So, it’s been 2 months since my last, like, talk video (I’ve been busy), and I wanna get back into it. I actually have a bunch of video ideas like, written down but one is for Christmas and the rest aren’t developed at all. Recently, I got into making adoptables. Basically, adoptables are character designs you create to sell to others, either with real or virtual currency or through a trade. Depending on how someone does this, they may come with pre-existing art and backstories, and once you buy it you have the right to do whatever you want with it. I didn’t find anything on where the idea came from, but they look to be more common on sites like deviantArt, FurAffinity, or other places with high concentrations of furry art. But, I wanted to do some other background research before I began. I wanted to know exactly what to offer to people, how I should price it in the market, and what people think of adoptables. What I discovered was a pure shitshow….
How does Intellectual Property Work?
The first thing that was glaringly obvious to me was that nobody has… A concept of ownership over an idea or design. The most frequent comments on adoptable guides are stuff like:
“This is amazingly stupid to me.”
“I don’t get the point. I mean people pay hundreds for a character to own… to look at? …You can just save the image to Pinterest or something.”
“tldr: I’m too stupid to be original…”
“So it’s basically a scam”
And I get it. I do. Why would you pay someone to use a design when you could just draw it anyway, or make a similar looking character for free? Or when you can just grab a picture from the internet for no charge? As an artist who just finished a degree in the Creative Industries, I feel like I understand a bit more than non-artists why you’d pay someone for their design. That ‘why’ is Intellectual Property. Just so you know, I used a few different sources for this so they’ll be in the description, and most of them focus on Australian Intellectual Property laws.
Intellectual Property, or IP, refers to “the property rights that arise in the outcomes of creative and intellectual processes, such as artworks, designs and inventions. These rights include copyright and moral rights, and are legal tools that practitioners can use to protect their work from unauthorised use, to protect their reputation or brand, and (now this is the big one) generate income.” This essentially means that the artist effectively owns whatever they create, including both the artwork and designs within it.
This goes the same for adoptables; just like with a physical object, you can’t take and use someone else’s legal property. That’s theft. In fact, the Australian Government essentially refers to IP as a form of automatic copyright; however, in this graph on their website, you can see that the inherent idea isn’t necessarily protected; you can’t stop people from making characters that happen to look like yours unless they outright stole your design. Otherwise being inspired by something would be a criminal act, which is stupid.
Now, at least one of the comments that I read out did actually mention IP, so it’s not like people didn’t consider that as a possibility. I feel like they may have just missed the point, being that you can claim ownership of a design and therefore the rights to use it until you pass it on, and this is a perfectly viable way of generating income. You also wouldn’t be able to use someone else’s work in your commercial practice unless you were given or bought it for your own use, much like stock photos or music with royalties. Nobody is forcing you to buy adoptables, and artists can’t really stop you if you thought of a similar looking character on your own. They are simply making designs available for others to use in their own commercial work or for personal use, and asking for something in return. What it then boils down to ethically, I think, is the price tag.
(I just realised this video justifying adoptables probably sounds really hypocritical of me as an artist who supports and makes fanart; but I feel like there is a difference between claiming a design as your own when you didn’t pay for it is a bit different to making and/or selling your own art that derives from someone else’s stories or a big franchise, and I most definitely wouldn’t sell fanart of something by a small creator without permission or if a bigger company sent me a cease and desist or something.)
[Corporations hate them! See how Raven hedges opinions on what’s ok to sell derivative art of with one simple trick!]
How Expensive is Too Expensive?
The flip side to me yelling at everyone about IP is that some people, aka me, just don’t have money. And when you don’t have money – or even when you do – adoptables are just too expensive, especially when it’s a design that’s just like a bunch of other ones, or you could make your own slightly altered version of the design. So how do you gauge if a design is actually worth that much? I’d say the answer lies in the artwork.
Just like traditional art, digital work has a price tag, and rightfully so. As an artist, I want to point out that the reason traditional art can be so expensive – even when the creator isn’t exactly well known – is that making art costs energy, time, and materials, which need to be accounted for. And the thing is, digital art is the exact same, and not a lot of people seem to know that. There’s no magic make-art button, so it still takes up time and energy, especially if you’re making a detailed design, and even if you use free programs you probably had to buy your tablet, and uh, have bills.
It’s perfectly reasonable for an artist who thinks up and draws original designs to want something in return for their efforts, or to figure out how much their adoptables are worth by looking at how they’re already pricing their art. [USSR anthem/hammer and sickle slowly fade over sentence/screen] I really hope me saying that artists deserve to be paid for their creative efforts isn’t a radical statement, I mean, everyone deserves to be paid for their work – it’s basically income theft if you want them to do their job for free or cheaper. The only stuff that seems 100% unreasonable to me is when people make adoptables expensive when they put no effort into the art, or used a dollmaker, the latter of which essentially rips off another artist’s hard work. So, to finish off:
To Buy or Not to Buy?
Okay, as someone who makes adoptables now, I’d say the answer is buy.([Whisper] At the moment I’ve got one on Toyhou.se because I sold the others! Yay!, and when I make more I’ll start making posts on Instagram too) But, trying to be objective, I think it depends. Factor number one is if you can actually afford it. Sure, it’s important to support artists, and you might love the adoptable design, but if you aren’t gonna do anything with it and don’t have the disposable income, maybe don’t buy it. If you’re not actually using it just save the picture or like the post to look at later or something.
The other factors are originality and usability. I personally wouldn’t buy a design if it’s really similar to the stuff I already make unless it were extremely detailed or unique. A lot of people actually buy adoptables when they’re really different from their other characters simply because they wouldn’t have thought of it themselves. So I guess what you’d need to ask yourself before dishing money on an adoptable is if you’d have come up with the idea yourself, if you’ll use it, and if you want to spend money on it. I know this seems like common sense, but going off some things I’ve seen on the Internet, it probably needs to be said.
So there’s my opinion on adoptables. In my honest opinion, they’re not that bad, and if you’re creative and drawing the designs yourself it’s perfectly logical and ethical to sell those designs to others. But it’s a real minefield out there, full of people who lowball designers or overcharge for really basic adoptables, so I totally understand why you wouldn’t want to get caught up in this stuff and wouldn’t push it on anyone. That being said I do have some I’m working on, they’re just taking a while because other stuff has been happening and I do want to spend time and effort on them. I hope you found this video somewhat useful even though it’s a pretty simple rehash of what’s already on the internet, and have a great day.
Australian Government. “Types of IP.” Accessed November 17, 2019. https://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/understanding-ip/getting-started-ip/types-of-ip.
Creatives and Businesses LLC. “Intellectual Property For Artists And Creative Entrepreneurs: Copyrights, Trademarks, Trade Names, Patents – An Introduction.” Accessed November 17, 2019. http://creativesandbusiness.com/859-intellectual-property-for-artists-and-creative-entrepreneurs-copyrights-trademarks-trade-names-patents-an-introduction/.
NAVA. “Intellectual Property.” Accessed November 17. 2019. https://visualarts.net.au/advocacy/campaigns/intellectual-property/.
[deviantArt article: https://www.deviantart.com/starshinebeast/journal/What-are-adoptables-o-O-217749422]