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International Copyright Law.
Misunderstood, misused, and oft-neglected. There are simply far too many people out there on the big bad internet that copyright doesn't exist whithin the internet, and happily rip images from Google image search like there's no tomorrow. Others are excessively paranoid and completely cover their artworks with their usernames, lest they be stolen by flying T-rexes. This guide aims to educate all ye neopians about your copyright rights and your copyright wrongs.
First of all, the name, [copyright].
It is not [copywrite]. And by extension, the past tense is not [copywritten]. It is [copyrighted]; the former is just a spelling error as the word bears no real connection to the verb "to write".
Now that that's out of the way, lets get into debunking the most widely-believed copyright myths.
1. Myth: The internet is all for free!
I can understand why this myth has arisen. I was like this once. They teach us as kids in primary school how to use Google images and encourage us to print them off and put them in projects. The problem is that the school doesn't usually tell you that those images aren't meant to be used without permission, but at that time it hardly matters; I mean, no one's going to care what you stuck on the cover of your biology project entitled "The Life Cycle Of A Frog".
So most people new to the internet assume that they can do whatever they like with what they find there, and that if the author of the work didn't want their work to be reproduced then they shouldn't have put it on the internet in the first place.
What you need to understand is that it doesn't quite work that way. If you take an image and put it on some other website (or part of a website), people will assume that you made it, and you will have gained respect that you didn't deserve.
And of course, the fact that no one pays to view web pages does not in any way change the rights of the authors. They thought of it, they wrote it down, it's theirs, and theirs alone :)
2. Myth: You need to write in to the government to get a copyright.
What the law in most countries actually states is that the very moment an idea has been put down in some physical or digital form, be it on paper or the space it takes up on the hard disk, it becomes the intellectual property of the author.
In simpler words, once yeh've made it, yeh own it.
Patents, trademarks, and so on need to be applied for and they cost money, but copyright is completely free and it comes immediately.
This "automatic protection" also means that you don't need to put a copyright symbol or even say "All Rights Reserved" anywhere; under the Berne Convention miminum standards, no formality is required.
However, you cannot copyright ideas that haven't yet been put down in some physical form yet, like a story that you were just thinking of writing. I mean, you don't have any proof that your idea even exists until you've recorded it in some way. :3
3. Myth: You need to put your name on (or ALL OVER) an image for it to be copyrighted.
Suprisingly, you don't have to put your name on your artwork/stories/anything else worth stealing, but it's recommended you do put your name somewhere. If anyone tries to steal an artwork that already has a name on it, they have to edit it out or crop it, and that means they must know full well that it was made by someone else, and the crime wasn't any sort of accident.
On the other hand, it's not good to be overly paranoid, and scared that the moment you upload a picture it's going to get (zOMIGHOSH!) sticky-handed. Plastering every 5 pixels with your name is unnecessary. If your work is popular enough to get stolen in the first place, chances are you will have a number of devoted fans who recognise your work and report any theives straight away, probably even before you have a clue what might have happened.
And there's another belief that fuels people's paranoia - there's a tendency to think that all theives are going to either
a) Make a lot of money out of your work,
b) Do a good job of impersonating a skilled artist.
To put it bluntly... most (not all, but most) common art theives are typically... [ N00bs ].
Noun [Also spelt noob, nub, but not the same as newb/newbie which simply means some well-meaning person who is just new]
1. A bloodsucking parasite
Well-known for having a lack of brain.
And they're usually not very good at doing either a) or b). The great bulk of art thieves are pretty easy to spot, while communities like the Beauty Contest boards are on the lookout for tell-tale signs.
It's purely up to you to decide whether it'll be worth stamping your name all over the middle of your precious artwork just to deter a couple noobs, but, generally all that happens is that the thief is dealt with, the artwork taken down, and everyone goes about their daily lives again.
And, well, sometimes it is kind of annoying to see "IT'S MINE, DON'T STEAL IT" plastered over every single bit of the picture, accusing the viewer of being a thief.
What exactly does Copyright Law prohibit?
Any kind of reproduction of the content that belongs to someone else, basically. Copying someone else's work and taking credit for it.
In writing, copying a large chunk of text and changing every third word does not make it your own writing. And in art, looking at someone else's drawing while copying the pose by hand onto your drawing is also considered theft (even though you may be used to copying very heavily from your reference material as part of learning to draw).
Exceptions to Copyright Law
The basic ideas themselves
Copyright does not cover the ideas or information themselves, but only how they are expressed. For example, if you wrote a guide about how to feed Kads, anyone else can read your guide and completely rephrase it in their own words, so long as it's different enough from the original that it can't be considered a copy.
Another example would be if a random user decided to, say, put hooves on a gelert design, they can't stop anyone else from using that general idea too, although they can report if the hooves were copied in exactly the same way.
An author may give permission, usually written, for someone else to copy or reproduce their work. This is why we're allowed to use premade userlookups and things like that, because the original authors have given permission. But they will probably reserve some rights, like perhaps the right to change the lookup, or to edit out the part where it says "lookup made by so-and-so".
The Neopets Submission Policy is another example of rights passing from the author to another person or persons.
|By uploading or otherwise submitting any materials to us and/or the Site, you... automatically grant... to Neopets a perpetual, royalty-free, irrevocable, non-exclusive right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, and distribute such materials or incorporate such materials into any form, medium, or technology... throughout the universe.|
(What it basically says is, "if you agree to submit, don't pull lawyers on us for using your work in any way".)
