Artist Demands $500 From Guy For Using His Image As An Avatar

from the get-a-grip dept

Lots of websites let users upload their own image or avatar. Most people use photos of themselves, but others like to toss up an interesting photo or artwork. And, of course, online some of that artwork may be covered by copyright. But, still, it seems a bit harsh for an artist to send a guy a bill for $500 after discovering that his artwork was being used as an avatar on an online poker site. This seems doubly stupid. First of all, no one is going to pay $500 for artwork to use as an avatar. They'll just switch to something else. And then fewer people will see the artwork and question who created it. So, basically, all this does is stop someone from freely promoting the artist's artwork, while also pissing off someone who had clearly been a fan. How does that make sense?
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Filed Under: avatars, copyright, threats


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Nov 2008 @ 2:00pm

    Look at the image. Is there an attribution there? Nope! Hence, the "exposure" thing means absolutely nothing. You really think someone is gonna email the poker player and say "Dude, I really like your avatar and want to know where you got that." Any response would read "It's just something I ganked a few months ago. Not sure where I got it."

    People with avatars love to hotlink them if the site allows it (I've had to whack a few folks pulling that trick). They aren't real big on attribution.

    The artist will not receive a dime either way, and that exposure is worthless without attribution. So why not tell the guy to stop? And don't tell me that attribution doesn't matter -- I recollect that Techdirt was none too pleased when folks were republishing your articles without attribution.

    In any case, it's the artist's work. He gets to decide. Not you, and not some poker player. If he doesn't want it promoted, so be it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Chunky Vomit, 5 Nov 2008 @ 2:34pm

      Re:

      "You really think someone is gonna email the poker player and say "Dude, I really like your avatar and want to know where you got that." Any response would read "It's just something I ganked a few months ago. Not sure where I got it.""

      This is where you are wrong, AC. While what you say might happen in a lot of cases, I use an Avatar that is "unique" and somewhat thought provoking. It is an artistic rendering of something. Since using my avatar, I have received a number if inquiries about where I got it from. Each and every time I'm asked I credit the author of the work, and send the artist's URL to the people who enjoy the work so that they can appreciate the artist's work even more.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Nov 2008 @ 8:49pm

        Re: Re:

        But not everyone is like you.

        People "liberate" things online all the time and do as they wish with it.

        What I personally don't understand though is why is IP/music/artwork ownership is considered so much of a bad thing. It would be like if I went to your boss and claimed to work the time on your timesheet and thereby took your pay in place of you getting the paycheck. You did the work, and did not get paid, and instead someone else is getting the benefit of your work. But wait, that is bad when a band or artist or software company does the same thing.

        Oh well, it's just $500 for an avitar.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 5 Nov 2008 @ 11:05pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "What I personally don't understand though is why is IP/music/artwork ownership is considered so much of a bad thing. It would be like if I went to your boss and claimed to work the time on your timesheet and thereby took your pay in place of you getting the paycheck. You did the work, and did not get paid, and instead someone else is getting the benefit of your work. But wait, that is bad when a band or artist or software company does the same thing."

          There's two things at work here. First of all is the overreaching "protection" often demanded by artists, which is usually counterproductive. that's what's being criticised here - by trying to force the artwork to only be used in the way that the artist desires, they're restricting the ways in which people can be exposed to (and thus be inspired to pay for) the artwork.

          The second thing is that your "timesheet" example is utterly inappropriate. There's much discussion here about infinite vs. finite goods - read up on it if you need to understand it. The work that's recorded on your timesheet is a finite, one-off deal - if you get paid by the hour, that's it, you don't get any more. However, if you spend that time creating a piece of art - be it a program, song, image, whatever - then you usually end up with both a finite good (your talent/time spent creating the piece) and an infinite good (the resulting digital file). The discussion here is usually on how to leverage the infinite good to *make money* from the finite good. The feeling is that the artist above was wrong because they were not losing money by the player having the avatar (nobody's going to look at the avatar instead of paying money for a copy, for example), but they could have gained by people seeing the image and wishing to obtain it.

