Copyright, Character usage and Tracing

Copyright, Character usage and Tracing

Alter Sleeves expect all uploaded designs to be original designs or with at least distinguishable original elements. In the end, the artist is responsible for their own uploaded designs

Common Issues:

  • Clone Tool

Clone tool refers to the practice of “Copy & Pasting” Pieces of the artwork, this infringement is commonly used in borderless designs to make the design look seamless.

If we notice your design has used samples of the card (from clone tool, etc.) it will get removed or rejected. Alter Sleeves can not use parts of existing Magic cards in their designs as said pieces of the card are subjected to copyright laws.

The artist should also not try to simply blur out use of clone tool, it is still easily recognizable and may still land the artist in legal trouble.

  • Copyrighted Character usage

Another common issue is the usage of copyrighted characters and likeness of such characters, Such as for example drawing Jace in your design.

The characters WotC (And other Intellectual properties) have the rights to can not be replicated, the common answer to this problem is to represent the characters you wish to have in your design as generic representations of said characters, I.e: A generic blue mage instead of Jace.

The issue presented here is the massive amount of gray area between what is essentially considered a “generic blue mage” and Jace, the WotC Character, the best way to think of this is to reduce the character down to their defining traits, identify them, and rework them.

(An example of this would be Jace’s robes, Chandra’s Goggles and mail armor.)

A common rule of thumb is, if you present your generic character to someone, and their first reaction is “Hey! That looks like Jace!” (Or whatever other character you’re representing) then you might still be too close to said character

  • Tracing

Tracing is the act of copying another artwork, oftentimes the line-art, and more often, by drawing right over it to copy its defining shapes.

Designs can not use traced elements unless the elements are non-major functions. 

(This applies to all artwork you do not own, I.e: from WotC or any other IP, or work from other artists online, yes, this also means that one design that is 10 years old you found on DeviantArt.)

Is negative space considered tracing?

“Hold on, what’s negative space?”

Negative space is the area on a design that is completely empty, (and in Alter Sleeves, most likely transparent.) it is often used to trick the brain into imagining something that fits into the silhouette of that space.

Use of Negative Space is another gray area we intend on clearing up, as its legal usage varies, for example, the most popular use of negative space in Alter Sleeves designs is to completely erase the part of a design that underneath, contains a character, let's say Jace. we refer to these designs as “Crop-Outs” 

What this means is that you could copy the outline or a character or even highlight it in your design, however, this outline must be embellished and not a replica of the character or object.

Understanding this lets us also understand that negative space defines a shape as well, which brings us to copyright once again, the same way the silhouette of mickey mouse is absolutely still recognizable, the same goes for common iconography, such as the most recognizable symbols of magic, the mana symbols.

If you wish to outline a character using negative space, make sure to do it loosely.

Can i submit artwork i have been given the rights to use?

You must own all rights to artwork you submit, you may not submit artwork in the name of other people.

Can i change the rules text to change it into a different card?

The sleeves cannot be used to make other cards be used as explicit proxies. changing the gameplay value of the card.
This is a super slippery slope and would mean people could start making proxies for any well known cards with generic names

Related to tracing:

The stained glass effect is a common usage of traced elements, much like the usage of negative space, copyright infringement may also occur here, however, generally, the art style lends itself to outlining the features of the characters, which a lot of times can lead to tracing the entire character, its clothing, and defining features.

The artist must avoid a perfect tracing, it is advised to create the lines as a complement to the original art rather than a perfect match of the existing character outlines, and to do so a lot more loosely, as to avoid tracing, and avoiding that your design results in a nearly 1:1 copy of the outlines of the original artwork.

  • Photobashing

When public domain images are used for the design, Alter Sleeves still requires the designs to be visibly edited.

Photobashing, Photo manipulation, and photography are all legitimate forms of creating art, and as such are allowed on Alter Sleeves, however usage of these elements may cause the artist to enter a gray area.

To combat this, The artist must make sure that all images and assets they are using are royalty free, CC0 (Creative commons license), We also allow photos that the artist has purchased and have commercial rights for it, or that they took themselves.

Remember, Even if the photograph was taken by the artist themselves, the photograph may still contain products that are copyrighted.

(for example, an artist may take a photograph of the hills of Hollywood, While the photographer owns the photo they took, the picture may for example contain the Hollywood sign, which is copyrighted and may not be used for commercial purposes without permission)

“Does this mean I can take any royalty free photo and submit them as Designs?”


While this question no longer falls into copyright issues, we must still keep a high bar on submissions, we require all designs that have been made from photos found online to have a minimum amount of editing to distinguish them from the original piece you have found online.

  • Oracle Text

Oracle text (The text present on magic cards) (or, even any other cards such as pokemon TCG) Falls under copyright laws as well, as such it may not be used in your designs.

This also includes text formed by negative space, in the case that the artist crops out the name of the card precisely.

If the artist still wishes to use copyrighted text, they must rewrite the text so as to not be the same as the oracle text, 

I.e: different wording (“Battlefield” to “Play area”, sentence construction, and also allowed, the usage of abbreviations such as “ETB” (“Enters the Battlefield”)

How do we deal with these problems?

It is the Artist’s responsibility to abide by copyright laws, avoid tracing and respecting the remaining design upload rules, it is impossible for the Alter Sleeves team (and respectful reviewers) to know about every single Intellectual Property that exists, as such, it is possible that someone approving designs might think that Giant fleshy person you submitted is your own original artwork and approve it, when in reality it is from a show about titans.

This is a problem that will continue to increase, as Alter Sleeves gains more and more popularity and grows a bigger artist base. (And, potentially, more eyes will be upon it, increasing the risk of copyright infringing designs to suffer legal action.)

While Alter Sleeves reserves the right to pull any submission due to concerns about copyright, We try to follow a regular guideline for dealing with problematic designs:

If the problem is caught in the approval phase:

We will use this opportunity to remind the artist of the rules and teach them how they can work in a different way.

(Problems with white blob, opacity issues, pure white, corners, etc, are (usually) never escalated, these problems can happen to us all by accident every now and then.)

(Problems with copyright infringement are much more serious and will be escalated immediately)

If the artist continues to submit problematic designs despite our team’s best efforts to educate them, we may escalate to a warning and if it continues, a suspension.

If the problem is caught while the design is live on the store:

This is where a significant problem arises, once past the approval phase the design is available for sale to any Alter Sleeves Customer, a copyright infringing design here will be visible to the respective copyright authorities, and if noticed, may lead to copyright claims, This is bad for both the company and the artist.

A design found in violation of our copyright/tracing rules will be immediately pulled from the store, the artist will receive a warning.

A repeat violation will result in a two week suspension of the Artist’s account, with all their designs made unavailable from the store.

Further violations will result in permanent removal from the platform.

The Alter Sleeves team reserves the right to adjust these penalties based on the situation.

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