Plagarism is a very fine line in the world of fandom.
I mean, really, isn't what we're all doing plagarism of a sort just by making photomanips, drawing fan art, and writing fanfic? No, because we don't claim that it is OURS, we only USE it.
That's not a matter of plagarism, rather a matter of permission. Some powers that be have decided they don't want us to have permission and go after it more or less agressively, such as Ann Rice, and to a lesser extent, George Lucas. But generally, as long as we put disclaimers up, we're okay, because we've aknowledged that we didn't invent Fraser, Hornblower, Lestat, Methos, Spike, Aragorn, or whoever our personal favourite slashmonkey is, and really, TPTB don't really care about our sick little world. Fanart is the same. We don't put it on the image directly most of the time, but if you look at my site or Theban Band or Susan Lovett or most other fan artists/manippers, you'll find a disclaimer saying that the base images we used and the faces we're drawing aren't ours, nor are the rights to them, but what we're doing with them is. Basic, basic tenant of fandom.
Also a matter of courtesy.
LJ icons are a bit of an oddity in this field, because they tend to use sort of implied disclaimers. For the most part, they are just captioned, unaltered photos, or art made by the iconner themselves. In the case of the former, there's no need to ask permission for a joke caption any more than there's a need to ask permission to MST a movie, and in the case of the latter, well, DUH, of COURSE there are no plagarism/permission issues.
Sometimes, other people's art is used. Now, in some cases, this is no big deal. If I use a pic of the Mona Lisa for an icon, there aren't going to be many people who honestly think I'm claiming that painting as my own work. Most art and celebrity photos come under this category, and even some quotes, such as "Don't go where I can't follow" among LotR fans (even some fanfic has reached this level...anyone from LotR not recognize "Sam will kill him if he tries anything" or "Still not King"?) The disclaimer is understood.
But when it's fan art being used on a fan livejournal icon, things get a little dicier. No, there's no legal difference, really, but...well, it's courtesy, because of the way it comes across.
Because most mannipped icons are manipped by the person who's LJ they're on, people generally assume that to be the case. If I'm on Jane Doe's LJ, and she has a hot manip for an icon, I'll assume she did it. Therefore, it's become a matter of LJ courtesy to put a 'disclaimer' of sorts on the first entry featuring/showing off a new icon if it's NOT your work. It's nothing big or elabourate, but it's considered common courtesy to say "gacked from Somefanartist" or "thanks to Manipper for her cool art" or whatever. Something that acknowledges it's NOT YOURS.
No, none of us are getting paid for this, so it's not like 'real world' plagarism where you could lose money. But...well, it stings to see someone using my manips without any sort of note saying they were my work. Unless someone happens to already know the original images (Unconditional, Caretaker, andGuardian) they would quite reasonably assume that Athelas had created the icons from scratch. She also put the slogan "I am more than my size. I am more than my age. I am more than you ever dreamed I could be" on a Pippin icon she made. That was a slogan I created for my own series of hobbit icons, with similar versions for Merry, Frodo, and Sam, and again, since she didn't even say "thanks to VB for the slogan on my nifty new Pip icon", no one knows that's not her brain spark.
I don't think that she was out to "steal my work." And I really am quite happy to give people permission to use my manips and suck for iconnage. Just ask Kitarin, who's been using Guardian as an icon for quite some time now, or Orangeblossom, to whom I've given dozens of manipped icons.
It's not theft, it probably wasn't intentional, but it was rude by what are generally considered standards of accepted behavior as I understand them among the LJ and fandom communities. I'm not out for blood, and in fact, I'm only writing this entry at all because there's been a bit of a stink lately and I wanted to put my side of it out there.
It stung. My feelings were hurt. I think it was rude, and in a perfect world, I'd like to see the lass just quietly add something to the effect of "these icons use art by VB" either as an edit to the original post or in a small simple subsequent GIP (yes, I am giving permission to keep using them for what it's worth) and ask if she wants to use more art in the future. But that's not required, and I know there's really nothing I can do if she doesn't want to.
It's not a big deal. It just kind of stings.