I will admit that I was unfamiliar with clip art when I began my online work. I didn’t even realize that much of what I saw store owners selling was not their own work, but something they used from the general marketplace. Pictures that could be used by anyone to make anything.
I still don’t understand how to use clip art all that well, and I never have used it so I’m not really interested. Recently I read some posts in the Zazzle forum related to the clip art controversy with store owners taking both sides as you might imagine.
The ones who use clip art to sell products claim that they (some of them) don’t have the artistic ability to create what they’d like, so have to use borrowed art. And many of them are very successful. Probably because they add their own unique touch to the clip art and make it more unusual and appealing. Others just don’t have the time to come up with drawings of their own to use for the items they want to make.
On the other side of the argument are the ones, like myself, who don’t use it. Some of them think that the customer should know that he or she is buying something generally available to anyone who wants to use it. Not original and not found only at this particular place. They think the customer should be informed. I don’t know about that. I suppose that most potential customers probably know more than I do and realize that art can be clip art…and if they like the item, they’ll buy it anyway. On the other hand I always make sure I inform my customers that my art and photography is mine.
When I first started at Zazzle, I bought a pretty magnet from a shop and then I saw the same design other places and later realized I’d bought a clip art magnet. I did feel cheated, like I should have been made aware that this was not the designers own original art.
So I guess this is my way of informing other shoppers who might not realize this. If it matters to you as a buyer that the products you buy are original and not clip art, be aware that some -if not all- sellers will not be upfront and make you aware of it. I have noticed that the people who do their own work usually say so right on their home page and sometimes in the description of the item.
Thinking of using clip art or want to know more about copyright and legal use? This site offers a list of the legal basics for print on demand use.