A Note About Piracy

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A Note About Piracy

Since we live in an imperfect world, sometimes people come across our wonderful blog train contributions on pirated sites. Here's some thoughts on how to respond.

First of all, I dislike using the word “piracy” in relation to the misuse of digital files. Piracy is a serious accusation that involves theft and destruction. We all still have our files, so no real theft or absolute destruction has been perpetrated.

Still, it feels bad to have something you've created used in a way you don’t condone. However, as digital content creators in the 21st century I would strongly advise coming to terms with the idea that your creations will be used outside of your parameters. As far as I see it, our choices are simply these:

  1. We can keep our creations to ourselves.
  2. We can share our creations and spend lots of effort and worry trying to lock them down, which we will ultimately be unable to do.
  3. We can share our creations and allow that sometimes they will escape us.

While the third option is not ideal, remember that current technology can be used for good or bad. While digital distribution makes misuse very easy, it also makes this site and our community possible. Without it we would not be able to share with and encourage each other. I choose to think about all the good things that have come from sharing my content, rather than focusing on an incident of misuse.

Lastly, remember that any publicity is good publicity, especially on the internet. Any time we post links to pirate sites and make a big to-do about it, we are giving these bad sites a kind of victory. You know how we have a link drive here at DigitalScrapbook.com to help with our search results? We don't want to run a link drive for a site which none of us really like. If you really feel that a particular case of unethical distribution needs to be brought to someone’s attention, it's best to use email and inform the person directly. On the whole, though, I would recommend staying focused on the positive ways your items are being used, rather than being caught up in the negative.

This is not an easy issue, and there is not an easy answer. But remember that a case of misuse does not take away all the other cases of generosity and fairness.

I agree with you Marisa, I'm on #3, I love sharing my creations & I won't stop just because another site is offering to download my freebies in their page, unfortunately that's something that we can't control, and after so many attempts & messages to remove my kits they haven't done anything, so I just continue doing what do best "Design Kits" & the people who are loyal, the ones who actually get the freebie from the designer, they don't have to pay for the consequences of another sites, I just gave to my followers the advice to only download freebies directly from the designers, and they know that I only offer freebies in my blog & Facebook Fan page, so they don't have to go anywhere else.. Unfortunately this kind of problems exist.. :/

I have a question about using copyrighted materials/ideas in kits. For example, kits based on Wizard of Oz, Lego, books, theme parks, or more recently, Frozen (the movie). Is this okay? When is the okay/not okay line crossed?

For old works, you need to check if they've gone into the public domain. To make things confusing, when something goes into the public domain also varies by country.

But what about recent things? When/how is it okay to use the ideas? Is it a "don't ask, don't tell" policy? I've seen many recent kits (not here) that are definitely referencing recent Disney or other animated works.

There´s a limit between inspiration and copyright infrigement. Nobody can forbid anyone of drawing a blue punch-art style bird with a speech bubble saying "tweet" on their kit, but if you put the Twitter (the social network) symbol, it´s a copyright infringement. I have a unpublished kit where, in the original, I draw something very close to the logo of an animation without knowing that. I just saw someone with a T-shirt in the subway, and reproduced the mental image of it, without realising it was a logo... When I realised, i took those pieces off, because, IMO, it´s better safe than sorry. There are, however, people who sell kits with stuff that are very similar to trademarked stuff, and a few ones, specially not in US, that sell things with images from animated series.

About Disney, seems that copyright on Mickey will expire soon... Not sure when.

aaahhh, okay, that makes more sense. I have actually avoided buying kits where it's a little too close for my comfort, but I see now that it's okay. Thank you!

I found this while I was searching information about copyrights: Do not, under any circumstances, violate copyrights belonging to Disney, Walmart, Vivendi Universal, Time Warner, LionsGate. These organizations are highly aggressive and merciless when it comes to enforcing their copyrights. As listed above, creations lapse into public domain 70 years after the creator's death, except for certain items created between 1923 and 1977. The 70 year waiting period doesn't begin until 2019 by special act of Congress. This has been added to the US Copyright Act and the Berne Convention. All of the above listed creations are included in this update of the Copyright Act.

