selling your themes.

    I have noticed a lot of themes using wallpapers & backgrounds taken from art communities (especially deviantArt.com) Which isn't a bad thing, if the images are free to re-distribute. A lot of people assume that because you can download an image to use as your wallpaper on your computer, that you can resize it and distribute it in a theme. That is not the case, and depending on the artist who you 'borrow' from, it could lead to legal issues.

    Another thing is that someone a long time ago when graphic design was young, stated that if you edit a picture %50 that it now makes you the owner of that art. Or if you use an image in a design, but you can't really tell it's used (ie. in Photoshop using a picture of paint overlayed above a picture and set to 5% opacity wouldn't make the picture noticeable to what it exactly is, but it did make a difference in the design, it added texture to whatever image was underneath it.) YES, the artwork you created is yours, BUT you used someone elses creation to create your art, so you now A. need permission to distribute (even post in a gallery without selling) from the original author & possible B. have to pay a fee to use that.

    Sorry, I'm kind of rambling on here . . .

    Information on Creative Commons Licenses: Creative Commons licenses - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    11-22-09 08:55 AM