          That's the bottom line here. By restricting how a person uses their artwork, the artist gains some artistic control but lose a potential method of exposing new customers to their product. There's nothing wrong with the per se, but these people have a habit of also turning around and claiming that they're losing money after they do these things. They just can't have it both ways.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Mike (profile), 6 Nov 2008 @ 1:06am

          Re: Re: Re:

          But not everyone is like you.

          Ha! I love it. First you insist that we got angry about people copying our stuff, and used it as a "gotcha." Then we point out that you're wrong, and rather than admitting it, your response is this?

          What I personally don't understand though is why is IP/music/artwork ownership is considered so much of a bad thing.

          We're pointing out how the use of it harms the content creator themselves.

          It would be like if I went to your boss and claimed to work the time on your timesheet and thereby took your pay in place of you getting the paycheck

          No. Actually. That's something entirely different.

          Please learn the difference between scarce and infinite goods. Otherwise this discussion is pointless.

          You did the work, and did not get paid, and instead someone else is getting the benefit of your work.

          All that means is you chose a bad business model. I'm not sure why you prefer blaming others for your own choices, but it's a shame that this seems to be so common in the US. Take a little responsibility for your own choices.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Nov 2008 @ 2:35pm

      Re:

      I've been asked about my avatar on more than one occasion on various sites, so while uncommon, it's not all that unlikely.

      I do believe the user should have asked the artist and/or included an attribution for the avatar in his sigature or profile, but the artist's request is just flat-out ridiculous.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 5 Nov 2008 @ 2:44pm

      Re:

      Years ago, I bought a cool looking poster by a Greek-Cypriot artist, Christos Achilleos. I had no idea who made the image, whether the copy I bought was legal or what it was actually meant to represent. I just knew I liked the poster. A few friends started asking who made the poster, if there was more, etc. I looked into it and found the artist's body of work in other forms - books, trading cards, other posters, etc. A couple of my friends did too. Just adolescent fantasy images in reality, but there was a time where a few of my friends really liked his work and bought it. Yet, none of them would have ever heard the name if I hadn't obtained that poster - even though I had no idea who the artist was at the time.

      That's the point. Yes, the artist gets to decide what his work is used for. He doesn't get to bitch about how nobody's buying his work if he only chooses to advertise it in the way people want it.

      Or, another way to look at it: unless the person using the avatar is trying to pass it off as his own work, who's losing out? The artist isn't, since people are obviously unfamiliar enough with his work to not know it's just an avatar. Yes, attribution is nice, but just because it's not happening directly, doesn't mean it's not happening.

      "Any response would read "It's just something I ganked a few months ago. Not sure where I got it."

      People with avatars love to hotlink them if the site allows it (I've had to whack a few folks pulling that trick). They aren't real big on attribution."

      Do you realise that you're actually doing yourself a disservice here? If somebody has a cool image posted and I ask them where they got it, if the answers' "I dunno" then the first thing I do is right click the image and see where it's pointing. If you disable hotlinking, all you're doing is force people to rehost somewhere unrelated to you, and the person asking will never find out who made it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 5 Nov 2008 @ 3:18pm

      Re:

      You really think someone is gonna email the poker player and say "Dude, I really like your avatar and want to know where you got that." Any response would read "It's just something I ganked a few months ago. Not sure where I got it."

      Yes actually. I've contacted people who's avatars I've liked in the past, and they've passed on info. I did that recently on Twitter.


      The artist will not receive a dime either way, and that exposure is worthless without attribution.


      I disagree. Even if your scenario is correct, and the guy doesn't remember, now people know what to look for, and they're likely to spot that artist's work elsewhere, remembering how cool it was.

      I recollect that Techdirt was none too pleased when folks were republishing your articles without attribution.

      You recollect entirely wrong. We encourage it.

      http://www.techdirt.com/article.php?sid=20070412/183135#c612

      In any case, it's the artist's work. He gets to decide. Not you, and not some poker player. If he doesn't want it promoted, so be it.

      We can, and will, express our opinion.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Historian, 5 Nov 2008 @ 2:20pm

    Attribution? It is an avatar on a poker site.. we are talking one tiny image.

    Techdirt has this right, the artist is shooting himself in the foot.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    maclifer, 5 Nov 2008 @ 2:37pm

    A painful foot...

