Dec 23, 2009

The Clone Wars

This past year has had it's ups and it's downs. With the economy tanking, every creative business has been effected in one way or another and mine was no exception.

But the most disturbing trends within our industry in my opinion are two fold:
1. The continued growth of the "Creative Industrial Complex" via pre-fab design, which I touched on in an earlier post this year. I'll have more to say about this specific topic in an upcoming post on my blog.

2. The exponential growth in copyright infringement. I've had a total of "62" individual cases (That I'm aware of) where designers, marketing firms, design studios, ad agencies, stock companies, and other businesses used my artwork without paying for it or seeking permission to use it.

Unfortunately I don't see this problem going away. More and more art schools are focusing on the tools rather than the creative process that facilitates original and unique ideas. Thus they are producing the next generation of copyright infringers who ironically in many cases are the same mindless drones who facilitate the degrading of our industry by pimping their ware to industrial hacks like CrowdSpring.com.

But I digress.


Google Image Search.

Showcasing my artwork online is a double edged sword. For a creative hired gun like myself you have to promote or perish. Marketing my services is a must, but it also opens me up to being exploited by unscrupulous design hacks who have no problem googling for their creative solutions.

Most of the cases I was able to handle myself by sending out a copyright infringement letter. Some are just over zealous tattoo lovers who never bothered to ask permission but still feel obligated to email me a picture so I can share in their flattering copyright infringement. This over time has spawned a rogues gallery of what I like to call "Walking Portfolios."


The Damage
I've spent roughly "73" hours responding to the "62" individuals cases. I don't charge by the hour but if I did I figured the amount of time I've invested this year alone is roughly $8,500.

Three of the cases I had to hire a copyright lawyer to deal with them. I settled two of those amicably. The third case is currently ongoing and is represented by the video below.


Chronological list of all the 2009 infringers.

- Photobucket.com User Tribal Tattoo Face Art
- Zazzle.com User Bonehead Skull Artwork
- MySpace.com User Tribal Tattoo Face Art
- Beerorkid.com Trashing Abe Art
- Deviantart.com User Tribal Tattoo Face Art
- Motattoo.com Tribal Tattoo Face Art
- Olloo.com Tribal Tattoo Face Art
- Alaskaslist.com Polar Bear Logo Art
- Deviantart.com User Tribal Tattoo Face Art
- SideHatchEntertainment.com Tickles the Evil Clown
- Chrinodesign.com Billy Mays Artwork
- VolcanoVistaHawks.com Black Hawk Artwork
- Community.mediacorp.com.sg Tickles the Evil Clown
- Flickr.com User White Tiger Art
- Flickr.com User Tribal Bat Tattoo
- Logotypes101.com Fire Giant Art
- ShutterStock.com User / Serbia Black Hawk Artwork
- Lacrosse.schigas.com Black Hawk Artwork
- Deviantart.com User Tribal Bat Tattoo
- IMVU.com User Tribal Bat Tattoo
- 895thehawk.com Black Hawk Artwork
- Dummidumbwit.wordpress.com Billy Mays Artwork
- Unconfirmedsources.com Billy Mays Artwork
- Emptees.com Tribal Bat Tattoo
- Mundozenn.com / Brazil Tribal Tattoo Face Art
- Deviantart.com User Tribal Bat Tattoo
- LAtimes.com Billy Mays Artwork
- SeemyButton.com Billy Mays Artwork
- Consumerist.com Billy Mays Artwork
- Brownsville Early College HS Scorpion Mascot Artwork
- EveryTattoo.com Tribal Tattoo Face Art
- Tao-Of-Tattoos.com Tribal Bat Tattoo
- Twitter.com User Self Portrait Illustration
- Discrim Athletic Tees Black Hawk Artwork
- Zazzle.com User Billy Mays Artwork
- Vyzion360.com Tribal Tattoo Lion
- Flickr.com User Tribal Tattoo Face Art
- Junklist.eu Two Headed Eagle Art
- JohnHaller.com Billy Mays Artwork
- Deviantart.com User Tribal Bat Tattoo
- Deviantart.com User Tribal Bat Tattoo
- Flickr.com User Tribal Bat Tattoo
- Picsquare.com Tiger Art
- Deviantart.com User Alien Skull Art
- Flickr.com User Tribal Bat Tattoo
- Skreened.com Billy Mays Artwork
- Gun Shop, Tacoma Espy Graphic Bird
- Photobucket.com User Black Hawk Artwork
- KosherHam.com Billy Mays Artwork
- InkedMedia.com Tribal Tattoo Skull
- MindSpark.com Billy Mays Artwork
- VectorStock.com User Doodle Fish Artwork
- case-mate.com Tribal Tattoo Face Art
- designbyhumans.com Tribal Tattoo Face Art
- (US Army) wood.army.mil White Tiger Art
- Zazzle.com User Owl Artwork
- WAWK.com Black Hawk Artwork
- Classiccitysigns.com Black Hawk Artwork
- Embroiderydesigns.com Alien Skull Art
- Flickr.com User Tribal Tattoo Face Art
- Houseofgrafix.net Billy Mays Artwork
- Uthstuph.com Security Shield Logo


