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Submitted on
February 13, 2013


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There's a frustrating element I've noticed lately in regards to Art. "Art with a capital 'A'", as a friend of mine calls it. And I suppose this blog was triggered by the cancellation of the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan game Fighting is Magic. The fandom lost its collective shit because Hasbro sent the developers a Cease and Desist letter. The entitlement was just amazing to watch, and even worse was the sheer ignorance. Some of it stupid, like "Technically, all fanworks are parodies, so it's not illegal!" and "Copyright laws are so stupid!" to cruel, like "They can just take their development overseas, then Hasbro can't stop them!"

I was baffled by this. Because Hasbro had the right to protect their intellectual property.

See, I've been a freelance artist for a while now. And it's hard. It is so freaking hard, and part of the reason it's hard is because the default attitude of most people you deal with is, "We're not, like, going to pay you a lot. Or give you insurance benefits or anything. Because it's just, like, drawing, you know?" Leaving alone for the moment that more people are successful brain surgeons than successful artists, it echoes a larger sentiment: that Art is silly and fun and pretentious, not serious, and certainly not anything anyone should get paid for. In our highly visual culture, the pretty shiny has just become our due. It happens because it does, and we should get it for free.

A friend of mine related a lesson learned in one of her Illustration classes, where after a round of critiques, the teacher said, "Okay, which one would you pay money for?" And it entirely changed the perspective of the students. They were a little startled by the question, because suddenly the art wasn't just there for free. And suddenly the art was assigned a different kind of value aside from self-expression. A much more concrete value, that lets you eat and buy stuff. And it happens in every part of our culture. We pirate video games, and music, and movies. And become indignant when we can't. Also, angry when the creators ask for a little consideration. Case in point, the Hasbro thing. Another case in point is Deviantart itself. The points system is insulting to artists trying to pay their electric bill this month. Requests can also sometimes be insulting, doubly so for a professional artists who has no time to waste on projects that will not feed them. And believe me, when the most the average person is willing to give for a digital picture is maybe $35, breaking that down by hours becomes less than minimum wage most of the time.

I'm really trying not to get into another rant about fanworks, but it creates a disturbing trend for me. I feel it's kind of like corporate culture invading Art. First, you have this smoothly marketable thing, this character or concept, that is vetted in and out until it has broad, mainstream market appeal. (Apply this to anything: music, movies, whatever.) Then, part of that mainstream market starts doing Art of this highly vetted concept. It becomes free advertising. Free. Free for the corporation already making money off it. And then this weird line starts to blur, because on one side you have this corporate concept that's preempting other forms of self-expression because it's already got its vetting and appeal behind it, and on the other you have people who are willing to discount their own creative expression because it's just fanart. Then, this very same corporate culture can shut down anything in a legal sense, and it makes the creators of this Free Stuff howl in outrage. It's always okay to take Stuff For Free when it's Somebody Else's Stuff. We're all supposed to join hands in the Jungian space and agree that Art is all about expression, man, and when someone asks "Yeah, but how am I supposed to eat?" the question's disregarded as ludicrous.

This attitude towards Art is very pervasive. It discounts the original creators of content. It sneers at the idea that Art is valuable or meaningful (or original, in SO MANY cases). Art apparently belongs in the aether, an imaginary utopian hippie commune full of rainbows called Give Me My Free Shit, and if Art forgets itself and starts trying to wonder into the Real World where money and stuff is, it needs to be bitchslapped back into place. It's within the nature of an artist to share, but to ask for support like money and stuff? That's unforgivable. Then we're drama queens and selfish assholes, like Hasbro. Defending the thing that makes them money and shit; how dare they!? And the hypocrisy of it is nothing short of astounding. These people want to perpetuate the corporate elements of marketing and advertising appeal, and all the popularity it brings, but then gnash their teeth and wail when that very same corporate culture viciously puts them in their place. I don't even know where fake movie trailers and redubbed animations count on the Art spectrum, but I'm increasingly feeling that stuff like that is just an easy way out. Take somebody else's work and make it your own to bask in the praise. Harmless enough. It's just when stuff gets big, like Fighting is Magic, where people start ignoring the rights of the creators in order to feel like I dunno, like they're artists without having any of the hard work that went into it, that it gets disturbing. (In the case of Fighting is Magic specifically it's tragically misguided, because these guys did work hard, they were just doomed from the start because they had no idea what the hell they were getting into and somebody should have told them so.) It sends a very clear message to creators: don't bother being original. Don't even bother trying. But if you become successful, Your Success will become Our Success and we don't have to pay you for it.