    I agree that the artist is shooting himself in the foot, but mostly because he's using heavy-handed tactics. At least that is the part we know. I am wondering if he sent the player a personal note asking him kindly to remove it - and explained why... or if he just went off-the-handle immediately and didn't try to resolve it in a reasonable way initially... ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Trevlac, 5 Nov 2008 @ 2:47pm

    This is just fucking stupid. It's an avatar, quit being butthurt over it. This fucking country is too demanding and prima donna.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      ehrichweiss, 5 Nov 2008 @ 4:54pm

      Re:

      The artist is from Japan(the licensing fee was requested in yen), so "this fucking country" just so happens to be some other country.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Trevlac, 6 Nov 2008 @ 12:58am

        Re: Re:

        Further proof of the stupidity of human kind. You no doubt must have assumed I was talking about whatever country you live in (probably America). I can say "that fucking country" too but I said "this fucking country". That doesn't imply "the country where I am", it's an undefined pronoun that applies to whatever country is in question. They are all prima donnas.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JB, 5 Nov 2008 @ 2:47pm

    Attribution?

    As long as the player is not saying that the image was created by him, then why is copyright even being brought up? It is called fair use and should be allowed. If someone asks about the image, then he is required to give attribution. Simply displaying an image as an avatar does not equate to a claim of ownership.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Craig, 5 Nov 2008 @ 2:52pm

    A gold-rush attitude

    Just like the gold rushes of California and the Klondike, the internet has been overwhelmed with both corporations and corporal beings trying to make a buck or two. And just like the gold rush days, lots of spin-off businesses showed up to get a piece of the new revenue streams...ad sense is the 21st Century equivalent of gold panning.

    As long as we view the 'toobs as a money maker first and all other things after, then you are going to find people wanting their chunk of the nugget.

    I'm all for making a buck, but I don't see why anyone is surprised when Person A wants Person B to pay up to use their stuff. "Yer jumpin' mah claim, boy!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ron, 5 Nov 2008 @ 2:56pm

    This artist obviously falls into the "starving" catagory.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Gutless Wonder, 5 Nov 2008 @ 2:57pm

    Isn't that the point?

    Isn't it the point, in the "creative" business, to toil in obscurity until death, and then your heirs can maybe make a buck or two off your work? If this artist just lets the other guy use his artwork for an avatar, someone might find out about his work before he's dead, and then what kind of artist would he be?

    Why is it these "creative" types can't understand the value of promotion? Most people don't rush out to buy something they've never seen . . .

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Nov 2008 @ 3:37pm

    Who even cares? lets do the ultimate test. Me and that artist, in a room. Hey artist, i used your pic as an avatar. What are you going to do about it? Here, I am miming crying and boohooing because thats what you look like, artist. What are you gonna do about it? Screw you and your stupid art, hey i changed my mind, I am going to draw a d**k on it and use it as my avatar. Now it is fair use transformative and commentary and satire. Now I will add your name to it. Now my avatar says 'the guy that painted [THIS] is a d**k' And now what are you going to do about it?

    Me and him, alone, in a room, he will cry and i will show him my finger.

    I'm not ashamed, and its no crime. End of story.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    yuniverse, 5 Nov 2008 @ 4:13pm

    I think the artist got what he wanted - publicity.

    Whole bunch of people looking at his artwork because of this story ^^

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    some old guy, 5 Nov 2008 @ 4:43pm

    Just to be an arse

    I went ahead and made the guy a replacement, should he choose to accept it.

    TAKASHI AVATAR

    Of course, I imagine he would get banned for using it. But that's his risk to take.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jesse, 5 Nov 2008 @ 5:47pm

    The guy should send him back a bill for the advertising.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, 6 Nov 2008 @ 12:05am

    The Dog-In-The-Manger Business Model

    Any situation where the "intellectual property" can be used without its "owner" getting paid is unacceptable. The idea that such usage could lead to future revenue opportunities is about as attractive as the idea that maggots could possibly have any benefit in cleaning septic wounds--even if it's true, it's just too icky to contemplate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Trevlac, 6 Nov 2008 @ 1:00am

      Re: The Dog-In-The-Manger Business Model

      Oh look! Ignorance.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 6 Nov 2008 @ 1:08am

      Re: The Dog-In-The-Manger Business Model

      Any situation where the "intellectual property" can be used without its "owner" getting paid is unacceptable.

