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Tracing, Copying and Other Issues Involving Duplication of Existing Works

The Copyright & Etiquette Administration here at deviantART is often presented with challenges, one of the most basic and important of which involves helping artists enforce their rights over their own original work. While this may seem to be a very clear and easy to understand directive it is complicated almost daily by the simple fact that artists copy one another.

It is inescapable that when you gather millions of artists together into a central location which is filled to the brim with their individual ideas and creativity several things are going to happen; separate artists will submit similar things without ever having heard of the other, artists will inspire other artists who will then make similar looking works, and some artists will blatantly copy other artists.

The last situation is one which causes many in the community some concern.

Deliberate copying can take many forms; direct tracing, painting over, “referencing”, redrawing, using similar scenes in photography, making a similar skin, using the same stock resources to produce a similar work.

Regardless of how it’s done copying is looked down upon by many here on deviantART as unoriginal, a cheap shortcut, as “cheating”, as a form of theft, and when it involves a fandom it tends to be viewed as a cheap and guaranteed way to get popular with little actual effort.

While all of this is true to a certain extent it is also true that the various forms of copying are a completely valid learning tool which is practiced primarily by beginning artists and, quite frankly, those artists who lack the experience and training to compose completely original scenes and themes from scratch.

It is the task of CEA to balance these two concerns without condemning or defending one side or the other.

We understand that some segments of the community will always condemn the behavior while others who practice it will refuse to give it up and while the middle ground which we seek to hold will most likely not make everyone happy we believe that it is the best position available which will allow us to assist artists in enforcing their creative rights while not having to turn away those who are not able to meet some arbitrary test of originality.

To this end current deviantART policy attempts to strike a balance between tolerating a certain level of duplication while making certain that the rights of original artists are supported.

The current policy is as follows;

Reproduction of Existing Works by Any Method
Situations listed under the heading of Not Tolerated will override the situations listed under Usually Tolerated

  • Not Tolerated

• Reproduction is misrepresented as being something other than a copy of an existing work.
• The reproduction exactly duplicates an original work and the owner of the original work files a complaint.
• The reproduction targets a stock resource and violates one or more of the Terms and Conditions for use.
• The reproduction actually contains elements of the original (i.e. photo showing through paintover).


  • Usually Tolerated

• The reproduction has been posted into a Fan Art Gallery.
• The reproduction has been posted into the Scrapbook area.
• The reproduction targets an element of pop culture (i.e. Anime screenshots or official video game content).
• The reproduction properly credits the original.


  • Normally Tolerated

• The reproduction obviously copies an existing work but possesses noticeable and substantial differences.
• The reproduction obviously copies an existing work but is noticeably deficient in quality.
• The reproduction and the original bare only vague or broad resemblances to each other (i.e. poses, etc).


It is important to note that the only two areas where copied works are deemed acceptable are the Scrapbook and the various Fan Art galleries. The deviantART staff reserves the right to relocate any copied works which are found residing elsewhere without prior notice.

Add a Comment:
 
:icondekidour:
Dekidour Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
So, it's okay if someone traces over an original species of mine, change a few things and call it their's? Bullshit, deviantart.
Reply
:iconsyntheses:
Syntheses Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
I just came across this again, and all I have to say is... seriously?
THIS is why someone was allowed to OBVIOUSLY digitally paint over something I drew, because it didn't show any part underneath (except a tooth, which obviously wasn't good enough), they changed the colors, and they added a few tails. This person now traces photos, and claims to be an amazing artist, when in reality, they do nothing, and posses no skill, talent, or creativity.

Tracing something in no way should make it theirs. Especially original art. There is no way you can make an artistic statement by tracing something an artist that is not well known made. You can't learn anything from tracing either, because in effect, you're not even putting any effort in. Anyone can follow lines with a pencil or cursor, but it doesn't make them any better at anything but following lines with a pencil or cursor.

I thought this was meant to be an art website?
Reply
:iconkenkura:
kenkura Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Tracing <3
Reply
:iconruhianna:
Ruhianna Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Wow really? I mean obviously this journal was written so long ago but god almighty, are you really going to be happy with just telling us your going to ALLOW people to steal art and trace it like that? I know that obviously this is such a huge site with so many users. But shouldn't there be at least some actual good system to stop it or at least dwell it down? Like punishments to those who do so? There are tutorials for that and references there's no need for copying or tracing at all. Even recoloring!