Take it from me: one of the worst, most condescending and insulting things in the world for an artist to suffer is the idea that Art Is Silly. That office jobs and mechanics and lawyers and stuff: they do real shit. Are deserving of dignity. Artists don't. Artists draw funny little doodles that are amusing, even when it's multi-billion dollar animated movies or video games. I have had the concept of my time scoffed at, belittled, and shamed because I draw for it, whereas something like a call center job or even fast food there's no question of being paid for your time. So yeah. When people slap something together and call it Art, especially Art that belongs to other people, it's a little aggravating. And if you think it's easy to do Art, you're not doing it.

And that's the vibe I'm getting from people who Don't Do Art. They discount it, take it for granted, and are even bold and stupid enough to think it belongs to them. Why nobody told the Fighting Is Magic development team that maybe they shouldn't waste two years of their life on something that was illegal in the first place is beyond me. It shows an amazing lack of knowledge about Intellectual Property laws, licensing, and copyright, which any artist who has been screwed by a contract (or a nonexistent one that leaves no recourse to not getting paid) knows backwards and forwards. The first time you get paid in shoestrings, gum, and the "privilege of being able to include it in your portfolio", you learn real quick that money talks and bullshit walks. And I'd honestly like to know what the original animators and designers think of their work being advertised while they're not seeing a dime of all that exposure. Someone else is, and it's probably profit margins.

I'm not saying the maze of corporate money, marketing, Art, and expression is an easy one to navigate. There's a lot of grey area and fog, and I don't want to equate some eleven-year-old who loves Pokemon and is inspired to draw a picture of it is the same as someone who thinks no artist anywhere deserves money for their creations. Or that all Art everywhere should be free because I Deserve Free Shit. But there's an unfortunate attitude that's extremely prevalent that I'm honestly getting tired of hearing. Especially when I hear "What do you mean you won't do it for free!?" for the umpteenth time. That phrase basically says "You and your skills are worthless!" for anyone looking for a translation. And don't tell me it doesn't exist. I've seen blogs and forum posts in the video game industry that encourage finding gullible people on Deviantart who will work for free or cheap, and specifically say you're better off avoiding more seasoned professionals because they'll cost you money. There's a saying: Amateurs make it hard for the professionals. And I have to say, the worst kind of amateur is the one that says "I worked hard on this thing that isn't mine totally for free!"

What the hell are the rest of us supposed to say to that?
  • Mood: Disgust
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lantairvlea Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
It might have been different had they, say, designed their own parody ponies instead of ganking the designs and cast of the TV show (I'm assuming that's what they did as I haven't seen let alone played the game). While they may not be running over copyright perse, they are running over what I would assume to be massive trademarks. They could claim parody if, say, they had a pony named Rainbow Smash or Twilight Smackdown, but taking the exact designs and names is just asking for trouble.

If I tried making a game with Tony the Tiger or Cap'n Crunch you can bet the cereal companies would rain down upon my head for violating their intellectual property rights. Heck, movies get in trouble for having their characters drink cocacola or pepsi without permission yet will pay for product placement. That's just the world we live in.
Deathcomes4u Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2013  Professional General Artist
So. Fucking. True. All of it. Just. UGH.

The only thing I can say at the moment, since losing my shitty service job and trying to get by with commission work while looking for animation jobs is that my soul is much less crushed.
It's a hard trade off though, really, to chose between scraping a pitance doing what you love for money and earning decent cash at the expense of happiness (And the health of my hands, since I had constant dermatitis working my coffee house job).