      Huh? Let's see. You visited this website, "using" my intellectual property without me getting paid. Is that unacceptable?

      How about fair use? That's unacceptable?

      The idea that such usage could lead to future revenue opportunities is about as attractive as the idea that maggots could possibly have any benefit in cleaning septic wounds--even if it's true, it's just too icky to contemplate.

      Really? You do realize that a significant percentage of business models have at least some component of giving away something for free on the expectation of gaining future revenue.

      Apparently free samples are as icky as maggots to you?

      Yikes.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Nov 2008 @ 2:15am

      Re: The Dog-In-The-Manger Business Model

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    wayout, 6 Nov 2008 @ 5:11am

    Re: The Dog-In-The-Manger Business Model

    Why not simply ask the artist "BEFORE" you use their image, instead of simply pulling it...Its like the old saying "its not stealing unless youre caught"..If the time is taken to simply inquire beforehand about using someone elses stuff, you find out then if the person is going to be a dick about it, if so you dont use it..there are enough artist out there that would have no problem letting their stuff be used without compensation if they are asked beforehand, that way its a win-win, you get to use their stuff, and they get more exposure. But why has the culture evolved to a point where it seems acceptacle to simply use someones else stuff for your own purposes and not expect the other person to not be upset by it. It may be a bad example, but hey let me "borrow" your car for a joyride, and bring it back to you unharmed..even if no damage was done, how many on here would really have the attitude of "thats okay, no harm no foul"...?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Killer_Tofu (profile), 6 Nov 2008 @ 5:49am

      Re: Re: The Dog-In-The-Manger Business Model

      Major difference, once again, between infinite and finite goods.
      Our cars are a finite good. If you borrow it, even returning it with no harm and refilling the gas tank for us, we can NOT use the car while you have it.
      This was a little avatar picture. The artist still had his original. Everybody else still had their copies or posters or what have you at the same time. They were not deprived of it at all.

      So your analogy is flawed, as are so many made by people who do not understand the difference between a finite good and an infinite good.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    wayout, 6 Nov 2008 @ 6:40am

    Probably is

    But the premise is the same, if someone borrowed your stuff without asking, regardless of how it was used, would you not be upset..Ask first...what is so hard about doing that..or has common courtsey left our society as well..The prevailing theme seems to be, if no one got hurt etc. then its okay to do it..Especially when things are placed on the net, there seems to be this attitude as "if its online, then I can use it when and where I choose to without permission". As if there is a grey area we can all play in..when it comes to someone elses property..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Killer_Tofu (profile), 6 Nov 2008 @ 11:17am

      Re: Probably is

      If your "premise is the same" is referring to my response about your car analogy, the answer is still no. They are not the same at all.

      I have coded minor pieces of software for open source. I have made many other small programs just to entertain myself or expand my knowledge. If somebody copied (it is not borrowing since I still have my copy) it and used it, and it spread, it would sooner or later be tracked back to me. I would be delighted. Free publicity for me.
      I am sorry you do not see how that works. I do not NEED to be paid for every little thing. Greed does not run my life (like it appears it does this artists). I have a business model that works perfectly fine. I am programming for a company, and they are paying me for my time to create the program. What this author should be doing, is simply asking for attribution, not for money. Now he just seems like a jerk.

      So, before you continue, stop acting like an infinite good is so similar to an infinite good, it just makes you appear ignorant. And you seem to have the manners and intelligence that you shouldn't need to appear that way over this topic.

      Yah, people could ask for permission, but the entire world is not going to instantaneously develop an awesome set of manners just because you or that artist are upset about it.
      Not everybody on this planet will always be nice to you. You have to learn to deal with it or life is going to be pretty rough on you.

