Copyright Comfort Zone (repost)

(While thinking a lot about copyright over on Symbiartic, I thought I'd repost this piece from a couple of years ago.  Originally appeared May 2010 both here on The Flying Trilobite and at ART Evolved.) 
- -

In the past few posts of Going Pro, we've looked a lot at copyright. Again, a lot of people have opinions, but it's important to see what the legal definitions -and what steps you can take to protect your creations- really entail.

Today though, I want to propose a question.

Suppose you post a nifty image of a prehistoric critter online. It's awesome, you're proud, people give you kudos. You put it under a Creative Commons Licence, the most restrictive one that says your image a) must be attributed to you, b) cannot be altered, c) others cannot profit from it, and otherwise, it's okay to post and share.

1. Then someone copies it. Another blogger. Does their own riff. Are you okay with that?

2. What if they're more famous than you, getting lots of illustration gigs, but they notice it, do their own version, and give you a nod for your cool idea. Still excited, feeling the attention?

3. What if your painting happens to hit the zeitgeist and goes all viral all over the interwebs. Everyone is sharing it. There's a day on Facebook where all the users switch to you image. But you haven't made a dime.  What do you do?

We're in interesting territory. Personally, I don't believe overly restricting images (insanely huge watermarks, disabling right-clicking) are helpful to make a successful career anymore. But neither is completely open sharing.

Consider this:
[h/t Boing Boing]
It makes a strong case about question number 3, doesn't it? But how do you capitalize on that image going viral? How does it put food on the table?

I suggest it's how you parlay that viral dinosaur image into getting new contracts.

As for questions number 1 and 2, consider the post-modern, remixed, mash-up, variant-cover culture we live in. Think an Indiana Jones video game is fun? What about Indiana Jones Lego! Like Batman? Sharks? Lightsabers? Ta-da! (artist here) Authoring mash-ups and riffing on others' work is an integral part of pop culture.

Painting gets started at about the 4 minute mark in the video above.
[h/t to Boing Boing, again]

In the past, I've sometimes been the dissenting voice here at Art Evolved about all those posts showing past-art about upcoming themed galleries. I dislike them because sometimes attribution to the artwork cannot be easily found - though yes, as Peter and Craig have pointed out to me, sometimes we attribute an "orphan image" after the post goes up when a reader identifies it.

I'm uncomfortable with those posts because in a world of remixes and fun Photoshopped images, attribution and authorship can sometimes be your only coins to bank on. Literally.

Everyone has different comfort zones. Where do you feel comfortable with your images on questions 1-3 above?

- - - - - - - -

 Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Print Shop 

--> Find me on Symbiartic, the art+science blog on the new Scientific American Blog Network!

Pinterest Terms of Service link round-up

After posting recently about Pinterest, I've been involved in a lot of discussion about their Terms of Service.  Here's a quick link primer to some of the discussions I'm involved in and I'm seeing in the science-art blogosphere.

To recap:

Pinterest does a lot of things right: links back to creator's sites, deleted pins get deleted on all subsequent re-pins - these are good things.

Pinterest has some problems: most people pin whatever neato things they find online when the Terms specifically state you must own the image or have permission. So it's built on misuse in many ways. Personally I think more artists should use Creative Commons type attitudes toward this type of sharing. But the point stands that most users violate Pinterest's own Terms of Service.

Pinterest has some Peril: they can "sell" and "otherwise exploit" all content according to their Terms of Service. So if you use it correctly, you're giving away your work which then involves risk assessment.

Read through these links to get the whole picture so far.

Pinterest gets right what Tumblr got wrong - The Flying Trilobite by Glendon Mellow

The Promise and Perils of Pinterest - Symbiartic by Glendon Mellow

-->Discussion on G+
-->Discussion on Scientific American's Facebook Page

Pinterest's Terms of Service, Word by Terrifying Word _Symbiartic by my co-blogger, Kalliopi Monoyios.

ART Evolved is a No-Pin Zone, sadly... -ART Evolved by administrator Craig Dylke. I'm affiliated with ART Evolved but I wasn't involved in this decision beforehand, for the record. Good move though.

*****Edit: It was announced on March 23rd 2012 that Pinterest is indeed dropping the "sell" term in their Terms of Service - as well as making many other changes. Storify below takes place as of time of the original post.

Pinterest updates Terms of Service - drops the "sell" - Symbiartic by Glendon Mellow

For those not on Twitter, after the jump I've included a first attempt at a Storify of some of the comments there.

