I guess every member of deviantART who owns a Premium Membership has used a free journal skin at least once in their dA life, right?
They make your journals look more personal and attractive. It's a nice feature that everyone likes to take advantage of and the best, it is for free – the skins (not the Premium Membership ;)).
To use a skin all you have to do is to click that install button, agree to the terms that pop up and then you can start using that fancy new layout you just found. It's really easy and if that template doesn't fit your needs 100% you can make modifications to it and be happy.
In some cases it is not enough for people, they want to share their new creations because people like what they have made. So they start to redistribute it and the drama begins…
Free != Free
When you decide to use a journal skin created by someone else you don't have to pay anything to use it. Like explained above you just hit a button twice and you can start. It allows you to use the skin for free, but with limitations that are important.
Did anyone of you who already installed a skin really read through the "Skin Install Agreement" you have to accept before you can use a CSS template? Yes? No? Either way, let's take a closer look at it:
Notice and Agreement Concerning Use of Materials from the deviantART Skins Category
Thank you for using materials from the deviantART Skins category and participating in building dynamic pages on deviantART with the programming and graphic contributions of other dedicated artists.
By accessing content contained in the deviantART Skins category ("Skin Content") you agree as follows:
1. You confirm that you will have and enjoy a very limited license to use the Skin Content only as set out in this Agreement.
2. You may use the Skin Content only on your user pages or on other pages and applications on deviantART designed to accept Skin Content ("Pages") and not otherwise.
3. You agree that the author responsible for the Skin Content will be credited by deviantART when you use the Skin Content. You agree as a matter of site etiquette not to use the Skin in a fashion that would be clearly objectionable to the author or the intent of the Skin.
4. You may modify the Skin Content as and when you use the Skin Content in accordance with this Agreement, but not otherwise. You may not represent the Skin Content, even as modified, as your own work without crediting the original author.
5. You may not grant permission to any other person to use the Skin Content, even as modified, nor may you export the Skin Content when used under this Agreement in any fashion to any other locations on the World Wide Web unless the Skin Content is served by equipment under the control of deviantART.
This Agreement modifies the deviantART Terms of Service and all other agreements or understandings between you and deviantART all of which remain in full force and effect subject only to the modifications contained here.
The most important parts are bold. And if you take a close look at those, you can easily see that you are in no way allowed to re-use anything of that skin – unless you have any other agreement with the original skin creator.
That means you can not:
- replace the images and upload it as a new template
- use the code, modify it and upload it as a new template
- use the images and create a new template
- sell them
For those that raise their hand now mentioning that #4 says, you just have to credit the artist. That is not right. The modified version you use on YOUR journal just needs a credit, but any new upload with the install option needs the permission from the original artist.
Anything else is against this agreement you accepted when installing a template.
Permission or not
So you have found a template you just love, made some modifications and now want to share it with the rest of the world as well. Before you do anything, ask the original skin creator for permission. Just do it, don't think about it twice. Either this is your first step, or you should stop thinking about uploading your modified skin already.
My codes have been used several times already by people without permission and I absolutely hate to see, that people claim that they did everything on their own, while I just need to look at the code once to know that it has my "handwriting". Code might be all the same for you, but it always has something personal as well – at least if you are more experienced.
I didn't know that I need permission!
In case you uploaded a modified skin and didn't know that you need a permission, the worst thing you can do is to tell the original creator that they should shut up, move along and that you will add a credit just now. Or arguing with them that you did all on your own, while it can be easily proven that you just made color changes or replaced images.
That's plain rude and wrong.
If someone contacts you, the first thing you should do is to try to clarify the situation, without any rude words, without going mad, but explaining it. Don't use excuses. Tell them right away about it. AND if they still want you to take down the template, do it.
The CSS community might be small, but they take care of what is going on. If you are seriously interested in providing templates, it won't be a good start to get involved.
My skin code was stolen!
It can be frustrating but don't attack that other person right away and don't do it in public. Contact the artist via note and don't get mad if you don't get a reply within a few minutes. Give them a few days. If your note was read, but you got no answer contact them again, with the hint that you are going to report the skin if no answer will follow. If there is still no reaction, really do it.
If that deviant gets back to you, be polite. Some might do it with intention, some don't. Tell them about the "Skin install agreement" and that they should take it down. Depending on their reaction either find a solution together or report the deviation – in case the deviant gets rude or doesn't want to work on a solution.
But before you report anything, make sure that is is really your skin that got used in a way that got no permission from you. And if you think that the skin of someone else was used without permission, contact the original artist to let them clarify the situation on their own. They might have given permission to make modifications of their skins.
General things and conclusion
So you understand all what I explained here, but still want to create your own skin, but can't code? Well, how about you contact a CSS coder you admire or that creates skins you like, to ask for permission to use their code? Either make it a general question or pick a few favourite skins and ask if you are allowed to modify them for redistributions.
Believe it or not, most people will allow it. All you have to do is to ask and do it BEFORE you publish anything. It's really that easy.
In case you want to take one more step, how about trying to learn CSS? Of course it is not easy, but not that difficult either. When I started I was completely lost and after my first tries, I ignored CSS for a few years. Then I had to learn it. There are plenty of CSS related groups and all are willing to help. All you need to do is, to knock at their doors and do the first step.
And while you already realized that coding isn't done that easily you should respect the skin templates of other people even more.
The CSS community is very friendly and very helpful, as long as you stick to the rules. Everyone gets mad and is not amused if their art is used without permission.
Be fair and respect the work of the CSS coder as you respect any other artist and everyone will get along very well!
If you have any questions about this, feel free to contact me anytime. If you need help and don't know who to ask or have no idea how to get started, contact me as well. I will be happy to help you out or direct you to persons/groups that can help you further.
This news article was brought to you by your local CSS Fairy
If you find any grammar mistakes, you can keep them, because I will make more!