      Just remember:
      The world is round, it has no point.
      And
      Don't take life too seriously, you'll never escape it alive anyways.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JustMe, 6 Nov 2008 @ 9:09am

    Looks like the 'artist' ganked a TeleTubbie image

    and stuck those freaky Japanese Manga eyes on it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    A real artist, 6 Nov 2008 @ 1:01pm

    "exposure" doesn't pay the bills

    Everyone who thinks that the "exposure" is worth anything to the artist obviously isn't an artist. I've been working as a professional artist and posting my work online for 5 years, and I have YET to get any paid work because someone "saw my work online". 100% of my paid work comes from when I promote myself directly.

    When someone uses one of my images without compensating me, they get the benefit of my work, my labor, my equipment (I have many thousands of dollars invested in my equipment to produce my art), and they are stealing my IP. There is zero value to "getting credit" for letting others use your work for free in 99.99% of cases. My landlord won't accept "attribution" for rent, my landlord wants good old-fashioned dollars. If you want to use my work, pay me good old-fashioned dollars for it so I can pay my rent!

    I've given permission to use my work for free in the past, but it NEVER led to paid work - just more requests to use my work for free!

    If your car is just sitting there and you aren't using it, do you mind if I just take it (without your permission) and drive it around for a while? No? You call that theft? Why, you weren't using it? Or what if I come in and watch TV in your house while you are off at work. No? You call that B&E? Why? Your house was just sitting empty, it didn't harm you that I sat in your couch for a while... Funny, how when it's YOUR stuff you don't want to let strangers use your stuff for free and without asking, but you are more than happy to use my stuff for free.

    This type of selfish thinking (your stuff is yours and I can't use it, but my stuff is OK for you to use for free) is going to be the ruin of the country.

    Copyright laws need to be revamped. Copyright should expire MUCH sooner than it does now, BUT it should also be better protected against unauthorized use. We need an ASCAP way for people to pay for use of others art, so you can just pay in and then use art for your avatar, for your personal website, etc., and the artists who produce art can pay their rent. People gladly pay a few bucks for a ring tone, why not for an avatar? If you are too cheap to pay to use that avatar, find one that the artist GIVES PERMISSION to use for free, or make your own.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Easily Amused, 6 Nov 2008 @ 2:52pm

      Re:

      OK, so in your particular case, you have not been paid any more by letting others use your work freely (that you know of)... But the question to ask youself is - what have you lost? You have already spent the time/resources to create a high quality image, allowing someone to use a very low quality version as an avatar (that cannot be reasonably enlarged or printed) can only increase the number of people seeing your work. I have bought prints from artists on DeviantArt that I stumbled on from people's avatars and signatures, that I never would have found on my own because of the raw number of creators out there.

      Exposure DEFINITELY, WITHOUT ANY ARGUMENT, is the best way to get your work in the hands and eyes of the people who DO pay for content. If they don't know you, they can't commission work from you.

      The car and house analogies illustrate your complete lack of understanding of scarce/infinite goods, that's ok- you aren't an economist, you're an artist... but read up on it a little before taking a negative stance towards the way things will certainly be working in the next ten years as the 'net matures further.

      And the people who pay $3 for a ringtone just haven't figured out that it takes about 5 minutes to make your own out of any clip you want to use. There will always be a market for providing items and services to the busy/lazy people who can't be bothered to do something for themselves. It doesn't have any bearing on the issue at hand.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Lawrence D'Oliveiro, 6 Nov 2008 @ 4:03pm

      Re:

      Everyone who thinks that the "exposure" is worth anything to the artist obviously isn't an artist.

      Just like anybody who thinks advertising is worth anything to the businessperson obviously isn't a businessperson.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    another mike, 6 Nov 2008 @ 1:12pm

    if the artist is worried about attribution, he should have watermarked the image before posting, or ask the user for a link-back. it's not real clear whether the user is trying to pass off the work as their own or what.

    If he's worried about paying for hotlink bandwidth, he should replace the file with something goatse-inspired. or just a screed against hotlinking or something like that to make the ganker look incompetent.

    cause it's real funny when your cool little avatar turns into "I stole this image from..."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pitabread, 6 Nov 2008 @ 8:07pm

    Brilliant!

    The artist probably gets more publicity from this controversy than if he'd left the guy alone. So maybe this is good marketing?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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