The Galleries here at deviantART.com receive, on average, around a hundred thousand submissions every day- any way you look at it that is a lot of creative works coming in every minute of every day. Among this outpouring of creativity which we call Deviations there are, inevitably, works which could be potential problems and when members of the community find deviations which could be troublesome for one reason or another it is only natural to want to bring them to the attention of the staff here at deviantART.
Because of the various ways that a deviation might be a problem we'll focus on only one specific issue in this blog, that issue being the subject of copyright infringement.
Now we've already tried to explain the ins and outs of copyright in our copyright policy
so if you haven't read that particular page yet I'd encourage you to do so now (you agree to obey the rules and restrictions laid out there every time you submit a deviation).
Now the term copyright infringement is often referred to by the (somewhat inaccurate) slang term of "art theft" within the deviantART community and elsewhere but for the purpose of this blog we will not be using the slang term at all and will rely solely on the more accurate term "copyright infringement" or "infringement".
Some examples on how a deviation can be considered copyright infringement would include things such as placing something made by another artist into your deviantART gallery without their knowledge or permission, modifying or editing a work made by someone else and placing it in your gallery or precisely copying a work originally created by someone else. There can be other situations but those three represent the most common reasons that someone will believe that their copyright has been infringed upon.
There are basically four avenues by which alleged copyright infringement can be brought to the attention of the deviantART staff; two are "informal" methods which are fairly forgiving in terms of what is required while the third and fourth are more "formal" methods which follows a strict protocol and we'll briefly explain all of these methods of contact below.
To start with the formal methods of contact, these are done either by contacting deviantART customer service (the help desk found at help
), which can be done if you have a deviantART account, or by emailing us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
. Using either of these methods will require that the complaint follow all of the legal requirements laid out under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as we mention in the deviantART copyright policy. Don't worry if you aren't certain what you need to write, someone will be able to assist you if you don';t know what to do or if you haven't provided everything which is required.
Because both of these formal methods of contact have to meet specific requirements under the law they can only be used by actual copyright owners or someone who is authorized to represent them. This means that "third party" reports won't be accepted either through email or through the deviantART help desk and anyone who is not an owner or who is not representing an owner will be redirected to the informal moderation system which we will talk about below.
The two informal methods of contact use our onsite moderation system and are started the same way- by clicking a link on the actual deviation page. The link in question is Report Deviation and it can be found on every deviation page. This link has moved around the deviation page over the years as various changes to deviantART have occurred and as of this writing it can be found below the deviation itself, in the right-hand column just underneath the Statistics section where you can find the total number of comments, favorites, views and downloads. The link is in blue and has an exclamation point symbol next to it to help it stand out a bit.
Clicking this link will bring up a menu where you can select several options but the ones we are mainly concerned about in this particular blog are "My Work Used" and "Permissions Issues". While both of these categories can be used to report alleged infringements they are distinct in who should be using which one to bring deviations to the attention of our staff.
The category titled "My Work Used" is intended to be used by actual copyright owners to file an informal report with our staff. Reports filed through moderation here are not quite the same as writing a claim of infringement which complies with the more strict protocols set out under the law so under some circumstances our staff may redirect an owner to file a more formal notice (which we'll explain more below). These reports go into a special queue in the moderation system where they will be given a higher priority by our staff and waiting times for review should be relatively short. Because this particular report type is intended to be used by actual owners it is important to mention that if you are not an owner and you file a report using this section you will be redirected and your report may be closed without any further action being taken- this is done in order to keep this section of the moderation system focused solely on the more informal reports filed by copyright owners.
By contrast the selection of "Permissions Issues" will allow anyone to report a deviation as being potentially infringing but there is a trade off in that these reports are a much lower priority and depending on the circumstances and information provided it is less likely that they will prompt any direct action from the staff in any but the most clear and obvious situations.
Now, this brings up the subject of the differences between a claim of infringement filed by an owner and one filed by anybody else and why our staff treats these reports differently - we do understand that many in the community feel that third party reports should be handled without question and many have claimed in the past that we do not do this because we are "lazy" or that we "support art theft" or "don't care" but the actual reasons are rooted in the need to respond to these sorts of situations in the most responsible fashion possible.
The average third party infringement claim can have many things about it which can cause our staff concern; many can be vague or based upon assumptions or rumor and we've even seen a few which are plainly wrong for one reason or another.
We have millions of artists here and many of our members maintain, or have used, more than one deviantART account. Many members have accounts on many other art related websites or forums or personal websites and cross-post the same works on these other websites, not to mention that many deviantART members have works published in books, magazines and other print sources. In addition the works found on deviantART can be taken by a small number of the millions of daily visitors and posted elsewhere (with or without permission) and this creates a situation where we cannot simply assume that since you were able to find a particular work elsewhere that the work found on deviantART isn't supposed to be here.
There are also commissions, "art trades", collaborations, partnerships, work-for-hire transactions and hundreds or private deals and arrangements every day just on deviantART alone. Add to this the fact that there are tens of thousands of legitimate stock images, "bases" and other resources free for the taking and free to use in a new work and then mix in tens of thousands of works covered by Creative Commons, those which have otherwise been offered to the public for use by the owner, and those created by owners which don't care if their work is spread around and we have a situation where just because someone has used or posted something owned by another person doesn't necessarily mean that it was unauthorized.
In short, the reason that we place an emphasis and preference on claims filed by owners over claims filed by just anybody is that, without the actual involvement of the copyright owner you really cannot say for certain if a particular use was without permission or if the owner even cares at all about the use.
This means that the best course of action when you find what you suspect to be an infringement is for you to actually contact the owner- something which can be stunningly easy considering that a large percentage of third party reports given to us involve owners who are already a part of the deviantART community. Contacting them and letting them file a more formal complaint with our staff is vastly preferred to a report which amounts to suspicion and accusation alone.
We will continue to accept and review both owner-filed and third party reports and I hope this article has helped make it clear where each type of complaint should be filed and why they are handled with different priorities and why they receive different levels of action by our staff.