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Copyrights: Are they always Black and White?

Hello COLOURlovers!

Copyrights are well known topics that continually float around the community. So I've snagged someone in the business of creating and selling vector artwork to explain in laymen's terms the crazy in's and out's of copyright (with digital art). I'd like to introduce to the blog authorship, Ray Dombroski, founder of The Vector Lab ( and a COLOURlover himself.

Enjoy the post ~ Molly Bermea / Blog Editor



Intellectual Property and Copyrights

Whenever an artist creates a new original work in the United States as well as in many other countries, it is automatically covered under copyright protection.  With the use of licensing, that artist can grant certain additional rights to others. A license can be written to give someone else the right to resell the art or create derivative works (remix or change the art), for example. These licenses are important when it comes to using stock art or clip art for your own designs.

Stock Art: Know Your Source

In a COLOURloving world where we are trying to keep our karma points high, it’s important to pay attention to what our fellow artists’ intentions were when they created the stock art we are using. The number one rule is to know your source. Whether you purchased the art from a reputable website, copied it off a friend’s CD, or scanned in some 18th century ornaments from the pages of a clip art book, it’s wise to read their usage license. If you don’t know who the artist is or the company that owns the copyright to the art, it’s best to move on and find another source.

How to Decipher a License

Most stock art websites have mind-numbing license contracts that cover permitted uses and restricted uses of their licensed art. In addition, most have lengthy standard and extended licenses. Thankfully some stock art websites are nice enough to offer a quick reference guide for their permitted/restricted uses and standard/extended license options. As an example,'s quick reference guide is located here.  Each company has a different contract, but below I’ve called out the most common provisions.

Typical Stock Art Permitted Uses - Standard License

  • - Small Print Runs
  • - Advertising and promotional products
  • - Books, Magazines, Newspapers
  • - Internet Banners, Video
  • - Promotional Prints and Posters not intended for resale
  • - Individual (or one-seat) license. Not to be installed on multiple computers.

Typical Stock Art Permitted Uses – Extended License

  • - Large print runs
  • - Use of the licensed material in products for sale
  • - Multi-seat license

Typical Stock Art Prohibited Uses (For Either Standard or Extended License)

  • - Use the licensed material as part of a trade mark or logo.
  • - Post the licensed material in any format that enables it to be downloaded or distributed.
  • - Distribute, resell, lend, or gift the licensed material.

The Big Question

So can I sell my patterns if they contain stock art covered under this sort of license? What if I purchase an extended license that covers items for resale or electronic items for resale? What if I take multiple vector files such as a floral pack of flowers and swirls and recolor them and create my own combination?

If the re-sold pattern is a vector file (such as an SVG, EPS, AI, PDF) then the answer to these questions is generally a “no.” This is because the two prohibited uses (posting & distributing the vector file) mentioned above would be violated. The reason for this is that the vector line work in these kinds of files stays intact and the stock art can easily be extracted and re-used for a different purpose by the new purchaser.

But the answer can be "yes," if the re-sold pattern is a pixel image or another flattened format such as a JPG, PNG, GIF, PSD, or TIF. If you are reselling the pattern you may be required to purchase an extended license that covers “items for resale” or “electronic items for resale.” Also check to see if the licensing contract has a pixel or DPI resolution limit on the items you are reselling.

Creative Commons

Some artists and designers offer their art under what is known as a Creative Commons License. Wikipedia has a really good breakdown of how this licensing system works – From that website I have called out the main points that are relevant to this article:

Original Licenses:

  • - Attribution: Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only if they attribute the work to the author or licensor.
  • - Noncommercial: Licensees may copy, distribute, display, and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only for noncommercial purposes.
  • - No Derivative Works: Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform only verbatim copies of the work, not derivative works based on it.
  • - Share-alike: Licensees may distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs the original work.

Selling Patterns made with Creative Commons Art

Back to our previous questions about reselling vector patterns that contain Creative Commons art, you are allowed to do so if the license is Attribution alone or Attribution + ShareAlike. If you are not reselling the pattern, but just giving it away, then you can also do this if it’s Attribution + Noncommercial + ShareAlike.

All Creative Commons Licenses require attribution of the original creator. So be sure to include the following:

  • - Include any copyright notices (if applicable)
  • - Cite the author's name, screen name, or user ID
  • - Cite the work's title or name (if applicable)
  • - Cite the specific CC license the work is under
  • - Mention if the work is a derivative work or adaptation

For us COLOURlovers, the world of intellectual property is not always completely black and white. But I hope it brings some understanding and discussion to the subject. Let's get out there and create!

Get Some FREE SVG Pattern Elements

Ray was kind enough to give the community some artwork to make their own patterns in different variations. Use them together, mix 'em up with the COLOURlovers shapes or your own custom shapes! Since Seamless Studio came out, he opened up a section of his site literally to help COLOURlovers who may not have access to vector software. This is the Pattern Elements Section.

These coupons are available until Aug 31, 2011:

Coupon: CL-TVL-PE (Free - Pattern Elements #01)

Coupon: CL-TVL-20 (20% off orders on

There is also an additional FREE SVG Pattern Download that has been available in the Pattern Elements section of

Direct SVG Files: You Don't Need a Vector Program!

These vector pieces are not only super cool to grab up this month (for FREE), but they come as SVG's! This means that you don't have to have any vector editing software to use them. Simply download them and import the SVG files straight in to Seamless Studio. How cool is that?!

Imported SVG shapes will go straight to your My Shapes  in the collections library in Seamless Studio.

The Vector Lab's, Pattern Elements are automatically offered at no complicated extra charge a, FULL EXTENDED LICENSE - which allows you to re-sell your patterns you create with them.

Now go create!!

Demonstration / How-To Video:

Creating Seamless Vector Patterns from TheVectorLab on Vimeo.

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