What Is Derivative Design?
is "derivative design"? I've
had some irritated emails demanding that I explain
in plain English what I mean by that phrase,
although I think I do that in my Terms
of Use. Please note that my Terms
of Use are virtually the same as those cited
for a large scrapbooking website, Blushbutter.com,
here is one really big scrapbooking website
that thoroughly understands what "derivative
design" means and our TOUs are exactly
Here is an original product based on digital
painting of flowers: Calla
Lilies VI". Someone who purchased
this product could incorporate the floral images
into a background or add them as an embellishment
to another design element (like a frame) making
it into a "derivative design" because
it "derived" from -or was made from
- the original work. Or groups of these floral
images could be combined in print compositions:
also "derivative designs". Or any
of these images could be used in advertising
or print packaging work or a website design
and thus become a "derivative design".
These images have been used to create large
canvases for interior decor at ImageKind - "derivative
design". The individual flowers could be
used to embellish frames or tags and thus create
a "derivative design element". There
are infinite ways these flowers can and have
been used in backgrounds and as embellishments
without being simply resold, as is. I have happily
sold hundreds of copies of this product. But
for someone to repackage the individual images,
as is, and resell them under their own name
is illegal redistribution, pure and simple.
I also create derivative designs based on original
work of others. Here is an example of one of
my own derivative designs, created from legally
licensed black and white Dover line art and
3d models and Photoshop brushes: my product,
to My Heart". As you can see,
I've combined and transformed all the resources
I used in such a way that none of them can be
extracted in their original form and they have
become an original product that is uniquely
my own. The conception is mine; I took the resources
and made something new out of them.
Furthermore, customers who have licensed this
derivative design have been able to turn it,
in turn, into their own derivative designs.
I've seen lots of uses to which these design
elements have been put: as embellishments in
scrapbooking kits, as elements in background
papers, collages, print packaging, advertising,
a variety of things.
The concept of "derivative design"
is that you take a resource (call this the original
resource) and make something new out of it (call
this the new "derivative" design because
it's "derived" from something else)
so that the original resource can no longer
be extracted from the new design and passed
on somebody else. You have put your
stamp on it, it has been irrevocably changed
by your own design purposes and it is no longer
what it was. Anybody else who wants
to work with that original design still has
to go buy that work from the original author.
This is a key point in the marketplace that
protect the labor of everybody at each stage.
Yes, it can get kind of technical and you have
to actually think about it a bit. Sorry, it
does take thought and mistakes can be made.
Mistakes can be corrected and they're not so
bad. Some mistakes, however, are bigger than
others. One of the biggest mistakes is taking
original work, making no alternation whatsoever,
and simply selling it, as is, under another
name. That is called "resale" or "redistribution".
There is, in this case, no additional design
involved, no added value, no additional work,
nothing but but simple fraud and rip off of
the original work and the labor of the original
artist/designer. In this case, nothing has been
"derived" from the original design.
Not everybody will create something completely
new out of original image resources, but the
concept of "derivative design" is
to try to turn the design resources into something
that has a new variation and isn't exactly the
same resource that was licensed in the first
place. The key thing is not
to reissue the design resources as they were
One thing that would be different here is if
you were doing a tutorial, in which case you
are allowed to sell the product of your tutorial.
The final product of a tutorial might well look
a lot like the original tutorial example but
will not really be the original tutorial
product.You can sell the product of a tutorial
but you can not resell the tutorial itself or
the examples that were provided in the tutorial.
Get it? So the concept remains the same: you
can not resell the original digital design product,
as is. Unless, of course, you have explicit
permission, in the form of an extended license.
. . .if you look at the readme file which is
linked to the product description and attached
in the zipfile itself, it shows that I have
accounted for everything I have legally licensed
in the making of the product. That helps to
reassure the customer that they are secure in
buying a product they can use in turn, that
their copyright is secure.
This is the appropriate use of image resources
to create derivative designs. This
is what makes the world of design go round and
round: artists and designers use image resources
creatively to generate more resources every
day. But they do so ethically and creatively
and thereby enable one another to produce useful
products and income for one another without
exploiting each other's labor and good will.
They pay the licensing fees and observe the
is also permitted to render 3d products and
sell the 2d renders but not to sell the original
2d objects or their 2d texture maps.
Going through my store anybody can find tons
of examples of things I digitally painted myself
and also lots of examples of derivative designs
using black and white lineart as a base or 3d
renders as a base, and crediting various design
resources in my readme files, linked in the
product descriptions. In this way anybody can
quickly find endless examples of what "derivative
design" means and what is permissible.
