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The question of ownership of a fractal image comes up on the Ultra Fractal Mailing List with some regularity. Specifically, we are often asked: "If you use an already existing formula and change that formula to create your own fractal, can you call that fractal your own, and are you allowed to sell it or display the work of art as your own?"

This gets a little tricky. Tempers, artistic pride, and copyright laws can come into play. It is not my intention to give legal advise. I am not an attorney. But I can tell you how the List subscribers generally answer when asked this question.

To begin with, this question presumes that everyone knows what a "formula" is. That's not as easy a question as it sounds!

Actually, there are several types of formulas. There are the formulas with the extension "UFM." Usually, we refer to "UFM" files as "the formula." If you are asking if it is ok to change the actual text of the "UFM" text file - add and delete various factors - and call the resulting formula your formula, the answer is, "Not always!" You need to get in touch with the original formula writer and work this out with her/him. Some formula writers have VERY strong feelings on this subject. And because the changed formula is technically a "derivative" of the original formula, legal issues could crop up. Again - what to do? - contact the original formula writer and work it out with her/him.

If you are asking about changing the various parameters/factors in a "UFM" file that is open in UF, that is a different story. Their purpose in being there is for you to change them! There are oodles of "UFM" files floating around. They are available for any of us to use. You don't have to write your own. When you open them in UF, there are usually some default parameters that will immediately generate an image on your screen. Those default images are a good launching pad for you, but you can't claim images generated from default parameters as your own. And actually, you probably wouldn't want to claim them as stand-alone images, because at this point they aren't all that great. You need to zoom around a bit! Add some stuff!

The fractal starts getting good when you load another type of formula - the coloring algorithm. That is a formula with a "UCL" extension. There are oodles of them floating around, too, and they are also available for any of us to use. Again, when you open them, there are default parameters that will immediately generate an image on your screen. Again, those default images are a good launching pad, but you can't claim those images as your own, either. And, again, if you wish to change the actual text of the "UCL" text file, contact the formula writer and work it out with her*#47him.

When you start changing parameters that you load into the "UFM" and the "UCL" files, the image changes. As you change parameters, you are creating an image that is becoming yours. When substantial changes have been made to the extent that in all aspects your new image looks totally unlike the first image, the image may be claimed as yours. You can post it on your page, post the "UPR" file to the List, sell it . . . whatever you wish. It is your image. (Please note - changing the palette, alone, is not a substantial change!)

There are also transformation algorithms. They are formulas that have the extention "UXF." They rather dramatically change any image to which you apply them - create symmetry, mirror images, reflections, grids - just about anything you can imagine. You can add them to any image you are working on. Change the parameters to make it "yours." And, again, if you wish to change the actual text of the "UXF" text file, contact the formula writer and work it out with her/him..

There are "UPR" files - parameter files. These files hold the data that is the final, sum total of the image you have created. Sometimes we post "UPR" files to the UF Mailing List. That doesn't mean those images aren't copyrighted! They are. Nevertheless, we may* expect them to be tweaked (altered slightly or greatly) or picked apart as a learning tool by other List subscribers. Sometimes the tweaks are posted back on the list. When the original images are altered slightly by another List subscriber, the resulting image cannot be claimed by that second person as his or her own image. When they are greatly altered to the extent that in all aspects the new image looks totally unlike the first image, the second person may claim that image as his or hers. When you are unsure whether you can claim the image as your own, contact the creator of the original UPR and work it out with her/him.

If the second person has ANY DOUBT whether s/he should claim the text of the formula or the resulting image as her/his own, the general rule of thumb is "Ask the original formula writer/artist!"

When all is said and done, your image may include any or all of the following files, and the overall result of the application of these files makes an image "unique" or a "derivative work":

UFM - The formula files. You can't make a UF fractal without it! Help yourself and get started!

UCL - The coloring algorithms. Geometric patterns like bubbles, curls, and stalks come from these. They give form to the image.

UXF - The transformation algorithms. They rather radically transform an image in ways that I can't describe here in a sentence or two! Give them a try.

UGR - These are the gradient palettes - the colors you use. UF colormaps are easy to make, and have an enormous impact on the end image. Don't neglect them!

UAL - One way to add transparencies to your images.

UPR - The parameter file. Assuming the image was generated by your own unique combining of the above 5 file types, the upr is the image that is uniquely yours! You can save the upr files for your images, and then reload them whenever you choose to regenerate your images at any time, and for any use.

UFR - The "UFR" file will only open in UF or a text file. When you open it as a text file, you can see the text of the formula, plus a lot of coded data. When you open it in UF, you can see and alter, if you wish, the image.

A few details that confused me in the beginning:

You can open a UPR file in UF, and the image you saved will be regenerated. You can open a UFR file in UF and the image you previously saved will immediately open. Both save the image. The difference is the size of the file ("UFR" is much larger), and the speed at which you wish the image to open ("UFR" opens immediately - "UPR" must regenerate).

When you create an image that you want to save, be certain to save both the image file and either the "UFR" file or the "UPR" file. Saving the image alone, as Fractinters are used to doing, won't save any of the parameters. You won't be able to regenerate the image again. What you have is all you will ever get! This is an important detail!

*footnote as noted above: Some original posters will ask that their image, posted as a upr file to the List, NOT be tweaked. It's important to honor that request! If you don't, you may be guilty of copyright infringement!

That's all for now! Happy fractaling!


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