Then there's [ fair use ].
It is fair use to make quotations from other sources, since you're not claiming to have written the original or anything. And it's also fair use to write a comment, a report, a review or a criticism about someone else's work without infringing copyright. For example, I can say right here and now...
|Harry Potter is a book about a wizard who goes to Hogwarts school and tries to defeat the evil Lord Voldemort.|
...without infringing the author J.K. Rowling's copyright, as this will easily fall under the label of a report.
Another thing that falls under fair use is parody, since it is essentially a review or a criticism, not a real copy. But it's important to be very careful when making parodies, because although it's immune from Copyright, the original author might feel offended by it. This is where the concept of [ moral rights ] comes in.
I won't get into too much detail, but, if the original author thinks they're being harassed by someone who's parodying their work, or that their work is being portrayed in a really negative way, they can claim they've had a breach of moral rights/defamation.
In Neopets Terms and conditions:
|...You will not post or send through the site any words, images or links containing or relating to... attacks, comments, or opinions about other people or things that slander, defame, threaten, insult or harass another person.|
The safest thing to do, if you really want to make a parody , would be to ask for permission from the original artist first, and make sure they agree. Most would probably be honoured, but you never know, and it's best to err on the safe side.
Artistic License can also trump the copyright laws. It's important to know that some art styles (namely Pop Art) make their artistic statement out of the very process of copying. Think about Andy Warhol's endless repetitions of the face of Marilyn Monroe.
But I think it's safe to say that most Neopians will probably never encounter very much Modern Art while on neopets. What a shame D=
How to spot
A stolen artwork
2. Look for any cropping or edited marks on the picture, especially if it looks like where a name might have been placed.
3. The thief usually can't steal something that hasn't already been displayed on the internet at least once before. Duh, they need to see it to take it. So there is a small but real chance YOU may have seen the original before.
Even better - you might be able to trace it back to its original artist and the original place it was posted, which is already enough grounds to report the theiving scallywag.
4. Sometimes art theives try to make the image less recognisable by editing in lipstick or cannons or random things. This is often only done in MS paint, while the orignial artist might have used photoshop or coloured pencils. Just keep an eye out for anything that obviously doesn't look like it was drawn by the same person who did the rest of the picture.
5. Look for any text that is typed alongside the picture. Is there very little text, or very chatsp34k-infested nonsense that has very little to do with the actual picture itself? Generally if the artwork was superb, the artist must have been a diligent hard worker, so if the only text typed near the picture is "voteplz plz plz" it looks a little suspicious. But don't treat this as anything like solid evidence.
5. Ask for the opinions of other people. You may have a feeling that you've seen a certain picture before, but you can't remember where - this is where the Beauty Contest Chat can come in handy. It might turn out you were wrong, after all, so try not to sound too rude or accusatory when asking if a certain picture was stolen.
What can you do about theft?
Prevention is better than cure, of course! Much theft just happens because the kid who sees your content doesn't know about copyrights. So it's good to put a short statement on your petpage/lookup/etc. that lets them know what they need to know ;)
Here are some sample sentences you can use: (I admit they're not very imaginative... but they do contain a cool link back to this page =D)
|Everything guest made on this page is protected by Copyright Law.|
|Taking images, text or any kind of content off this page is a breach of Copyright Law.|
And as for the cure part...
Quoted from the Neopets Terms and Conditions:
Neopets respects the intellectual property of others, and we ask our users to do the same. Neopets may, in appropriate circumstances and at its discretion, terminate the accounts of users who infringe the intellectual property rights of others.
What Neopets intends to do in such an event is to remove the offending content, then warn/freeze the thief. The most convenient way to inform Neopets Inc. of copyright infringement is to use the report abuse form. Remember to provide them with links to both the original and the copied work.
Neopets also has this wierd page called the Copyright Infringement Policy which goes through a long-winded CAPSLOCKS rant that tells users to forward reports of copyright infringement to a guy in New York called Warren Solow. I have a feeling that this will only ever be used for major major MAJOR breaches of copyright, and anyway, the report abuse form still works perfectly fine.
If you don't want to report a user right away, but give them a chance to apologise, it's a good idea to send them a polite neomail explaining the situation and asking for them to take down the offending images/content.
But if they reply lamely pretending to be the original author of the work, don't try to argue. It may be entertaining but it can also be considered a personal attack on the thief, which could lead to both of you being frozen.
Finally, pulling lawyers on the offender would probably be the last thing you'd want to do. Even if you knew the name, adress and shampoo preferences of your thief, the time, effort and money required to take (let's face it) a trivial case to court would not be worth it, unless somehow they'd made large sums of money from your art.
Just use the report abuse, darlings. :3
Note: Copyright Law
differs from country to country
...in fact, in some countries, copyright law just doesn't exist yet. That's why you can get counterfeit handbags and stuff, because it's legal over there. However, most developed and many developing countries have signed the "Berne Convention" and therefore have very similar laws.
In total 163 nations from Albania to Zimbabwe are currently part of the Berne Convention. Press Ctrl+F to find a specific country:
Antigua and Barbuda
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Central African Republic
Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
Republic of Korea
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Syrian Arab Republic
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Trinidad and Tobago
United Arab Emirates
United Republic of Tanzania
United States of America
You can be rest assured, though, that since Neopets.com is currently based in the US (after having moved from the UK), it's responsible for keeping its content free of US copyright infringements. And regardless of what country you come from, you must agree with the Neopets Terms and Conditions when you sign up.
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