Just...wow. Really?

I'm disappointed DA, Really. And by the looks of all these comments i'm not the only one.
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:iconkamieno:
Kamieno Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Everyone just be quiet already -_-
Reply
:iconmanectricity:
Manectricity Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2011
Well, this turns something over for me... People have been saying it's illegal to use official Pokemon sprites for things like splices, recolours etc...But this states you CAN!
Reply
:iconlilchicklet:
lilchicklet Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2011
[link]

How do you legitimize your selling of the trollface? I am highly convinced you did not create it, or own it, or get permission from the original artist (whoever that is.) Or is it ok because it's on a tshirt?
Reply
:iconaskyofautumntears:
ASkyOfAutumnTears Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2011
Best talk with the artist before assuming their position. But likely, that artist is getting his share of it's usage, otherwise DA would be getting into a hugely bad reputation if they ever decided to press charges....
Reply
:iconlilchicklet:
lilchicklet Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2011
Well, found out the artist is a DA member who invented the trollface, so, in that respect, seems like he gave permission.

INTERESTING.
Reply
:iconnegaifuku:
NegaiFuku Featured By Owner Sep 30, 2011
Hey dA you are being just stupid, it doesn't matter if the person gives credit to the original artist as long as the original artist doesn't give them permission.
Reply
:iconnegaifuku:
NegaiFuku Featured By Owner Sep 30, 2011
this doesn't solve ANY problem
Reply
:iconhikariyamikage:
HikariYamiKage Featured By Owner Jun 20, 2011  Student General Artist
:|
Reply
:iconshrewmania:
shrewmania Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2011
PS to my previous message: Although as a personal choice, I'm so overly paranoid of (c) law with what I post that I won't even post fanart now. ^^;
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:iconshrewmania:
shrewmania Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2011
A useful and helpful article, this is. :meditation:
Reply
:iconasafary:
Asafary Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2011  Student Digital Artist
hey there is something called tutorial *, where you learn to draw *
I think this excuse pathetic and disrespectful to the artist, and I feel offended as many users of deviant art, here are tracing illegal copying crediti styles without giving the artist, and why? that the administrator is not a serious person and there are only decorative rules

seriously, this lack of seriousness is that there are many problems with copyright violation
Reply
:iconhecatejones:
HecateJones Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Well said.
Reply
:iconmrswave:
MrsWave Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2011
How sad. *doesn't support tracing*
Reply
:iconangrybunny22:
AngryBunny22 Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
*sighs* You guys are getting sad. Tracing is theft. Nuff' said, and recolors to you guys, are okay too. If you guys want real artists, not little wannabee's who- you know what, you'll want them if they give you money :| You guys really need to smarten the fuck up, and grow a pair. Seriously. Art isn't just about money. :|
Reply
:iconbubblybunnybash:
BubblyBunnyBash Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2013  Student Artist
Well said.
Reply
:iconthe-nightmare-doctor:
The-Nightmare-Doctor Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2011  Student General Artist
You'd think DA would do something about this whole thing because there are a ton of very very angry people here right now. More than anything else.

Tracing is a crutch. Enough said.
Reply
:iconneo-nate:
NEO-Nate Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2011  Student Digital Artist
Why is everyone ass-pained about it?

You people take this far too seriously.
Reply
:iconblood-b0xer:
Blood-B0xer Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I agree. It's not the end of the world, really. At least the writer of this article gives the artists the right to file a complaint and revoke permission at any time, so instead of whining and stuff like that, if your art does get traced, then report.

People are lucky this is the internet and not the real world.
Reply
:iconneo-nate:
NEO-Nate Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2011  Student Digital Artist
If someone poorly tries to copy my art I'd just laugh at them.

It's not like they're stealing my car or my money or anything.

