Inkblots: “The Dilemma of Deviant Art”

Last April a fellow ink […]
Last April a fellow ink artist on the Inkwell Yahoo group mailing list The Inkwell mentioned that his page on Deviant Art was closed down because he didn’t follow their copyright policy.  When he inquired about the matter for more info he received the following which I subsequently attached to a message and sent off to DA myself as I was also curious since I had just literally set up a bare-bones page there and wondered if I should bother to continue with it:

BobAlmond, Apr 09 06:14 am (PDT):
Is this still a policy?

Your deviations were removed due to violation of one of the following
policies:

An administrator has removed your deviation as being a violation of
copyright.

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
submit.


Attachments to this comment:
inkwellawards.jpg

In addition, the following statement was attached to their email:
Ticket #46461: inquiry on copyright policy
Hi,
Your Copyright Infringement Notice (#46461) has been received and is now in queue awaiting review by a deviantART Customer Service Representative.

Please be aware that in order for your notice to be considered valid you must be the copyright owner of the infringed work or their legally authorized representative and your notice must comply with the format dictated by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) as outlined in the deviantART Copyright Policy which is available at http://about.deviantart.com/policy/copyright/

If your notice does not comply with the required DMCA format you may correct this while your support ticket is in queue awaiting review by deviantART Customer Service.

If your notice does not comply with DMCA standards, or if you are confused about the process, a member of deviantART Customer Service will instruct you as to which information and statements you must provide.

To review the status of your Copyright Infringement Notice and add additional comments or information please follow the link below:
http://support.deviantart.com/tickets/46461


I received the following prompt reply that day, although the bulk of it is slapping me for misfiling my inquiry (my bad) :

realitysquared, Apr 09 08:21 am (PDT):
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.

I responded with:
BobAlmond, Apr 09 08:34 am (PDT):
This was not ‘my’ ticket….another inker had this sent to him and had his page wiped….he posted this text on an inker mailing 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.
Bob Almond

And ultimately I got this answer later that day:
realitysquared, Apr 12 06:46 am (PDT):
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.


Ultimately, their policy is saying that you cannot post inked art on your DA page if it was penciled by someone else and permission was not received from this party, which means you can’t use the image as a portfolio piece on your DA page which is commonly used for promotional reasons by the artists.  But by definition the INKERS job is to ink another artist’s/penciller’s drawing.  And the best way to display that skill is to compare the two side-by-side.  (In fact, when inkers inquire about doing professional work,  this is why some publishers will supply them with photocopies of pencil art so as to later review the inked submissions.)  So an inker wouldn’t be allowed to post inked art OR the art pencilled by another artist.

(Incidentally, I do not know if the ink artist was selling the inked art but my impression is that he didn’t so we won’t factor that aspect into this discussion as that’s a different can of worms.)


I think most artists would agree that fledgling inkers trying to collect the permission from pencillers is problematic at best, and not easy for established ink artists either (not to say that inkers on DA haven’t done this).  I asked a friend who is both an art collector and an attorney what he thought and he acknowledged that Deviant Art, or it’s lawyers, are clearly ignorant about the craft and artists of inking.  Now mind you, there are a LOT of inkers with a Deviant Art page, many notable professionals.  The artist who shared the above info with me believes that someone complained and that’s what set the DA hounds on his case.  So does this mean that the ink artists there are potentially one complaint away, legitimate or not, from having their page deleted?  So if you pissed someone off online or at a show, should you be paranoid that your page will disappear one day?

Due to my association with my non-profit organization The Inkwell Awards (which I did tip off in my first message), I quit my DA page.
But this dilemma has gnawed at me as the practice seemed unfair to me.  The Inkwell Awards, the single advocacy for inking and its artists, exist in part due to misinformation and confusion like this.  And allowing that practice to continue without addressing it seemed regrettable to me.  If there’s no evidence of sales being made on the page with this scenario, I see no good reason why the images cannot be used in a manner of displaying one’s portfolio work to obtain work.  And should there be an issue of some sort, Deviant Art should probably investigate the evidence before nuking the time and effort that the artist made in that community.  Let’s see if common sense can eventually prevail.

About Bob Almond

Bob Almond is a long-time comic book fan and collector, professional inker of eighteen years, Jarvis-head, a Master of the Obscure, Heroclix fan, Inkwell Awards grand imperial poobah, columnist, and always proud husband and dad. Some series Bob has worked on include Black Panther, Quasar, Warlock and the Infinity Watch (Marvel), JSA, Aquaman (DC), Vampirella: Revelations (Harris), Bloodshot (Acclaim), Archer & Armstrong (Valiant Entertainment), Captain Gravity & the Power of the Vril (Penny-Farthing Press), and Star Trek: The Last Generation (IDW). You can email him at Bob.Almond@firstcomicsnews.com and visit his website at http://www.almondink.com  and his non-profit charity organization at http://www.inkwellawards.com.