I do remember a case in Dallas a few years ago where a teacher had Disney characters all over her walls as decoration - posters and such that she had created herself. During an open house a parent who happened to work for a Disney company saw them and reported her. I don't remember the full outcome but I do know she was required to remove them.

Check out this scrapper's experience and make up your own mind about what you can and cannot do; and PLEASE check the copyright laws. They can be very tricky. http://www.digishoptalk.com/boards/showthread.php?t=249984

I love your attitude Marisa. I have always thought along those lines. First question to ask is weather their presentation of your kit is claimed to be their own work, or do they credit you for the creation? A simple note to the sharer, saying that you see that they are using your design and would they please put you in the TOU or a link to your blog/site might work, but if not, "C'est la vie". Such is life. Be proud of your design and a little flattered that someone else loves it so much that they are using it. lol xoxox Beth

Thank you Marisa for the info,it's really encouraging to hear you talk in that manner;I will keep all your good advice in my brain.

Thank you ladies for all the great info you posted,it's so hard to recall everything your suppose to do,not do,what's copy righted and what's really not.

I find this part quiet ludicrous of Disney... Give Me a break these teachers hardly make anything and they are given less than a shoestring budget to help children learn in a creative way. If she wasn't giving the stuff away and it was just decorations, PLEASE!!! Are you saying they can arrest me or fine me, require me to remove it if I make crafts in my house to decorate a baby room, too? Why would I ever buy the cricut cartridges then? I'm confused. smiley

I do remember a case in Dallas a few years ago where a teacher had Disney characters all over her walls as decoration - posters and such that she had created herself. During an open house a parent who happened to work for a Disney company saw them and reported her. I don't remember the full outcome but I do know she was required to remove them.

I think it's the "posters and such that she had created herself".... meaning she didn't buy licensed items. That's why it's so important to buy things from places that you know have obtained the license. Most products (in brick & mortar stores, anyway) will say "officially licensed for" so-and-so.
I agree, that's just people being HA's (as we say in my house! LOL).

A wonderful outlook! I 100% agree.

"Coming to terms," is exactly what it boils down to really, regardless of how hard it may be to accept. Your last line is the "balanced outlook" on this subject and I was happy to read it and be reminded of it again: "This is not an easy issue, and there is not an easy answer. But remember that a case of misuse does not take away all the other cases of generosity and fairness."
Well put.

I'm brand new to the blog trains. How do I make sure I'm only downloading from the original designers? Can I assume that any link I find on this site is to a "safe site"?

Marisa, I think you explained the issue very well. Thank you.

Hi Carla, I think if you stick to downloading kits from the designers' blog/site or facebookpage that is the way to know for sure you aren't downloading from piracy sites. The blogtrains here on Pixelscrapper always refer to the designers' own blog/site or facebookpage or in some cases a direct download link.

I have to agree. I've seen where people get upset and it's understandable, but I don't believe there's really anything that can be done. It would take way too much time to even worry about it in my opinion. It's up to the downloader (new word? lol) to decide whether or not they want to carry the guilt with them for downloading a "stolen" product whether free to begin with or not.

well said

You also should not use anything from the NFL as they are as powerful as Disney and will not tolerate any copyright infringement. Just an FYI.

Heads up. I contacted Hasbro to see if I could use some Scrabble word art that I created (for a personal use kit), and was told that it wouldn't be possible. If you decide that you really want to make some, you can contact them and fill out the necessary request form as well. Maybe others would have better luck than me. smiley

Does that mean the Scrabble alpha I saw a lot of last year is a no no??

The one concern I have for what I have been finding on these torrent sites, especially by one particular person, is that they are making money off of our free kits. There is one site in particular from china where you can't even write a DMCA to them to have your files removed. I know many designers who are not participating in trains or giving out freebies anymore because of this. I also know that some of our freebies end up in our shops later on for sale, so for some designers they are not getting sales because of these sites. I personally work hard and its a source of income for me since I am disabled, so I fight and so far I am winning.

