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Friday, November 30, 2007

Avatar-Free

I've never used an avatar---which is really ironic since I'm an artist. I've created avatars for friends and family, usually photos of pets or people Photoshopped with special effects, but I've never created an icon for myself.

On several writing forums that I belong to, I see a host of icons, from the uber cool to just plain crappy. Some appear to be straight out of movie trailers, others look like clip art or (gasp) somebody else's art property, and a few look homemade but original.

As an artist, I always worry about copyright issues. The worldwide web is a big place so maybe the avatar users aren't worried they'll get a lawsuit slapped on them. Or maybe because of the business I'm in, I'm particularly sensitive about lawsuits for copyright infringement.

The company I work for has an entire platoon of angry lawyers and they vigorously enforce copyrights. It puts the fear of God in you when your job is on the line. Even if it weren’t against the law, I still wouldn't do it because I believe art belongs to the artist (unless he sells the rights).

I imagine the movie trailer photos are fair game since I see them everywhere. The movies' websites always offer images to use as screensavers and desktop art anyway. It's free advertising for them.

But what about real artwork--the already published kind? Do people get permission to use those? Many people don't realize that art on the web belongs to someone somewhere. You can't just use it without permission or payment. I can't begin to tell you how many clients I've worked with who bring me magazines or website links and ask me to pull a piece of art from there. (Like I want to go to jail.)

Art cannot be legally reproduced unless it specifically states it is copyright free or public domain. ---or you pay for it.

Anyway back to avatars. I do like them on writing forums because I can identify people visually, especially if they chime in regularly. This can work for or against you. Because avatars are so recognizable, I cheerfully ignore the ranters, ravers, and drama queens, while quickly finding those who usually serve up pearls of wisdom.

I'm content to be avatar free. I can't think of any one image that defines me anyway and I'm too lazy to constantly change them according to my mood.

My favorite avatars are pictures of the writers themselves because I like putting a face to the writing. It makes me feel like I know them.

Too bad I look like Attilla the Hun's mother. --grin-- Another good reason for staying invisible.

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