It's more of the fact that when people DO report art thieves, they don't seem to go about it calmly, they get made, they make a journal, they get the page flamed by their watchers etc etc.
Reply
:iconblood-b0xer:
Blood-B0xer Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Exactly.
Reply
:iconlunar-alienism:
Lunar-Alienism Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2011  Student General Artist
"The reproduction properly credits the original." What is proper crediting? Personally I think you should give link to the original artists website, tell their name and give a link to the original work but all I usually see is a link to photobucket where is just a copy of the original work. It doesn't tell me anything about the original artist so how the hell is that "proper"?
Reply
:iconlunar-alienism:
Lunar-Alienism Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2011  Student General Artist
also: over 2000 deviants rejected this. Doesn't that tell you that people do not like this?
Reply
:iconkuki333:
Kuki333 Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2011  Student General Artist
[usually tolerated]
" The reproduction has been posted into a Fan Art gallery"
"The reproduction targets an element of pop culture (i.e. Anime screenshots or official video game content)."

Come on.... If they gave me a peso for every time I have ever seen copies of promo images on deviantart, I would be rich by this time. What is that? It means that videogame, anime and comic artists doesn't deserve respect for their work? That while it is "fan art" is OK to receive credit for copying directly on an illustration?. I think it is insulting for the original artists, even if it targets "an element of pop culture".

I agree about placing this kind of deviations on scrapbooks, tough. But we should understand that copying a promo image, a screenshot or anything is another way of TRACING, and another way of steal.
Reply
:iconwildgriffin:
WildGriffin Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2010  Student General Artist
So essentially as long as you can't prove that the artwork was blatantly referenced/painted over without credit to the original artist, any reports are invalid? :|
Reply
:icongracie-is-a-pie:
gracie-is-a-pie Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2010  Student General Artist
The copyright policy says, "It doesn't matter whether or not you've credited the proper owner, it's still considered copyrighted and you still need permission" so I don't understand that "The reproduction properly credits the original" bit. Just because the original artist is credited doesn't mean a reproduction is any more valid. Many artists don't want their work to be used by others at all.

I also don't understand "The reproduction targets an element of pop culture (i.e. Anime screenshots or official video game content)." Screenshots are copyrighted and shouldn't be used in artwork. Do you mean a person is allowed to draw their own version of a screenshot? Or are you allowing people to just copy and past screenshots and upload them? Please explain.
Reply
:iconrealitysquared:
realitysquared Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
Admittedly this is probably one of the least clear articles on this subject matter- I'm going to simply clarify that if anyone's work is precisely copied by someone else all that person needs to do is file a claim of infringement with us and our staff will assist them in resolving the issue.
Reply
:icongracie-is-a-pie:
gracie-is-a-pie Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2010  Student General Artist
Ah, I see. I kind of like that. :]
Thank you!
Reply
:iconmikoroh:
Mikoroh Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2010
Wowww, this is bullshit. C': Sorry, but in this article you you implied that you're okay with art theft. It's messed up.
Reply
:iconrealitysquared:
realitysquared Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
Admittedly this is probably one of the least clear articles on this subject matter- I'm going to simply clarify that if anyone's work is precisely copied by someone else all that person needs to do is file a claim of infringement with us and our staff will assist them in resolving the issue.
Reply
:iconjemelet:
Jemelet Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2010
I can understand tracing, I've done it myself. I have not however, ever put up any of those tracing as I consider it theft. It's a breach of copyright to publish anything that is not of one's own make or with out the original artists acknowledgement. That should be the rule. FanART counts as well guys. You trace fanart and you publish it with out acknowledging or informing/asking the artists permission then it's stealing. Period.

Damn it, rules are meant to define things and clear away all the grey area's. Yet you insist on making more grey. Pick up the slack, copyright has no compromises; so why should you?
Reply
:iconrealitysquared:
realitysquared Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
Admittedly this is probably one of the least clear articles on this subject matter- I'm going to simply clarify that if anyone's work is precisely copied by someone else all that person needs to do is file a claim of infringement with us and our staff will assist them in resolving the issue.
Reply
:icondigitaleva:
digitaleva Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2010
To all the people who were raging on this one, Can I point out that some of us will trace an image to break down a style to it's base elements for a tutorial? For example, I have a friend who is a huge fan of Loveless, and by character design proxy, Gundam 00. She wants to draw people like that. When I post the tutorials for the characters here, do I need to seriously be afraid that they will be flagged by you as tracing? I'm putting work into those to make them as close as possible to the original style. Yes, i plan on crediting the original artist. Yes, I plan on putting them in resources/stock images. Do I seriously need to worry about this crap happening? I've gotten pretty good at mimicking styles by now. I have almost perfected "Amano art". I'm not saying that I'm tracing my art. I am saying that I get mine as close to the original as is possible.

