Plagiarism is the representation of another author's language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions as one's own original work.
Why you should avoid plagiarism
You can get arrested and jailed (in some extreme cases)
You can be sued and have to pay hefty fines if you’re found guilty
We believe that those two reasons should be good enough to dissuade anyone from plagiarizing, but we’ll add a third for good measure.
Your collectors (or fans) and the wider market will want nothing to do with you, given that you’re a thief.
The elements of plagiarism
Here are some of the most plagiarized elements in the 21st century relevant to our field of focus (digital art):
Characters—particularly names, design, and style
Visual design elements—brush strokes, bokeh effects, clip art, etc.
Many creators understand 1 to 3, but are oblivious to 4. Most free photo editing elements on the internet are open to copyright infringement should you use them outside of the approved terms. Thus, some elements (like brush strokes) can only be used to create works that won’t be sold commercially. The moment you sell an art created using that brush, you violate the copyright terms and are liable to be sued. This presents a good opportunity to talk a bit about permissions.
Permissions (the right to use an Intellectual Property) can be granted for free or sold. There are varying levels of permissions for using third-party work.
Some permissions give you the right to use the work for profit-making without having to pay (but having to give credit to the original creator).
Other permissions let you use the work for free only if it is for a non profit purpose.
It is important to be clear which permissions are granted by the piece you use. Make it a habit to confirm the permissions granted by any third-party IP you want to use.