It's only marginally better in animation. A single drawing or concept, people scoff or baulk over having to pay actual money for. Getting paid to draw the same thing over and over in motion increments seems to garner at least a little more 'yes you probably should be paid for that'. BUT ONLY BY THE SECOND'S WORTH. In which case, it's up to the artist to get good enough to do it fast, because hours don't matter, you only get paid by how many frames you can do, and it's a set amount, so if you want a life, you gotta draw fast.

Considering the system could be rorted if it was by the hour for animation, I understand the necessity of this. But of course now there's 3D. I can be perfectly good at old school hand drawn frame by frame, but if i can use tweening and keyframing and rigs and puppets, i'm fucking screwed. There's a technology bias now, you don't have to be an artist, you just have to be good at motion, and programs. If you wanna do old-school, you're not going to get much work in THIS industry. And that kills me a little bit inside, because I feel like I've come into the world at the wrong time, and i spent all this time learning these skills for what? To be told someone who hasn't got a clue how to draw a circle competently is better suited for the job because they can learn Maya in 13 weeks rather than a year. They can memorise button functions faster, and who cares if the model looks good or not?

Anyone expecting to become an artist who also expects not to have their heart broken at some stage is in for a nasty shock, that's for sure.
InsaneWraith Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2014  Professional General Artist
Considering I'd like to become an animator, I'm glad I read this warning now.
Cat-Bat Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2013  Student Digital Artist
SideQuestPubs Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
As an amateur author and, yes, even a fanfiction writer, I'm also puzzled by the attitude some people have towards copyright.
On the one hand, many copyright owners choose to ignore fanfiction at worst, or see it as a way people show their appreciation (and possibly free advertising) at best. Or the very worst case scenario (worst case for fan artists, at least), they send a cease and desist letter. :shrug: The thing to remember is, that's the copyright owner's decision how to see it, not the fan's.
On the other hand.... technically, all fanworks are parodies.... :ohmygod: I think I see where that statement was supposed to go: parodies are protected by Fair Use, so if the fan artist could justify that their work was a parody, they can try to protect it that way (operative word "try"). But does that person/those persons even know what parody means? As a fanfiction author, I find that statement offensive; I don't write fanfiction to make fun of the source material, I write it because I enjoy the source material, and because I find some story worlds so open to so many more stories. And I write it as a temporary way to hone specific elements of my writing skills (e.g. fight scenes) while remaining undistracted by others (e.g. characterization--although making sure a premade character is acting in character is no easy task, either).

That being said, if the copyright owners ever tell me to stop, stop I will.
Stop posting it online, at least. I'll keep the work to myself, but I still see fanfiction as a means to develop specific writing skills.

I think another problem that comes from people who Don't Do Art is that they have no clear concept of the time and effort that goes into it. Or like you said: And if you think it's easy to do Art, you're not doing it
My parents, for instance, portray the attitude that my original writing is Not Important if I haven't made money off of it... even if I've only started the story yesterday. And yet helping them with their job is important because they're paid on an hourly basis... even though they don't pay me to do part of their jobs for them.
And I, for one, will think of a drawing that I'd love to do, get impatient and give up after a half hour, and become astonished that it took a real artist ten hours to finish the same thing. :roll: That being said, I care more about my writing than my drawing, so that's where all my effort and practice goes... though I really ought to at least work on my camera skills.
Point being, if you flip burgers at McDonald's, you're paid by the hour. If you're commissioned to draw something, you're paid by the finished product. And those who Don't Do Art don't see the hours that went into it. Even when the artist says how long it took... though I do like that more people are including that information.
3v1l73ddy Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2013  Student General Artist
Yeah, just, yeah.
hyenadon Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2013   Digital Artist
I honestly can't express how much I agree with you on this. Even people who work for companies don't get much money, if they get lucky enough to be employed even.. and when they do it's because they've had years in the industry. I hate the fact that artists are looked down upon, it's not easy to create something that will get the bills paid but everyone seems to act like it's the easiest shit on earth! It's bloody ridiculous.
Vvargr Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2013
Warning: Long Comment.

This whole issue pisses me off.