This ruling was more than likely made to protect people who are teaching a certain style of drawing, or those who make pixel art from people like you who jump at them and say that their artwork was traced and not theirs, despite their hard work. This was made to stabilize the community. And here you sit, bashing the admins, claiming that they don't know what they are doing. Have any of you tried to run a huge site like this one? Or even a website at all? It is a huge responsibility that takes a lot of time and creates a lot of stress.

To the admins: Keep it up. I know you're stressed. But keep it up. Idiots will always exist, and there really isn't anything we can do about it. They (The ones breaking the rules) will get caught eventually. Just go and keep on making this a better and better place for me to post art.
Reply
:iconnorton-anti-trace:
Norton-Anti-Trace Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2010
The #1 reason why Sheezy Art is better then Deviant Art. Tracing is stilll tracing, whether someone else reports with proof of the stolen work or the original artist reports it. That doesn't change the fact that with proof the work is still traced and the original artists rights and work have been shot to hell. Lazy and pathetic.
Reply
:iconbeadger:
Beadger Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2010
YOU BESH
Reply
:iconmannips:
Mannips Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2010
Haha, the "!" explains all. ;p
Reply
:iconbekey:
Bekey Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2011
Haha, the "!" is so ironic. =P
Reply
:iconradical-rain:
radical-rain Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2010
Wow... this is just terrible. And I actually had hope for this site. The administrative team should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.

This shows you either BLOW at your fucking jobs, or you have no respect for art or artist's rights.
Reply
:iconrealitysquared:
realitysquared Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
If you had actually finished reading the article in its entirety you'd have noted that the original owner of any copied work is entitled to file a claim of infringement with us.

We are have complete respect for artists rights.
Reply
:iconradical-rain:
radical-rain Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2010
No, you do not have much respect for artist rights if they themselves, who may not even know what dA is, or speak another language, have to file the report themselves before you deal with the issue of art theft.
What if the artist is famous and the work is equally as famous? what if the original artist is deceased? seriously.

A third party cannot report an art theft, even with proof. <--- tl;dr, This is your new rule. Are you KIDDING me?

So basically, you're telling me, if someone copies my artwork, it's allowed (you mentioned this in your article, that copying is "generally allowed"). And then you're telling me if someone STEALS my artwork, you will not care or deal with it unless I myself report it?
This is absolutely contradictive of your claim that you support the rights of artists.

And, you should know that because of this new rule, thousands of art thefts are being allowed or going unnoticed by the admins all the time here.

You need to fix this rule. It doesn't MATTER who reports the art theft, as long as they have valid proof it's just as useful as if the original artist does so.
Reply
:iconorcawolfcartoons:
orcaWOLFcartoons Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I agree wholeheartedly with this - it should NOT matter whether you're the original artist or not - theft is theft, and if I see someone is stealing ie. famous manga images for their picture, I will report it on their behalf. This tracing, recolouring etc. HAS TO STOP
Reply
:iconprincessemillee:
Princessemillee Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2010   Writer
Shit! I thought this was gonna be an article saying 'you can't trace etc' and I fav-ed it without reading! Damn it! How do you reverse a fav?! This is totally bullshit, no 'fence.
Reply
:iconkriscynical:
KrisCynical Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
This is incredibly old, but I believe you can click the "reject" button at the bottom of the article to un-do your fave. I haven't made that mistake before so I don't know first hand, but there might be a click-able link down there to "undo favorite" as well since there's always a similar link for "undo rejection".
Reply
:iconprincessemillee:
Princessemillee Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2010   Writer
Oh, ok! Thanks.
Reply
:iconbeadger:
Beadger Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2010
WTF! U LETT PPL STEAL IT?
Reply
:iconrealitysquared:
realitysquared Featured By Owner Sep 1, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
As outlined in the article, if you closely copy someone's work and they file a claim of infringement then our staff will most likely removed because we support the original artist over the copier.
Reply
:iconbeadger:
Beadger Featured By Owner Sep 1, 2010
well then everyone's gonna get removed
Reply
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