An interesting discussion has arisen in the context of the current Character Design contest, and I wanted to highlight it here for more thorough dissection. In a word, the subject is ownership.
First, let me say that I'm not an attorney, and that UGO will probably have a fit when and if they see this. So I don't intend this to be anything binding on anyone, it's just an exploration of various issues involved with being a creative person using a tool like HeroMachine. Furthermore, this is just my personal opinion.
My position on ownership as it intersects with HeroMachine is this:
You own your character concept. Period. Full stop.
If you create something with HeroMachine and publish it, then that idea is yours. If someone sees it, makes an exact copy in HeroMachine, and then tries to go publish a comic book using that character, then by all means sue the pants off of them, with my full support. Because that idea and design is yours.
As that character design exists within the confines of HM, it's NOT yours. It's MY collection of art, which is simply being assembled in a certain way.
Put another way, I don't own your ideas even though you used my art to illustrate it, and you don't own my collection of items even if they happen to exactly match the illustration you made. So you can't later come and sue me, claiming that it's possible to use HeroMachine to create a facsimile of your character. If you want to go after someone because you feel like they're stealing your idea, then go after that person. Because you can't claim ownership over my art within my program, even if someone's using it in an infringing way.
On a more personal level, my goal with this software is to encourage creativity, to make it possible for imaginations to come to visual life. If every single person who ever used it to create an image of their character were able to stop anyone else from ever using it to make a similar image, pretty soon the software would be unusable.
On the other hand, I absolutely and vehemently reject the idea that I could use this as some kind of creative tar pit, sucking people in to give me their ideas, so that if someone hits it big with a character they designed here I could come along and sue them for everything they own, trying to say that somehow *I* own the concept just because you used my software to create it.
So that's the line I've always walked with this thing. The only way to protect the free exchange of creativity and ideas for everyone is to draw a line around the product and say "You don't own anything inside these walls." But at the same time, you completely own the ideas that you're bringing INTO it to illustrate. If you all want to fight about who owns what, do it outside of our safe harbor.
Now, that's the way *I* see it, but I want to know how *you* see it. So how would you feel if someone took a character you created and revamped it using HeroMachine, so long as they are not claiming credit for the concept?