A Little Background
The thing which sparked the actual issue which got a bunch of comic artists concerned actually started in early August when a customer support ticket was filed.
The ticket in question was filed by a third party who presented only vague information; the gentleman was concerned because a friend had mentioned that several works of his had been removed due to being in violation of the deviantART copyright policy and that those works were evidently inked comic line art.
Because there was no specific information involved, no account name, no deviation links, nothing at all, we were not able to research the specific actions and circumstances so a very general reply was given.
In the interests of transparency since the person in question has already published our exchange I will do so here as well;
The Original Ticket
Apr-09 2010 09:14 am
Is this still a policy?
"Your deviations were removed due to violation of one of the following
An administrator has removed your deviation as being a violation of
Your submissions may not contain material or images which were not created
entirely through your own effort; this means that you cannot simply collect
photographs, artworks and other images, writings or scans from printed
books/magazines and submit them to your account. You are not allowed to
As you can see there really is no specific information here. In addition the ticket had been misfiled as a Copyright Infringement Notice instead of a general Policy Inquiry. This isn't unusual since we get about a half-dozen misfiled tickets in the DMCA section each day so I cited the correct filing category and answered the question.
My First Reply
Apr-09 2010 11:21 am.
Thank you for contacting deviantART, I will be assisting you with your support ticket.
My apologies but you have misfiled your support ticket as a 'DMCA Copyright Infringement Notice'. Since you are not filing a claim of copyright infringement but are instead trying to appeal actions taken by our staff in your deviantART gallery your ticket should have been as a 'Policy Inquiry'; please try to file your support tickets correctly so that you can receive prompt assistance from the proper department.
There is no need for you to file a new ticket since we will simply continue using this one but please remember this for future tickets which you may file.
The text that you quoted in your support ticket appears to be from one of our automated notices and as such would indicate that the statements made therein represent current deviantART policy.
The reply I received came in shortly
His First Reply
Apr-09 2010 11:34 am.
This was not 'my' ticket....another inker had this sent to him and had his page wiped....he posted this text on an inker maling list for others to see and other inkers said that they've heard of this 'problem' with inkers. As such, if this is the policy, I will be canceling my DA page.
From that reply it was pretty obvious why we couldn't find any information associated with the inquiry- it was a question from a friend of some unknown person who was upset about what happened to them.
It's not uncommon for someone to have a work removed from their gallery and then for us to hear from one or more of their friends who wish to protest. Rather than leave the ticket at that I made a couple of assumptions and responded one last time.
My Second Reply
Apr-09 2010 11:34 am.
You are not particularly clear in your reply, but from what you have said I would assume that this "inker" simply took sketches and drawings that were the work of another artist and "inked" them without first obtaining proper permission to do so.
This practice is in violation of our copyright policy since you must obtain a proper license to use any material which you intend to use ("ink") before you submit it to your deviantART gallery.
There were no replies after that (I had half expected to get another reply which would have possibly had more specific details) but the gentleman wound up deactivating their (then) three month old account and I considered the matter closed.
That is until nearly four months later when the whole exchange was served up as an attack against deviantART policies.
So four months later, on August 23rd during my vacation, the entire exchange shows up on firstcomicnews.com
and that article was picked up and posted again by comicalliance.com
Both articles attempt to stir up fear in the comic community and level charges at me of not knowing what I'm talking about so I'll take this opportunity to address the points raised here.
Now the article starts off with the statement that the anonymous artist had their account "closed down" which I take to mean "banned". Now we don't ban lightly so if this anonymous artist was indeed banned it would have either been as a result of gross misrepresentation of the work or due to repeated offenses. Of course without his actual account name we'll never know the entire story.
The second part of the introduction states that this anonymous artist "inquired about the matter for more info"
. Now I must point out that I doubt this actually happened - why? Simply put the anonymous artist claims to have received the content of the automated note as a response to his inquiry; this simply cannot happen.
The automated note quoted in the original ticket is the note which accompanies a staff action - an inquiry for more information routes through our customer support system where an actual person answers with specific information...they would not simply paste out an exact copy of the original automated response.
At the bottom of the pasted exchange there are a series of statements made which essentially defend and excuse use of line art for inking purposes and the redistribution of the result without permission and deviantART in general is accused of having misinformation and being confused.
Now, I don't mean to sound disrespectful or dismissive but we are neither ignorant of how the craft of comic creation, nor are we misinformed or confused about the issues.
Now anyone who has watched my journals and news articles has the basic understanding that in order to use something that was created by someone else in your deviantART submission you need to be entitled to do so through having proper permission, the content being stock, public domain, etc.
The article seems to expect that because the comic industry "expects" people to simply take whatever they want to do whatever they want with it that deviantART should create an exception for comic book inkers and colorists.
Unfortunately we cannot do that - if we receive a valid claim of infringement in association with your inked line art from the actual copyright owner it will be removed because not only because we are legally responsible for doing so but also because it is simply common sense that our copyright policies apply to everyone equally.
Now to be clear our staff is certainly not running around willy-nilly "nuking" entire galleries; but if we receive a valid copyright complaint you can certainly expect our staff to take whatever action is necessary.
Unfortunately the comicsalliance.com article continues the scare tactics, but I'll clarify a couple of things and correct an error or two as well.
The writer there primarily took offense at my placing the word inker
in quotations ( "inker" ).
For the record when someone is referring to the act of inking but is not clear whether they are actually inking with pen and ink or if they are "inking" digitally then I routinely place the term in quotations (as I just did) because digital "inking" is a bit of a misnomer because digital lines aren't actually ink in the traditional sense of the word.
It's not intended to be insulting, it's simply my personal way of differentiating between traditional and digital methods.
The article also attempts to confuse the vital role played of a comic inker in the industry with the issue of getting permission before you redistribute works belonging to someone else.
While compared directly the role played by an inker and the act of getting permission to redistribute work are two completely separate situations and comparing them as if they are inextricably linked merely confuses the matter and promotes people to be outraged.
The article also tries to instill fear that an "anonymous DMCA tip"
could result in the removal of your comic work.
This actually reveals that the writer is ignorant of the requirements set out by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Anyone who is aware of the DMCA standards knows that there is no such thing as an "anonymous" DMCA compliant claim of infringement. In order to comply the person filing a claim of infringement must identify themselves, provide valid contact information and make several legally binding statements- anyone trying to remain anonymous gets their claim tossed out.
The Bottom Line
The truth of the matter is that I wanted to avoid having to write this clarification because I knew that it would involve picking apart the inaccuracies in both articles and that runs the risk of offending comic artists.
The truth is that deviantART is not "targeting" comic artists, inkers or colorists. We respond to complaints involving these artists in exactly the same manner as we do with every other deviantART member.
The truth is that in order for the staff to take any action in your gallery we first need to receive a valid complaint - just any old "anonymous", vague accusation simply won't do.
In short comic book artists, regardless of their role in the industry, have nothing more to be concerned about than any other member.