The use of graphics in webdesign: also "derivative
design". The use of graphics in print composition:
"derivative design". I do not think
that the term "derivative design"
is hard to grasp, really. I think someone must
be pulling my leg when they claim not to understand
Some artists/designers will have a more or less
restrictive view of what others may do with
their designs and you have to check their license
to know what is permitted. But one thing that
is NOT generally permissible is to simply repackage
and resell the original files from someone else's
work, as is, as if it were your own, without
any additional, value added design input. That's
self evident, no?
Derivative design is
usually permitted under the TOU of many graphics
licenses. Creatively using resources is assumed
artisticly. Simple resale is almost universally
unethical and illegal and exploitive.
It's not like it's hard to find my Terms of
Use and License. There's a link, in bold, underneath
every product description in my store, where
it says: View
Anybody getting ready to put something in their
shopping cart has to scroll right by that link
before viewing the product images and clicking
on the "Buy" button.
in this industry. A lot of my colleagues actually
Because they make sense and I was one of the
early practitioners. They're generous in order
to allow the widest possible use without shooting
myself in the foot. About the only thing they
don't permit is that the buyer actually resell
the actual files so that the original design
product competes with itself in the marketplace
and thereby deprived the original artist of
potential income from their labor.
Designers/artists who make a living by digitally
painting or rendering artwork and design elements
want people to buy and use their work
(legally) as much as possible. Oh yeah! That's
how we make a living! This isn't my hobby. This
is my full time business: licensing graphics
to other designers who will incorporate the
image resources into their derivative designs
for fun and/or to make some money for themselves
as well!!!!! I definitely want my customers
to use and enjoy the graphics.
But it really really bites when someone simply
takes the products and repackages them, as is,
to resell or redistribute illegally, as though
it were their own product, without adding any
design input or work of their own and in a way
that makes them available, as is, to be passed
on infinitely to the rest of the world, from
hand to hand. Ouch!!!!! Suddenly my
warm, fuzzy generous feeling changes.
There are many little copyright mistakes that
just about anybody could make and that most
artists don't even bother to pursue. Who has
the time? Oh, there are plenty of little inconsiderate
oversights of failing to credit somebody. Or
there are disputes over the appropriateness
of specific usages and how derivative
derivative design should be, how much copying
should be permitted. Anybody could make mistakes.
Then there are great big awful blatantly exploitive
offenses that undeniably takes the hard earned
bread right out of other people's mouths. Outright
resale is one of those cases. Simple resale
of original resources is the worst case scenario.
And yet, when you catch people at resale/redistribution,
they (and their supporters) are invariably wounded
in their pride. What's "resale"?
I had no idea this was wrong! You mean I can't
do this? Are you sure you told me? Oh for crying
out loud, don't be so rude about it! Ah geez,
grow up and quitcherwhinin!!!!!!
They don't want to
be told that they cannot take someone else's
work and resell it under their name. It's fraud.
And that is essentially the only
other than filesharing on pirating websites.
Customers can not repackage my design
elements, as is, put their name on it, and resell
them as a new product. I think that
is more than fair as a copyright restriction.
I am absolutely certain there are few customers
who would argue with that limitation. Anybody
who does reselling like this will find that
I confront them openly and relentlessly, then
legally if necessary, until I feel I have made
my point. I must. My livelihood depends on it.
There are plenty of things I would walk away
from. But blatant resale/redistribution is not
one of them. Anyway, I'm pretty much a genetically-endowed
and professionally trained confronter and as
direct as an arrow. I'd feel sorry for anybody
on the other end of a confrontation with me.
Once again I've had one of those encounters
with an innocent babe-in-the-woods scrapbooking
designer without a clue that it is not permitted
to take somebody's products, repackage them,
and resell them as their own product. So I'm
going to try again to explain the Terms
of Use for my work for digital
Scrapbooking designers ARE
permitted to use my design elements to create
digital scrapbooking kits for personal and commercial
the elements MUST
be incorporated into a DERIVATIVE
DESIGN of their own in some way
and the individual elements MUST
be merged with their own design elements, i.e.,
merged into a background paper, frame, tag,
or other type of embellishment so that the original
Jaguarwoman design element is not provided in
it's original and easily extractable form, on
a transparent background, such that it can be,
in turn, simply passed along and resold to be
used as the original design resource by someone
else. I do feel that this is very clearly
explained in my existing TOU and license, to
which I refer anybody who asks for clarification
by email. Most of the time, I repeat the same
thing I just said in the foregoing sentences,
as though repetition could get the job done.
