Inktobers tricky business, alternatives, and what you can and cannot do

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There is a lot of controversy around Inktober. In 2020 the name Inktober was officially legally claimed by the person that came up with Inktober in 2009: Jake Parker. But what does this really mean? Why did he do this? And what does that mean for people joining Inktober? Tagging on social media, and selling your art under the name Inktober? And is Jake Parker really an a-hole, like many people claim he is? Lets dive right into it!

Hi! My name is Tessa, I’m a Dutch artist, art director, and creative project manager. I love to share my passion for this craft, nature, art and fantasy, and do that by creating this archive and community, alongside my company Tez Art & Design.

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What is Inktober

These days, Inktober can be a tricky business. And when I say tricky business, I mean tricky BUSINESS. But before we get there, a short recap of what Inktober is and where it came from.
Back in 2009, Jake Parker challenged himself to create healthy drawing habits. His goal: Creating an artwork a day with ink based on a prompt during October. He called it Inktober. This concept took flight when the art community joined in on the challenge. Every year, and to this day, in October there would be a new prompt list created by Jake Parker. However, throughout the years, Inktober was used in other art styles as well. It was no longer purely based on inking, but also digital art, 3d art, fully rendered artwork, paintings, and so on. This meant that Inktober completely blew up and became a giant in the art community.

The goal was simple: Take the single word of the prompt for that day and make something that’s about that word, or something related to that word. It didn’t matter how much time you put into it, or how exact you drew that specific word. The goal was to consistently make art on a daily basis. Nothing more, nothing less. A wonderful concept and good practice for many artists.

What happened with Inktober?

Legentober prompt: Ancient. Life to Legend has its own prompt lists during the October.
Illustration by: Tessa Geniets

December 2019, and what was once a trend, suddenly became a copyrighted name. This comes with a lot of limitations: People could no longer sell their art under the name Inktober, which was a huge trend as well. Because Jake Parker decided to copyright Inktober, anyone selling books and other materials under the name Inktober suddenly had to be rebrand, because now Inktober was no longer a public name. You cannot legally use the name or logo Inktober on anything you want to sell any longer.

Jakes motivation to copyright Inktober was that he believed that since he is the creator of Inktober and felt responsible for anything that comes from it, he had to copyright it. His full statement you can find right here. One of the key motivations to copyright Inktober was to prevent malevolent people from making a quick buck from the Inktober community in a myriad of ways like plagiarism, or exploiting artists from the community.

Inktober Faq

Below is only a part of the FAQ, for all of the trademark info, head to the Inktober website.

If you are an individual participating in Inktober:

Inktober is FREE to participate in. The hashtag #inktober is also free to use. You can post your inktober drawings with the word inktober on it, the logo on it, and with the hashtag on them as well.

If you are an individual wanting to sell your Inktober drawings:

As a participating artist, you can certainly sell your Inktober drawings. I hope you do if you want to! You can also reference Inktober in the sale of your drawings, but you need to do so in the following manner:

– Please don’t use the INKTOBER logo, unless you have written permission or license to do so.

– You can use the word INKTOBER together with the year of participation (i.e. INKTOBER 2020).

– Your personal published works may use INKTOBER + Year as a subtitle, not as a leading title on the cover. For example, it’s ok to use the subtitle “based on INKTOBER 2019 prompts” or similar reference.

In other words: Inktober is now a company, and everybody wanting to sell anything that has to do with said company has to make sure they follow the rules like they would need to with any other company. This is a painful thing, especially for people who always looked forwards to Inktober or even sold art under the name in books, posters, etc. Inktober stopped being what it always used to be when it was copyrighted. Suddenly the art community was split in two between the people who understood why Jake Parker did this, and those that don’t.

What does this mean?

So, instead of Inktober being an annual concept people would look forward too, owned by nobody, and loved by everyone, was now owned by one person, it was now officially the intellectual property of Jake Parker. And the truth is: Anything anyone comes up with that’s new and unique is automatically intellectual property. Every artwork you make is intellectual property, and therefore also every unique idea, so it always was Jake Parkers intellectual property to begin with, he just never claimed it as such up till December 2019.

This means that from a business perspective he did nothing wrong. He just copyrighted something that already was his, but was never registered as such. But because many people made money from the name, and everybody always felt like it was ‘owned’ by the community, to many people this felt like a shitty move to make. The freedom and the feeling of being part of a community was suddenly gone.

What he did was completely legal, and especially in the beginning of this all he couldn’t have known how big Inktober would become. Which means that it’s logical that he didn’t copyright it right away. However, in my own humble opinion I think that he should have copyrighted it way earlier, when he noticed that Inktober was becoming a thing. Not 10 years after it did. This because people made solid money from it in a fair way, and some of them were already supporting the initiative for over a decade, making Inktober into what it is today. Without these people Inktober would never have gotten to this point. The fact he waited 10 years makes me wonder about his motivation. Mainly because most of the things he mentions in his statement are problems that are timeless.

What can’t I do with Inktober?

Now you have a good idea of what has happened, you probably have your own opinion on the matter. Technically it’s quite simple what you can’t do. It’s more or less the same as with any other company. You cannot use the name or the logo as is, or in a primary way on anything you sell. As described in the trademark info: You can use a subheading mentioning that the art is inspired by Inktober, but no more than that, unless you have written permission or a license. That’s all.

What can I do with Inktober?

You can still use the hashtags and use the name. You can sell art that is based off of the Inktober prompt list, you just cannot use the logo or have the name in a primary way on your artwork (see previous chapter). If your art is for personal use, like postings on your social media channel, you can use the logo. The rules only apply in a business setting.

So, why are people so mad about it?

People generally don’t like changes. Especially not when it comes to something that has been a community thing for so long. The fact that many people made money from it didn’t help either, because now they have to rebrand and use a name that is less known instead. But in 2020 this happened: Remember how Jake Parker stated that he doesn’t like the way how some people and companies make money from artists? A completely valid and honorable reason.

However, in early 2020 Jake Parker announced his new book, to be released in September 2020. This book resembles Alphonso Dunn’s book called “Pen and Ink Drawing: A Simple Guide” and Jake Parker was called out for it. Although undecided in court as of yet, the resemblances can’t be missed. Many of the texts are largely the same, with only some different wordings, and some images are even displayed in Alphonso’s book. This obviously doesn’t sit well with many people. But as it’s still undecided: Judge for yourself:

Inktober alternatives

Creating alternative prompt lists were already a thing for a long time. If the Inktober list didn’t suit you, you would go for another list. Some people would combine several prompt lists by picking the word they like best for that day. But when Inktober was copyrighted, and shortly after the potential plagiarism came to light, people actively started to sabotage Inktober by creating their own prompt lists. These days there are thousands of different lists. Life to Legend even has its own, called Legentober. Not because of the Inktober history, but simply because we wanted to give Life to Legend its own life. The LtL prompt list is specifically made for character and creature designs. But like LtL, there are many others.

Legentober 2021, Life to Legend prompt list.

More alternatives to Inktober

  • Goretober (Well… Gory!)
  • Kinktober (Kink/NSFW inspired)
  • Drawlloween (Halloween inspired)
  • Flufftober (Cuteness all over)
  • Catober (Cats, of course!)
  • Drawtober (Alternative to Inktober)
  • Linktober (Zelda related)
  • Cozytober (Inspired by Autumn)
  • October (Original Characters)

Whatever your conclusion: There’s a place for you to go! And if you’re interested in a specific subject, there is a prompt list as well! And remember, no matter what you choose, the goal is to create a habit of drawing daily. Nothing less, nothing more!

Happy drawing!

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