The Moderation reporting system which was launched nearly two years ago, which replaced the older outdated system, contains two categories which allow the reporting of Art Theft.
Art Theft is a wonderfully vague term which can be used to address a huge number of situations and that term was chosen over the term Copyright Policy Violation or Copyright Infringement because it was simpler and more easily connected to by the vast majority of our community here and we wished to have labels which were simple and easily understood on the new moderation system after seeing the difficulty that some had understanding the more accurate technical terms used on the older system.
The choice of Art Theft as a label and the easy accessibility of the new system quickly led to an explosion of reports which quickly exceeded the ability of the staff to resolve them as quickly as they were made and this led very quickly to a backlog developing which lasts to this day.
Unlike many other websites we here at deviantART entertain reports from just about anyone who has a concern that a work is being used without permission rather than restricting reports to only the owners of the work and their authorized representatives. The Moderation system category of Art Theft (General), or (CV) as they are abbreviated by staff, is offered by deviantART voluntarily as such an option; accepting complaints from just anyone is not required by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
This freedom that we give to our community enables artists to watch out for the interests and rights of other artists, which is a good thing which we wish to encourage, but at the same time it multiples the weekly workload by a factor of ten by generating thousands of extra reports, which is a bad thing which produces backlog and long delays.
Early this year, in January, we modified the system to include a separate category Theft of MY Work, or (MY) reports as they are abbreviated by staff, which was intended to be used exclusively by copyright owners so that these reports could be readily sifted from the thousands of others and given immediate attention.
The Theft of MY Work (MY) category was designed to be used by owners who have deviantART accounts and the category is closely compliant to the formal requirements outlined in the DMCA for copyright infringement complaints which you can find on our <a href=[link]>Copyright Policy page. Because of the fact that owners exclusively use the (MY) category these reports are given the most immediate attention and are handled before any other type of moderation report.
Since the launch of (MY) reports, Art Theft (General) (CV) reports are given a lower priority and may experience much longer wait times before they are reviewed. This lower priority is not due, as some may claim, to a tolerance for art theft but rather because (CV) reports are rife with various problems, most of which are due to the fact that these reports are not filed by the actual copyright owner.
Unfortunately many of the General reports experience an extreme lack of due diligence by the people filing the report; whereas several years ago reports being filed would clearly show that the reporting person knew exactly who the original artist was and could make an argument which showed why the deviant and the original artist were not the same person the typical General report being filed today amounts to little more than guesswork and suspicion.
In the past links to evidence would take the staff to personal websites where there would be enough information to determine whether a deviantART account and personal website were used by the same person, sometimes the personal website would even have a statement denouncing the deviantART account as being an impostor or at the very least wed have a personal email address which could be used to ask questions before the staff came to any decision.
Too many reports filed now contain links to Photobucket, Imageshack, or some other anonymous image hosting website or links to TinEye showing everywhere the same image appears. These types of links do nothing for showing ownership and cannot be helpful in determining unauthorized use; they only show that the image is popular enough for people to have taken it and redistributed it throughout the Internet.
Too many times staff has discovered that a General report is accusing an deviant of stealing from themselves, the evidence being a personal website or account in another community or even an old deviantART account used by the same artist. Too many deviantART members maintain multiple accounts and frequent multiple websites to be able to make any automatic assumptions.
The deviantART community has expanded exponentially over the years and weve attracted more and more professional artists so the existing culture of which bases Art Theft reports on suspicion and guesswork simply cannot be entertained in the manner it may have once been.
We have accounts operated by artists from video game design studios, published comic artists, people involved in the movie industry, and a wealth of other professional people and the staff finds that it is simply not enough for a report to simply accuse wrongdoing any longer because more and more of these reports are being found to accuse artists of stealing from themselves, or stealing from the public domain or not having permission when in fact they do have permission.
The CEA staff has a duty and responsibility to ensure that if we delete something that the deletion be completely justified and the reasoning clear and without doubt and unfortunately most general reports which we have been seeing are not able to satisfy all the requirements.
Some of you who report large numbers of deviations using the General category may have noticed that there have been an increase in reports being marked Invalid or that the reports Need Information which the staff found to be lacking or you may even have been told that while there might be cause for concern as an interested third party the staff will not act on your report and would prefer that the owner of the work file a complaint rather than you.
Many in the community have tried to explain these staff responses as laziness, stupidity, or even as allowing art theft. Weve also seen people claiming that having a premium membership means that the staff wont touch your account and a host of other inflammatory or insulting explanations which accuse the staff of not doing the job assigned to them or not caring. The Volunteer Gallery Moderators have also often been the targets of insulting commentary, something which they certainly do not deserve as they are completely uninvolved in the handling of any report.
All of the reasons and explanations which you routinely see in these complaints are incorrect.
General reports will always be marked invalid far more often than reports filed by the actual copyright owner. If your general report is marked as invalid or needing more information it is because your report as an uninvolved third party simply did not demonstrate that a deletion was necessary either because you didnt satisfactorily prove that the deviant wasnt the owner of the work or because you couldnt satisfactorily prove that they didnt have permission of use.
Taking no action on your general report is not intended to be an insult to you or a dismissal of your concerns, it is a simple statement that your report didnt contain enough information for the staff to make a responsible decision which could be defended and justified. Every deletion made by staff must be defended and unfortunately statements such as, Somebody found it posted on Photobucket, or Somebody said it was stolen from somebody else, simply do not justify the deletion of a work.
These stricter standards do mean that some unauthorized submissions will remain posted for a longer period of time but we find it preferable to wait rather than risk a large number of erroneous deletions based upon suspicions and inadequate information.
While some of the community may choose to label this stance as endorsing art theft it is not, it is a policy which endorses responsible and justifiable decisions by the staff.
We will continue to accept and review third party reports but since the copyright owner is not directly involved we will continue to hold them to a high standard of evidence and explanation so that the staff involved will be able to make responsible and accurate decisions regarding what, if any, action is required.
If you find what you believe to be unauthorized use of someones work, and you know who the author is then your best course of action will always be to notify them and allow them to file the complaint themselves but if you feel the need to become involved and file a report yourself as a concerned third party then you should make the attempt to provide the staff with every bit of factual information you can concerning who you believe to be the actual author and where you believe the work originally came from and please try to understand that if the information you can provide does not amount to much that the staff will take the responsible route of not taking any action until we have sufficient information to act.