I think this is perfectly fair and preserves
the original intent of the "design resource".
The concept here is to provide maximum creative
use to the designer/customer while protecting
the original artist/seller from unfair market
competition and preserving the original artists
copyright control. Otherwise, the original producer
would find no value in the hard work of creating
the product, only to see it repackaged and redistributed
endlessly by others. If you have heard
that I do not permit scrapbooking designers
to use my work to create kits for personal or
commercial use, this is NOT CORRECT. What I
do not permit is for my work to simply be be
repackaged, as is, and resold under another
name. That is called redistribution,
or copyright violation, or piracy.
are tons of wonderful scrapbook designers who
create their own fabulous products and also
use design elements of 2d and 3d artists in
their digital scrapbooking designs. One of my
absolute favorite scrapbook designers, who uses
many of my design elements just beautifully
This is somebody who really knows how to take
design elements and turn them into something
completely new. If any digital scrapbookers
want an example of how to totally transform
somebody's design elements into a completely
new creative vision, here it is! This designer
never runs out of ideas and doesn't need to
just throw pieces of art in a zipfile and call
a "scrapbooking kit". She makes real
kits. Drop dead gorgeous kits. She literally
can make design elements into her own new design.
THIS IS THE CONCEPT OF DERIVATIVE DESIGN AT
I sell my design elements to many, many scrapbooking
designers who know how to put the design elements
to work for them. The scrapbooking designer/licensee
reasonably has to do some actual design work
with the design resources they have licensed.
Rather than just toss a bunch of images together
into a package and call that a "scrapbook
kit", it's a reasonable expectation that
every scrapbooking designer would do some actual
designing to come up with a derivative
design of their own using licensed
Most of them do. And . . .there may be some
artists who do permit scrapbooking designers
to resell their design elements and/or who may
also have an extended license with a higher
price for resale of design elements in scrapbooking
kits. That's also a possibility. But I do not.
So I recognize when I see that my work is simply
being resold, as is.
I cannot permit customers to resell or redistribute
my work in any store, under any circumstance.
It endangers my livelihood. It also doesn't
matter what a nice girl/woman/man they may be.
Anybody who may be doing it will have to stop
doing it and wise up and just do the normal
amount of design work to make a buck or a bunch
of friends in this endeavor.
Further, every brokerage/store has a
responsibility to police it's own stable of
designer/Vendors. Don't believe for
a minute any claim that a store owner is not
responsible for what it's designers are doing.
The store owner can require that each designer
provide something called an "Ownership
Statement" for every product they upload
to the store, in which they are required to
account for every item in the zipfile. I have
done as much myself for years when I brokered
products at Renderosity.com, where every Vendor
had to account for every pixel they did not
create themselves (oh yes!), so that the copyright
purity of every product was protected for the
sake of the customers and the store. This is
what the industry had to do to protect itself.
If you look at the readme file of 98% of my
own products in my own store you will find a
list of resources for everything I have licensed
which was used in creating the product. No kidding.
Lotsa work I've done to account for my own products
and protect my own customers. When I make mistakes
related to copyright (and I have) I have to
correct them. In my own store, I have to stand
behind every single product. So does every store
Sure, the digital scrapbooking industry might
have to do the same thing to police itself.
Why not? It would have saved some people a whole
lot of grief yesterday. It would be important
for the online scrapbooking world to do this
because, since I sell to so many scrapbookers,
and since my work is so recognizable, when my
copyright is abused, scrapbookers are among
the first to notify me. My own customers
are my early warning system because they are
the ones who are in the digital scrapbooking
stores themselves and come back and notify me
of what they are seeing.
I confront publicly because I'm ripped off publicly
and I'm a working class artist and legal action
costs a whole lot of time and money. Very few
individual artists can afford to send an attorney
out to protect themselves. And of course . .
.typically, when I publicly confront yet another
individual who is reselling my work . . . the
defensive outcry of their personal social group
is weirdly ironic. Their friends actually call
me (if I'm lucky) names like Devil Woman,
and some swear to get even and ask why anybody
would want to buy my products anyway, since
I am so evil to attack such a sweet person who
is making such wonderful products for them (actually
my products, LOL). After I get over convulsing
with hysterical laughter, I remember I've got
some work to do because, after all, I still
have to make a living the old fashioned way.
I can't just buy up some products from somebody
and repackage them and resell them somewhere,
Well . . . I don't think I can. I don't
think it's allowed. I think it's, uh . . .illegal,