Back when I wrote my Printing Violations? post I brought up the issue of licensing, and while I am a believer of open culture and sharing, I’m still torn on the topic of artists who take the creative work of others (even if the “others” are huge corporations) and use it to make money.
When I saw the post Maker Mom Builds Cookie-Cutter Empire With 3-D Printers my first thought was about the rights and licensing issues. (I was then pleasantly surprised to see the comments addressing the issue right away.)
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that Athey is not an artist, she’s a really good artist, and has some impressive and very well executed designs. This is important, I think. I mean, anyone can download an image of a video game character or a Dalek and quickly make it into something, but her work is well beyond that. Still, is it right for her to be using things others have created to make money? Her web site at warpzoneprints.com says:
Now I’ve somehow turned what started as a hobby into a full-time job!
I spend a lot of time thinking of myself as a terrible artist, and I’ve made plenty of badly drawn robots, but I’d feel much better about myself selling a badly drawn robot that is my own creation than a well drawn robot that someone else created. (I’m going with the belief that Athey has not properly licensed the characters she is using.)
Of course there’s the issue of licensing… It’s no secret that I use a lot of art from OpenClipArt.org to make things. The license of all art on OpenClipArt is Public Domain Dedication which states:
You can copy, modify, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.
So yeah, I’ve not sold anything I’ve made yet using art from OpenClipArt, but at least I’d feel fine doing it. And yeah, I have friends who make good money making things based on successful movies, games, books, etc. Maybe this is just the world we live in now, where everyone is a maker and selling of things, and it’s all just a big mash-up anyway.
I guess I’d break things into a few categories:
A.) Using things others have created to make things for yourself.
B.) Using things others have created to make things to give to family/friends as gifts.
C:) Using things others have created and creating design files that others can use.
D:) Using things others have created to create and sell things.
I’m all for A. and B., and I think C. is pretty much OK. (Think of the many items on Thingiverse) As for D., that’s the one I’m still not sure about, and that’s the one Athey and Warpzone Prints falls under. What do you think?
(I should probably do a post in the future that talks a bit more about my own usage of others work in my own art, as I’m not completely free of that behavior myself.)