Before I get into the meat of this discussion, a small caveat: this is not intended in any way, shape or form as an attempt to single out any one person or group of persons, it is simply a rhetorical discussion on skinning ethics that pertains to an honest attempt by the author to clarify a community-wide position.
Now then, the question: when does a template, created and uploaded by one skinner than downloaded, modified, and used by another, cease to become the original artist's template?
Templates are immensely helpful to skinners of all skill levels, from rank beginners to the supreme masters of the trade who regularly create texture maps from scratch. Their existence and use has been the conduit for my learning of Photoshop and its many elements, as well as the art of skinning aircraft and other objects. I've seen some truly spectacular templates that require little, if any, tinkering before they suit my tastes and can be used to stamp out individual skins, and I've also made templates that others use and appreicate.
That said, almost all templates that I have used, regardless of the artist who created them, get at least some modifications from myself before they're ever used to create even test skins, much less ones to be uploaded. And this is where the question at the heart of this discussion comes up: after how much modifying and tinkering can one template endure before it ceases to become that of the original creator? Now, I'm not talking about taking said templates and uploading them as my own work, nor would I ever entertain such thoughts, however the issue of credit does come up. Some templates that I've used have, quite literally, gone through years of work, so much so that one can hardly recognize them from their original state unless the author deliberately left in errors or other, hidden identifying marks. I've found a few on some templates and have tweaked them, though that's not to say that the result is any more accurate, or that it was done in malice.
The thing is this: I don't hesitate to give credit to the original template's author in the documentation for the skin, both in the readme file and in the description for where the skin is hosted (in this case, http://www.mission4today.com ). However, on some templates the author's logo is either eliminated or moved/reworked into the skin. Now, I can understand why this may be important, and apologize for it being done, but still, the question remains...
It should also be said that I'm not claiming in any fashion that my tinkering with said templates is any better or worse than the original, it's just my style. If I understand copyright law correctly (and I'm no lawyer, so this is probably bass-ackwards anyway), a creator loses claim to his work if it is modified at least 25% from its original form.