There's a lot of retweets of some of these, so a lot of people are listening who haven't weighed in.

- - - - - - - -

Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Print Shop

--> Find me on Symbiartic, the art+science blog on the new Scientific American Blog Network!

Pinterest gets right what Tumblr got wrong

Follow Me on Pinterest

I've started making boards on 
Pinterest, a fascinating new site that I think is going to be a big thing for artists. 

Attributing artwork is something I believe to of huge importance, not just the letter of the copyright laws, but also attributing art to artists who've dead for hundreds of years. I've written about it *ahem* a few times. (Thisthisthisthis...)

Here on Blogger, if I want to re-share some artwork, I need to save it to my drive, and re-upload it. There's a bit of work involved. So attributing the art is just a tiny step, and one I think is more likely for bloggers to do since they're crafting a whole post. 

While there are ways to effectively use Tumblr and be respectful of creators, as I've written before, it's easy to lose track of a creator of an image and have it shared and re-shared thousands of time without attribution. The reblog button makes the initial person's mistake too easy to replicate.  In part, I created the Trilobite Boy Tumblr to get a handle on how Tumblr works. You can attach an url that would follow the artwork, but it's not mandatory. So tons of people just blog away, and creators lose all credit for their images all too often. 

Enter the new site Pinterest. 

Pinterest was first on my radar when my wife mentioned it looked interesting for sharing artwork. Then, via Twitter, I read ZDNet's "Why small business can't afford to overlook Pinterest". I maintain a Twitter feed for a national retailer, and thought this was right on the mark. But I like to test things with my own accounts before bringing it to clients. Then, my friend and fantastic artist Eric Orchard started in on it in a big way. He has a good eye for effective media for artists.

Pinterest takes the responsibility of attribution away from the user: I'm using it in Chrome, and I placed a little button on my Bookmarks bar. If I'm on a site, and wish to pin an inspiring piece of artwork onto one of my themed bulletin Boards (say, "science art that inspires me") then I click on the Pin It button, and Pinterest creates a screen that has all the images from that webpage on it. I pick the one I want, click, write a description if I wish, and post on the board. There's the option to tweet or Facebook-stream it too.

But the best part? Anyone else following that bulletin board of mine who decides to pin it on their board, will still have the original link to the original website functional if someone clicks on the art itself. The more artwork is shared on Pinterest, the more potential hits the blog, gallery or website will have.

Pinterest got respect for creators right. And they made it so easy.

You can find my Pinterest at

- - - - - - - -

Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Print Shop 

--> Find me on Symbiartic, the art+science blog on the new Scientific American Blog Network!

Copyright, Darwin, SOPA, and ScienceOnline2012

(This post originally appeared a couple of days ago on Symbiartic.)

So I’m sitting in an airport on a long layover in the middle of the night, excited to be heading to ScienceOnline 2012 for my 4th time. CNN is on repeat, talking about the SOPA protest blackouts by Wikipedia and others. I’ve for science-based imagery on my mind.

Like many science bloggers, I enjoy a good dressing-down of superstition and religion in the face of facts and reason now and again. On the plane, I was thinking about how the simple symbols can sometimes be the most powerful. I’m not a graphic designer, my work is too messy and complex, but I appreciate powerful designs when I see them.

In my portrait of Charles Darwin. “Darwin Took Steps”, I included the little tree of speciation Darwin had sketched and famously written, “I think.”

It’s an incredibly descriptive little diagram. It’s possible to imagine other ways to depict evolution by natural selection: a wildfire, spiral river-eddies, interlocking Venn circles, perhaps.

But Charles made an awkward, halting little tree that still describes his theory well even after the discovery of DNA and cataloguing the genome.

I was thinking: what if some skeptic, atheist group really promoted it, really rattled religious cages successfully and it became an important, loud rallying symbol? In the news, punk kids wearing it on their knapsacks. Talking head on CNN dismissing stunts an graffiti without understanding it.

Would that be what Charles Darwin would have wanted for his little sketch? By all accounts he tried to avoid needless controversy while preserving the idea. (It could be easily argued that better science ed is a necessary controversy.)

Charles Darwin drew that little tree, but due to copyright laws, there’s no claim he can posthumously make for it. Or his estate. So it could be used by a noisy group he would have disavowed for their tactics and there’s nothing anyone could say about it. Because copyright eventually expires, and the most impact-full images are remembered and echo through culture. The echo might get distorted but we still hear/see it.

