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    Copyrights and related issues


    Short introduction

    When distributing your artworks and dealing with other artists' graphics it it important to know some basics which would help you to avoid potential problems because of copyright violation.

    Note: copyright laws in different countries vary so you might need to refer to your local laws. We're not lawyers, so information below is not the indisputable truth.

    Please remember once and forever: once you start working with third party graphics you're most likely to deal with copyrighted material. In other words, if you've downloaded a wallpaper, a Theme, a skin or something else from the web (usually no matter if you have paid for it or not) there is a very limited set of actions you can do on this artwork. In some cases you may only use this work for your personal purpose, in other cases you can redistribute the work and relatively rarely you're allowed to modify it.

    Note: if you don't see a © mark on a certain arwork, it doesn't mean that it's not protected by copyright laws. Moreover, just after the creator releases it, the work is immediately copyrighted by him without any additional actions undertaken.

    So, if you happened to get an artwork from an "unknown source", you're most likely disallowed to do anything but just enjoy its look (if it's not stolen from somewhere, for sure).

    So, what should you do if you found an interesting piece of art and would like to base your Theme on it?

    Third-party material

    First of all, try to figure out what license it is distributed under. Most sites, distributing digital content give you clear information about what you can do with the artwork and what you can not.

    The best sources of "crude" materials are sites, giving you access to so-called royalty-free content. So, after buying it (and getting for free sometimes) you're allowed to use it for nearly any purpose except for arrogating its creation to yourself.

    Unfortunately that's not a common case and you're most likely to know the source of the material but will have no idea about its exact license. Let's have a look at two samples:

    • You have downloaded an official game artwork from a game's website and wish to make a game-inspired Theme.
    • You have downloaded some artist's wallpaper (skin) and wish to base your Theme on it.

    In the first case in order to release your final Theme to the public you'll have to do several things. First of all, contact the site owners and ask them for the permission to use their artwork in your Theme as well as the game's name. Also point out that it's just a fan work. In many cases you'll not only get the permission to the material you need but the company may share some additional graphics resources (on certain conditions) with you. That's simply because of the fact that fan art is often welcome by game communities. On the other side you are most likely to have an official permission to use some material so you won't face a situation when the company's officials ask you to remove copyrighted materials from your site.
    Creating a game-based Theme for commercial purposes is a different case and you'll have to contact the company as well.

    In the second case you'll have to contact the copyrights owner as well. Just contact that person and describe the situation. In most cases you'll get the permission in return for providing the link to the origin. Don't even try to continue the work if you haven't got the permission: this may give you a lot of troubles.

    Strictly speaking you can not just "port" new Vista (OSX, Lindows, QNX) GUI to your Theme without getting a permission first. Still, in some cases you may make variations of them, recreating all the graphics from the scratch and making it look "slightly similar" to the original. I.e. make a "Vista-inspired"-like Theme.

    Note: taking a copyrighted image and "processing" it in most cases won't make the result belong to you.

    In certain cases copyright owner might be inacessible (dead URL, invalid e-mail and so on) but you still wish to base your work on a certain piece of art. What should be done? The best thing you can make is point the author's name in credits which would mostly likely be OK but don't wonder when the appeared author would ask you to remove your work.

    Note: "by default" (unless other is clearly pointed) it's usually considered that all the rights to this artwork belong to its author, you may freely redistribute the work in the unmodified form and cannot share any modifications.


    Ripping or stealing artwork and arrogating it to yourself is the first deadly sin in all design communities. Once caught on ripping you'll never be respected in any community and your chances to get a designer's work anywhere will be equal to zero.

    If your own work has been ripped, first of all try to contact the person and to explain the situation to him (in many cases rippers are just kids) and if it doesn't help, warn site admins on copyright violation.

    Also, when using someone's work with the permission, try to make sure its copyright is clear. We have faced situations when some of our works have been used by certain companies without any permission. Later it turned out that they have ordered these artworks from a freelancer who has just ripped them from various places.

    So, be careful: even if the program the design of which you're trying to mimic is distributed under the terms of GPL or so, its artwork might have a completely different license. For example, opensource Mambo CMS uses icons by Fooods, which have a different license.

    Choosing licenses for your own works

    When distributing your artwork in a digital form, always try to make the following things clear:

    • point out the proper author(s)
    • point out your contact information
    • make the terms of use clear

    Even though you may invent your own licenses it's better if you use one of the existing ones.
    Some of the best licenses applied to Themes are probably Creative Commons licenses. By applying them you may give users any degree of freedom you want or just let them see/use your artwork without modifying.

    One of the best possible descriptions might look like:

    Trinity Theme for Aston 1.9.1 and above
    (c) 2005-2006 by Taras "SacRat" Brizitsky
    Licensed under the terms of CreativeCommons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 license.
    (full info:
    * You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or the licensor.
    * You may not use this work for commercial purposes.
    * If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
    * For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work.
    * Any of these conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.

    Note: Aston 1.9.2 Theme Wizard has separate "author" and "contact" fields so you may remove them from the description.
    Copyright © 1999-2023 Gladiators Software