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About using and modifying other people's works

ButtercheeseButtercheese Member Posts: 3,769
edited July 2015 in Fan Creations
Hello dear fellow forumites ~

@Troodon80 asked me to touch on the subject of using and modifying other people's works, in addition to the guide to sharing other people's work (which you can find here), so here you go.

Other people's works are anything you use but did not create yourself. That can be artwork, code assets, music, writing and so on and so forth.

If you are making something for your own private use that you won't share with anyone else (including the internet), you can ignore this. For everything else, please proceed.

So for the sake of these forums, I will differentiate between using "public" and "private" works.
As a example, official Dungeons and Dragons illustrations such as book artworks would count as "public" and that drawing of that hot elf chic you found over on DeviantArt is most certainly "private".

Please note that I am not a law-expert and this is more internet etiquette than an actual guide to copyright.


"Public" works

For as long as you give proper credit (aka name the original creator and the source) and, this part is very important, don't monetize it, you should be good to go since this generally counts as fair use. Want to make a BG mod where you can get Drizzt Do'Urden as an NPC companion? Go for it and use that official book-cover-artwork as a portrait and use the voice-lines from the audioplay.

But, and I really can't emphasize that part enough, give credit where credit is due.

Example: You made a custom character soundset with Darth Vader voicelines. Proper credits would look like this: "Source: Star Wars (original trilogy) by LucasFilm; Owned by the Walt Disney Company; Voiced by James Earl Jones." Why credit all three? The first is the source, the second is the copyright owner and the third is the creator. Don't forget to state that your soundset is a non-profit fancreation, and you should be good to go.

Please note that trademarked works, such as company logos, etc. are generally out of range unless you get the trademark-holder explicit written permission to use/ modify it.


"Private" works

Those include, but not exclusively, refer to works of fanart, original works by not vastly popular artists/ creators and basically anything that wasn't made with big money in mind.

Unless the creator officially states that the work in question if free to use, always, pardon me, ALWAYS ask personally for the creator's permission.

Tell them what you intend to do with it and be polite. Don't complain if the creator declines you.

For example, you are making an NPC companion mod and you need a fitting portrait. And hey, you found the perfect one on DeviantArt and already got the artist's permission to use it. The credits would look like this "Portrait by [Insert artist name here]" and, if available, link the source.

Since it's to be common courtesy to share cropped and frankensteined character portraits here, I am gonna mention these separately: There is a difference between using and modifying other people's works.

Using means you don't change the original in any way, modifying can go from simple cropping, over simple changes, to only using specific parts of a work. If you wish to alter someone's work, you need to specifically ask them for that permission. For example, the image you want to use shows the character full body but you only need the face? Tell the artist that you would crop the image.

For a lot of creators, modifying their work is a dealbreaker, so please keep that in mind.


Addendum: Creative Commons

A lot of (but definitely not all) creators use the Creative Commons licensing system to state how, if and in what way other people are allowed to use their work. So keep a lookout for those, it should make things a lot easier for you.

If you wish to know more about Creative Common rights, please click here.


Thanks for reading, happy using & modifying and remember:

The original creator/ owner ALWAYS has the last word.

Post edited by Buttercheese on
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