These torrent sites are pirate sites because they are robbing people of money and there are people who are working hard at taking pirate sites down - these sites are just like those who share music or movies for free such as Pirate Bay. When I find that one person has taken a free and has shared that kit not just on one site but 10 because they upload to three particular download sites (like 4shared or mediafire but a pay per click) and make money that is sick.

It is also like the three woman who were just sentenced here in Phoenix where they have to pay over 1 million dollars to P&G for counterfeit couponing and their website scam has been shut down. Or how about companies who come after us designers for creating a kit similar to their product.

Maybe I am a little more upset then most because I am also a paralegal and breaking the law is something I don't take lightly. Maybe I am upset because I personally know designers who are losing customers or who are not participating because of this. Who are discouraged because of this.

Also, I learned from the competitions that I have been in, you have to be careful as well of items that you extract. Sometimes we find really neat ribbon or elements but some of the companies that created the original product have issues.

Also, anything that looks like Minecraft or those types of games, you should contact the designers of the games. Minecraft has had a long stance that they will persecute anyone who creates anything that looks like their product for sale - even people who made add-ons where not allowed to sell their product but had to give it away. I know that they are becoming a little more lient but I would still contact them and have their consent in writing as back up.

It is a REALLY good idea to check the copyrights on ANYTHING you use that you did not create 100% yourself, whether or not you know of the source as being "aggressive" and/or "merciless". The "act first; apologize later" philosophy only sometimes works and it is MUCH better to ask FIRST and get turned down than to face potential criminal penalties.

I have mixed feelings about so-called "piracy". I agree 100% with the perspective that Marisa takes on how to deal with digital theft. But I am torn as to whether an entity should cling so tightly to copyrights in the first place or if information and art should be free. I would LOVE to be able to make money from my artistic endeavours, especially since I am a stay-at-home-mom with no income of my own. But on the other hand, I have seen (through various creative sites around the internet like DeviantART or this one) firsthand the magic that can happen when that tight grip on copyright and intellectual property is released. Creativity flourishes. People develop in leaps and bounds instead of scratching for an inch.

In the end, I have to rely on my faith that good or bad actions will be rewarded in kind (some people call it karma). Right now, I offer my scrapbooking work for free, CU4CU even, so I don't have to worry about that, but that doesn't mean that I won't charge for it someday. I allow most of my art to be viewed online without watermarks - if someone wants to make it a background or print it out on their wall, then so be it. I would probably initially be miffed if someone used my art to make money (not so much my scrap designs at this point), but I would be merciful and forgiving of them. Because, I can still make more art. And I believe that there are good people out there who will do what is right and pay as is necessary. The actions of a thief are usually a symptom of a lifestyle problem that will eventually catch up to them.

But what if that piece of art that is hypothetically "stolen" is used in something that inspires someone else to do something absolutely fantastic with their time, with their life? I may not be privileged to know about it, and I might not get the "credit". But if something I have put into the world can bless someone else, then that's worth it to me. So maybe I won't end up a millionaire, but there are more important things than money and... things.

Those are some things that I often consider. So that's why I am torn.

And speaking of lawsuits, this thread reminds me of when Apple sued Samsung over the "look and feel" of phones - things like black, rectangular shapes with rounded corners and menus at the bottom. That's where I think things get a little silly.

I have a deviantart account and have for years and I used to make signatures tags back in the day when people were being sued for making tubes from comic book artists and such. Does anyone remember G.U.I.L.D. - where you paid a set fee and got a license to use their work but had to put that license and the original artists website on your work. I never sold my stuff everything was free but because of abuse I made sure to follow the rules so I would not be sued.

My accounts on deviantart include running a club called Enchanted Forest and another one for Digital Scrapbook designers to share their work. Iso have a stock page where I do allow others to use my stuff for free but let me see their work, so I can appreciate it.

I get discourage when I see that 300+ people have downloaded my free kits but I never see anything come from it. I love all forms of art, but I do believe that if someone posts something for free and it clearly states that it is not to be shared with others then it should be followed. I think I wouldn't have so much of a problem if people linked back to the original source, but to download it, then upload to another share site where you can make money from it without the original creator knowing, then that is where I have to draw the line.

