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What is considered art plagiarism?

edited April 2007 in Flamewars
I came across this site and I started to question on what people generally thought was art stealing. The authors for this site are a bit zealots for my taste. They would call out people for making something that look vaguely similar to other pieces or just took other people's style to make original art.

For me, I think that art plagiarism is just any piece of art that you claim as your own is a trace or looks like a trace.
It doesn't mean that you can't eyeball stuff, I do that all the time for practice, just don't claim it as your own.


  • I agree that the key point is misrepresentation. Borrowing a pose, aesthetic, style, or what-have-you should be not only fine but expected. The beauty of art is that you can draw on the wealth of it that already exists to create something new. Borrowing something more substantial should still be OK, so long as the artist clearly cites their source(s).

    The moment someone draws largely and substantially from any work, I feel it is their obligation to make clear reference to the source. To do otherwise is willful deceit.
  • Rather than answer the legal question, which is boring, I'll answer the moral question with some examples.

    Photocopying Superman comic books and selling them is wrong. Taking a picture from the Internet and putting your name on it, as if you drew it, is wrong. Taking a sample from someone's song to make a new song without telling people where the sample came from is wrong.

    Drawing your own Superman comic books is cool, as long as you don't pretend they are the real deal. Bonus points if you point people towards real Superman comics. Photoshopping a picture you found on the Internet is cool, especially if you let people know where the picture came from and who made it originally. Making a remix of a song is cool, as long as you let everyone know who made the original song and what song it is.
  • I agree with you guys totally.

    Another question I am trying to answer whether is it OK to create artwork that only takes a style of someone else and not reference them. Like this guy.
  • edited April 2007
    I think the only time imitating another artist's style causes a problem is when you then misrepresent your work as theirs. There's definitely a gray area between "copying the style" of a piece and copying the piece outright, but at least that example looks to fall pretty clearly on the former end.

    It's also another matter when "copying the style" becomes "cutting and pasting pieces of another person's design". This can apply to more abstract "pieces" such as layout, as well, if these are cribbed directly from another piece. But imitation via reverse engineering (a term perhaps not normally applied to art, but which seems to fit) the techniques used to get a particular atmosphere or style seems just fine to me.

    EDIT: There's also a world of difference between copying another artist's work and then putting out in the world, and copying it in your own sketchbook (or equivalent) for practice. Tracing, for example, is fine as a learning technique, just not for making finished works.
    Post edited by Alex on

  • Another question I am trying to answer whether is it OK to create artwork that only takes a style of someone else and not reference them.Like this guy.
    You can't draw anything without being influenced by something. Every artist takes influence from other artists in some manner, unless you were brought up in the wild and drew on bark or something.
    I guess the problem is when you choose to be influenced by one person only. It's often difficult to say whether the person was trying to copy someone else's style, but if you look at a larger range of works you can usually tell if that is their usual style of if it sticks out from the lot. In the latter case it would be good manners to refer to the style they were trying to recreate, but they might have been experimenting and come up with something similar-looking by themselves, in which case it would be wrong to make hasty conclusions (unless it's obvious of course).
    It's a moral issue for the artist and I think if you're the type of artist that doesn't have the confidence to refer to strong influences, then your art can't be worth much.
  • I don't think there's anything wrong with copying a style. Without referencing them? Hm. I'd say you SHOULD reference them, if only to satisfy the curiousity of the audience, but I don't think you should be REQUIRED to. (This is assuming you're also claiming the work as your OWN). If someone points out that the style is very much like someone else's then it'd be silly to deny it but I really don't think you HAVE to admit the similarities. It's just that if you don't a lot of people will think you're a blind twerp.

    If you only do it a couple times for fun - who cares? As far as I can see there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    If you're basing all or a lot of your artwork on someone else's style - okay, that's WEIRD. But (and I just know so many people will disagree with this) that isn't wrong either (provided that it keeps to style and doesn't extend to exact works, remember). Budding artists will do it and that's acceptable because we all know they'll grow out of it (well, almost all of us - how many "stop art theft" sites seem to be devoted to abusing 12 year olds?). Some older artists will do it and, okay, maybe they need to get a life, but I have a lot of trouble saying that is concretely wrong. Maybe they just really like the style. Who am I to say they can't draw/paint/sculpt/whatever that way? It's entirely possible for different people to explore different ideas in their art with the same style. Style is largely an aesthetic thing, after all.

    It still comes down to: As long as you aren't claiming something that is UNTRUE, you're fine (by me, at least). Other people are still free to read between the lines. I'd say the only reason this debate keeps on is that art is so personal. Artists freak out when they see their style being copied - it feels like a form of identity theft, even. This is exacerbated by the internet - it's now incredibly easy to come into contact with the work of faceless copiers over the internet. But it's still not actually identity theft (which could also be happening but is not defined my style imitation alone).
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