Da Vinci, in his attempts at joining noble society would no doubt have lost his temper when Dadaist Marcel Duchamp drew a moustache on a print of the Mona Lisa. But even before copyright laws, our society understand that sometimes preserving images from the past means re-imagining them.

This is why, even as an artist and content-creator, I oppose SOPA. Eventually, all artists have to let their creations live in the world. Punishing the unfettered creativity of the Internet and sometimes, even the artist’s own fans is just fighting against the life-cycle of an image. Creators *do* have the right to nurse their creations along.

Let them go. At your own speed, of course, make your career, control your creations, steer them to the right clients and in service of the right causes and genres.

But one day, they’re going to go off on their own.


Illustration blogging: why it's essential - a SONSI discussion

This post is mainly a supplementary series of links and points accompanying our discussion, "Illustration blogging: why it's essential" at SONSI's 2011 Presentation Day

"...The big problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity." - Cory Doctorow after Tim O-Reilly.

What is a blog?

-Creators, Groups and Curators (example1 example2 example3)
-Netiquette in the blogosphere (blogrolls, rss feeds)

Selected reading: Blogs: face the conversation, by Bora Zivkovic, A Blog Around the Clock.

Why do artists and illustrators need a blog?

-Self-promotion (Art Mondays)
-Community (#10oclockart)
-Who is it for? (remember the audience, pull back the curtain)

A brief note on the preciousness of your images: Let it go.
-Creative Commons Licences
-dying of exposure vs hoarding

Selected reading:
In the digital era free is easy, so how do you persuade people to pay? by Cory Doctorow, The Guardian. 

What do we want copyright to do? by Cory Doctorow, the Guardian.


-How accurate is possible? 
-What are they for? Illustrating a point, showing off work, hoping for new work?
-The problem with heavy watermarks and disabling right-clicking.
Selected reading: How Not To Display Your Artwork on the Web, Charley Parker, Lines and Colors.

A brief note on the preciousness of your images: Protect everyone.
-Google Reverse Image Search
Selected reading: It's time for Illustrators to take back the Net, by Glendon Mellow, Symbiartic.

Common Blog Platforms


-Building a blog. Let's make one right now in session.
-Blogger Dynamic Views

Widgets and stats.

Twitter - Microblogging.

G+ - Why Google+ is the new hotness.
-A quick look 

Why illustrators need to blog. Summary and further discussion.

A couple of fun links.
Should I work for free - Flowchart by Jessica Hische
See something, cite something - Flowchart by Rosscott, Inc.

If you attended the discussion and would like clarification or help with anything we discussed, comment or email me!  Happy to help.

- - - - - - - -

Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Print Shop 

--> Find me on Symbiartic, the art+science blog on the new Scientific American Blog Network!

Talking copyright and illustrator activism on Symbiartic

Today I have what I think is an important post up on Symbiartic over at Scientific American, discussing copyright and illustrator activism.  

Head over there to read and discuss whether I'm right in saying "It's time for Illustrators to take back the Net". Or just critique my sketchy Western illustrations. It was inspired by a lot of the posts and situations I link to, and from the growing community of illustrators on Google+. 

Here's the composite image I sliced up for the post, done with the latest edition of ArtRage Studio Pro:

- - - - - - - -

Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Print Shop 

Lookee here--> Find me on Symbiartic, the art+science blog on the new Scientific American Blog Network!

Contest banner at Science3.0

Mark Hahnel of Science 3.0 asked if he could use one of my dinosaur drawings for a contest banner on their network - I said sure!  My artwork is under a Creative Commons Licence that says it can be freely shared so long as no money is involved, it's not altered and I get credit. In this case it needed to be altered - but Mark asked, and hey, that's what the licence is supposed to encourage. This has been your copyright service announcement for the day.

Here's the Oviraptorosaur skull incorporated into the contest banner.

I drew this handsome fella a couple of years back at the Royal Ontario Museum.

More importantly, check out the contest!  

- - - - - - - -

Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Print Shop

My copyright. Mine. Go 'way.

I assert a copyright from this day forth on painting mosasaurs in the pose of a hummingbird.

© Glendon Mellow 2011 not just on the artwork itself, but the pose and that shade of blue 3 mm from the right next to the funny-looking bubble. 

Go read this at Art Evolved. Important copyright assertions and analysis.

- - - - - - - - 

Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow

Print Shop

Neener neener.