Let me start by saying that I don’t know if this post, my post, changes anything. It probably doesn’t, but it’s a perspective that I think desperately needs to be heard here. And let me go on by adding I’m not an artist in any sense of the word. I’m not an illustrator, I’m not a musician and I’m not a writer or anything that falls under the category of Art (and it’s a diverse one). Hell, I don’t aspire to be any of those things, but I do have a story to tell, and it will likely cause people to flip their shit and call me all sorts of bat-shit crazy, but as my Granda used to say, “I don’t give a rat’s ass one way or the other.” You’ll either take something away from my story or you won’t.

The fact is, I could spend hours telling you what I’m not. Instead I’ll tell you what I am: a 27 year old guy that graduated with a practical BA, keeps a fair paying job and doesn’t have to work like a slave behind a service counter, catering to a customer’s every fancy. Life has treated me well, and I make enough money to get by and then some. I work hard for it. A lot of people do. But I used to think there were exceptions.

Like art.

And I was a fucking idiot. But you know what? Growing up, creativity hadn’t been easy for me. I read books, I enjoyed comics, even watched cartoons, but I never had any aspirations to make something for myself. I was the kind of kid that would be asked to draw a straight line and somehow mess it up, but I didn’t want to get any better and that was okay. Art was just this thing that I wasn’t into. I didn’t want to grow up and animate things. I didn’t want to paint pictures, draw or do anything like that. It didn’t mean I hated it—it was a lot of fun actually, when I tried—but it didn’t hold my interest for very long. As I grew older, I separated myself from it. By the time I ended high school I could probably draw a straight line but didn’t care to do it. I was focusing my attention elsewhere, at the possibility of a well paying job after college, so I left home and concentrated on a practical degree that would help me achieve that.

Because of my lack of exposure, I’d grown up under the assumption that art was this trivial hobby that people did and sometimes made a lot of money off of, if they had a good idea. It could be lucrative. Sometimes it pissed me off to think that somebody could whip up a picture and sell it for thousands of dollars, while I assumed that my future would be spent behind some desk, working late nights to earn an hourly wage that couldn’t come close to that. Simultaneously—and here’s where the contradiction of most stereotypes about art clash—I believed that to be an artist was to be forever struggling to survive. There was never enough money, and jobs for “creative” degrees were few and far between, so scarce you’d practically have to beg someone to take you in. Strangely enough, I had friends that wanted to take to that course in life and I didn’t get it.

They didn’t get it either!

They’d toss out jokes about how they’d spend the rest of their lives living in a cardboard box because they wouldn’t make enough money. I’d ask, “Well why the fuck do you major in that?” constantly. It just didn’t make a lick of common sense. And sometimes they’d crack another joke about it, but I had one friend (I’ll call her Anna) who would change things up every now and then. Anna would joke too. She’d insult herself and her work, and yet she’d still do it every damn day, and she was one of those people that loved to write and create visual art, specifically etchings. But sometimes when we talked about her work-in-progress novels and short stories, her monotypes, and etchings, Anna would get this glassy eyed look to her and say, “It’s what I love to do,” after I pelted her with that question again. As if that answered the all the problems that came with the precarious life of an artist; “I love to do it” isn’t going to earn you health and dental insurance, it’s not going to pay your bills. She’d probably have to get a second job to support it. I would tell her this and she’d get agitated with me, and so I stopped pressing.

Well, the Art Department at our school had their own building, pretty much like the English Department had its own separate building too. The studio though, had different rules than the rest of the buildings on campus. It was always open, 24/7 for the sake of art students that needed to get work done. Security always patrolled the halls at night, but as long as you were busy, they didn’t kick you out. Near the end of the year, this was especially important. Exams, projects and damn research papers devoured our time, and some art students needed the late hours to catch up with their artwork, which had to be on display by a set date. If something wasn’t done on time, too damn bad. Grades plummeted. No exceptions; an art student had all semester to get what they wanted, done, and if they didn’t, oh well. Faculty didn’t buy crocodile tears for one second.

I was working on a research paper myself, and some of my friends invited me up to the studio to work on what I needed to get done while they could work on what they needed to get done as well. We’d never tried it before, but you know, if you’re hanging with a group of people that actually want to get work done, it’s not a distraction, it’s a comfort. And holy shit did this open my fucking eyes.

