What is Intellectual Property
and how does it apply here, to Alter Sleeves?
Under 5 Minute Read.
In this article we cover some important information that pertains to creating artwork for Alter Sleeves and IP law.
If you are an artist or other creative entrepreneur, like say an alterist on Alter Sleeves, you are involved in the world of intellectual property whether you know it or not. Intellectual property, also known simply as IP, deals with the things that are created (like art, music, books, etc.) and gives them and their creator’s certain rights and protections under the law. These include rights for artistic, musical, film and literary works, the creation of symbols, designs and phrases, inventions and processes. In general, these types of intellectual property fall under the categories of copyrights, trademarks and patents. Specifically we will be discussing copyrights and trademarks, as it would be really hard to create an Alter Sleeve that infringes a patent. This article should not be considered legal advice, as we are not lawyers, but it will give you a straightforward list of guidelines to follow when creating alters.
As it may come to a surprise to the creative community as a whole, most artists have little understanding on the subject and there is much misinformation out there on the subject. Often you will see artists saying things like: “Well you can copy up to 30% of someone else’s work to create your own”. But what does that even mean? 30% of what? The top? The bottom? The concept of it? The colors? The truth is you can't directly copy any amount of another person’s works unless they are public domain or the person explicitly notes that people can.
Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the copyright law to the owner of copyright. These rights, however, are not unlimited in scope. One major limitation is the doctrine of “fair use,” which is given a statutory basis in section 107 of the 1976 Copyright Act. In other instances, the limitation takes the form of a “compulsory license” under which certain limited uses of copyrighted works are permitted upon payment of specified royalties and compliance with statutory conditions.
Do I have to register with your office to be protected? No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:
To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
To distribute copies or phono records of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
To display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work.
In the case of sound recordings,* to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.
In addition, certain authors of works of visual art have the rights of attribution and integrity as described in section 106A of the 1976 Copyright Act.
How does this apply to Alter Sleeves? Well it basically means you are only allowed to upload and sell works you explicitly own. This means it must consist wholly of works created by you or works you have the rights to use (stock, open source, CC4, etc.). Does this mean you can not submit fan-art to Alter Sleeves? Well, yes, but also you still could if it was generic. You can not submit fan art of Jace, for example, but can of a blue mage who only vaguely resembles Jace. A further example of this that might be more clear for people is that we do not allow, or rather can not allow, usages of characters that someone could easily identify; think of how in MTG cards you have legendaries and non-legendary creatures. Non-legendaries look roughly generic and not unique, these types of designs would be okay for us to print as they are not easily identifiable as an actual character but rather represent a type of character or race or creature, etc. This is compared to a legendary creature that, no matter that card, they have a distinct look and can be identified between arts, they are very unique. We can not print unique characters or symbols we do not have the rights to print.
Trademarks were created to protect words, names, symbols, sounds, or colors that distinguish goods and services from those manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods. Trademarks, unlike patents, can be renewed forever as long as they are being used in commerce. A trademark or trade mark is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business organization, or other legal entity to identify that the products or services to consumers with which
A trademark is a type of intellectual property, and typically a name, word, phrase, logo, symbol, design, image, or a combination of these elements. There is also a range of non-conventional trademarks comprising marks which do not fall into these standard categories, such as those based on color, smell, or sound. You will probably have a trademark for your business and if you are a graphic designer you may be creating trademarks for others. It is important to understand the basic concepts.
Alter Sleeves can not and do not include any trademarks our artists do not already own and are shown to own before publication.
Alter Sleeves actually do not fall under the WotC fan content policy, instead Alter Sleeves is a fair-use product, however, these guidelines in their policy lay out specifically what you can not do with Wizard’s IP and Alter Sleeves strives to still follow that part of the policy. You can read about more of the policy here, however we will go over some key points here.
Wizards IP includes the cards, creatures, books, games, gameplay, pictures, stories, logos, animations, artwork, plots, locations, histories, characters, graphics, files, text, and other materials published by Wizards of the Coast.
Unfortunately, no. You cannot incorporate Wizards patents, game mechanics (unless your Fan Content is created under the D&D Open Game License), logos, or trademarks into your Fan Content without our prior written permission. This includes mana symbols, guild and clan symbols, icons from sets, the planeswalker logo, etc..