I work hard on what I create and to have someone else making money on something that was not for commercial use then man, that is harsh. That is stealing. It happens at lot on eBay too, where people are selling their kits of Disney on eBay and all they did was take images they found through google and made them a PNG and then are selling them. There is no creativity there, they did not create anything.

Licensed characters are a huge hot button on the net now days.

I come from the t-shirt design world. Sites that I sell on are constantly contacted by copyright owners, even phrases such as "Life Is Good" was copyright registered by someone. It has really gotten crazy.

There is a large debate on etsy about what you can or cannot sell on etsy with a licensed character and many fabrics are now printing on the selvedge for home personal use only.

I had a friend on Facebook try to resell a vest she didn't want anymore with a Sons Of Anarchy logo on it. She and ebay were contacted by Fox productions and she had to take it off ebay.

I was taking a college class on speech at the time that Disney character issue came up at the day care. One of our fellow students had worked for Disney for a time and she was to look at print and radio to find infringements. I have also seen that today, copyright holders now pay college kids to search for infringements on the net and write up DCMA takedown notices to websites.

I will not design anything that I know someone owns a copyright or trademark on. I had a t-shirt design taken down because my little vampire cat design I called "Count Catula". I didn't even think to look on the net to see if there was already a Count Catula and just my luck someone had a website with a book published by that name. I was able to republish my design with a different name and tags because my image was not anything like the original, just the text.

Sorry this got so long smiley My whole point is, it may have not hit the scrapbook world as hard as the rest of online stuff yet, but it can.

Wow... I wonder if someone has tried to copyright - 'No worries' or 'I love you'... that is crazy for someone to copyright an every day saying. People are so into wanting a quick buck that they will do anything nowadays without having to truly work for it. As a graphic design student, I am used to reading TOUs and now I am going through all my graphic files and placing them in folders for Pu/S4H/S4O/CU. On my websites I have piracy information and I have DMCA protected clipart. I make sure to follow people's rules - so if I have to have their tag or blinkie in order to have their rights or pay a fee I do so. I have been this way since 2001. I think now people do take things too far in some instances.

But over at With Love Studio, that is one of the things we talk about often. I once had a Barbie in a mini - I paid for the barbie as part of a CU kit from a site and I did not even think about it, but WLS would not let me keep it in the mini because of copyright.

I think that it is crazy for your friend to be asked to remove the SOA vest because we should be able to sell something we don't want anymore - eBay is just a large scale yard sale. I think you friend might have been able to fight that.

As for Disney, I see a lot of kits out there that use the disney mouse head and label it - Disney like or stuff like that. I know there are laws about how long a copyright right is - some 50 years, some 100 years. It just makes me wonder how bad things are going to get.

If we in the scrapbooking world don't respond to people taking our stuff and sharing it, will that keep it from our industry? Do we actually benefit from it? If we do start fighting back like Fox or Disney, will that bring it closer to our digi world and things will start getting crazy? Think about how many similar kits are made from one CU product that multiple buy, the colors are different but the product is the same - sometimes it even has the same name - what do we do then?

This has been a very interesting and enlightening thread! Seems it's better to be safe than sorry whichever way you look at it. Thank you everyone for your comments.

That is how I found all you wonderful creators. Someone posted a few kits in a group I belong to and I really liked them. One was your Pets kit, Marisa, so sweet! Anyway I went looking for DigitalScrapbook.com, loved it and joined for a year about three days. You had just posted the Egypt Bundle and that was my first large download.
I know of no other community of designers who give so much for so little and who make it possible for folks to download what they want, not just what you are offering at that moment. This is the first site I go to everyday!
Misuse is a shame but I am still glad someone advertised it to me or I might not have every found all you kind, generous creators. I tell everyone about DigitalScrapbook.com, in the right way~

When I see art or other graphics that I might want to use I write to the artist directly. Many are more than willing to allow use and are thankful someone took the time to just ask. Others say no and that is their right.