Because I realized for the first time, how much WORK goes into that thing I’d always been told was a “hobby” and a “passion” and not a legit job. My friends slaved over their art, just like I slaved over my work. Do you know how many drafts are involved in the etching process, from the thumbnails to the crow quill drafts and eventually the final product? Do you know how depressing it is to watch an artist spend hours and hours prepping a piece for a monotype print only for one small thing to go wrong and find the whole thing unusable? I learned that some types of fucking paper were out-of-this-world expensive, and that these girls had to buy it themselves in order to make the art they loved so much. The school didn’t even provide that shit. And I came to see that they pulled all-nighters like I did, when I had homework that just wasn’t cooperating with me or I couldn’t understand a concept.

After four years I can safely admit I was a naïve shithead to think that artists don’t partake in the process of “real work”. I spent many nights in that studio with them, and I never once had the thought to jump in and make my own art, but my god. No one should ever belittle the effort a true artist puts into their work, and by true artist, I don’t mean a “master”. I mean ANYONE that spends hours redrawing that one line with their piece of charcoal that keeps snapping off just when they think they’ve found the right angle you want that line at. I mean any person that’s guzzled more energy drinks than they should because fuck if they don’t finish their piece by morning. Anyone that has ever written a story and put it through multiple, agonizing drafts and edits and still thinks it needs months more worth of work before it’s remotely ready for even a damn beta reader.

That’s no hobby.

If you’ve sweated and cried and driven yourself half mad over anything because you love it, you know what I’m talking about. Everyone has something they love and have poured their soul into. You wade through the fires of hell to forge that path in life you desperately want because it’s your passion, it’s your identity, it’s your soul. Sometimes you waver, but you sweat through the worst of it because for you, there’s no other truth. To finally cross the finish line and say, “I’ve done it,” is an all consuming goal, and for any that have travelled that road or are currently on their way, you know how terrifying and stressful it is. But damn is it so worth it.

So why is it, that when people like me do this in pursuit of something “practical”, it is understood that we worked hard, we deserve respect and admiration, but when someone of a more creative passion does it, it’s more or less brushed aside?

And maybe I’ll piss you off, but from the perspective of someone who has never dabbled or seriously pursued art: that’s not fair. Not remotely. My friends put in the same amount of work as I did, but I will never have to worry about my work being plagiarized and stolen from me. I never have to worry about someone stealing my right to my money. I put in the required hours of labor to make what I do happen, and I will always be paid for it. Whether it be my research or my fucking paycheck, I’m protected from that bullshit, and you know what? Artists deserve the same damn respect. I don’t care if you write or if you animate a cartoon show about magical ponies. Your work is your work, and you have a right to protect it.

And that’s okay.

You deserve more than minimum wage (even though you don’t even fucking get that most of the time, Anna certainly doesn’t for her freelance work). You have the right to make money off of your hard work, and that means you have a right to shut someone down when they’re impeding upon that. It’s yours. Barring fan art and fan fiction, your art fully belongs to you and guess the fuck what? Nobody has the right to tell you otherwise. A difference between a fan and a shithead is that one is truly willing to pay you for the work you do, the other feels entitled to it.

Frankly, “fan” or not, the latter doesn’t deserve what you can give them.

In short: get your heads out of your asses, people. Artists need to make money and live too, and it’s their fucking right to whip out a C&D order if that interferes or threatens with their ability to do so. That’s their hard work on the line, (their fucking livelihood, people!) not yours. And if you’re really a fan, you’d admit it, you’d realize how scary it is for them when shit like this happens, and you’d support and respect their decision.

I don’t know if anybody will even appreciate, or take the time to read it, but shit, this post needed to be said and from the keyboard of somebody that doesn’t even have anything to do with the business itself.
Furrama Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2013   Digital Artist
Can you copy paste this into a journal or as a deviation so that I can favorite it?
Vvargr Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2013
Done. Never had an account here before, but it seemed easy enough to post as a journal.
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