"Unique" and colorful tribal pattern.

I don't enjoy getting my work ripped off and it frankly pisses me off when I have to waste my time dealing with it when it happens. That said I still try not to be a jerk with the people I'm forced to confront. I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt and try to treat the situation in a reasonable manner. If the infringer responds reasonably and works with me to resolve the matter than I can avoid taking it to next level legally.

But that isn't the case with case-mate. (Pardon the pun) I gave them three months to respond to my reasonable request regarding their infringement and use of my tribal face tattoo art on one of their products to no avail.

So as this year ends a copyright infringement lawsuit begins.

Follow Up: I've settled with case-mate. It took four months of back and forth but I was able to protect my copyright.


Blend it!

16 comments:

brbankston said...

I feel your pain, Zon. Stick 'em for everything they've got!

By the way, HUGE fan of your art, your tutorials and your sites.

Keep up the fantastic work!

MWorrell said...

My websites obviously do not get anything like the volume of traffic that yours do (especially from other designers), so most people interested in ripping off my cartoons and illustrations would never see them in the first place. But I still avoid labeling my website portfolio images with any words pertaining to the actual content, which hopefully keeps them out of ill-intentioned image searches.

Leif Peng said...

Great post, Von, esp. as a conclusion to the year. Sorry to see you conclude the year on a down note, but the issues you raise are important ones and worth much more discussion ... no doubt we'll see that in 2010.

Thanks for another year of thoughtful, inspiring, educational posts!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Leif :^)

Vonster said...

Leif,

Ditto man! Your "Today's Inspiration" site should be mandatory reading for all students IMO. Drawing applies to not just illustrators but designers too so thank you for everything you've done. I appreciate the comments.

Von

moverlow said...

Von,

It pains me that you have to go through this . . . especially with all that you give back to the design community. I am a better designer/art director because of your unselfish nature. I sincerely thank you.

Case mate has no legitimate excuse . . . i hope you receive significant royalties or what damages you are seeking.

Here's wishing you and your family a joyous Christmas and a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year!

Mark

Danielle said...

i'm so mad at myself i just bought their ID case for the iPhone. had i known this, i would have taken my business elsewhere.

lateefx said...

All part of the business - you've dealt with it quite well. It's really an uphill battle to get non-artists/creatives to understand why artwork is a copyrighted 'product' -- especially when you get into digital artwork where 'anyone can do this stuff' (smh) --

As to Case-Mate...they have violated copyright laws in place in the US - but more importantly, it was unethical - at the same time I can see why it's hard for Case-Mate to understand why this is unethical. They are selling an iPhone sleeve - identical to every other silicone/rubber sleeve ... there is nothing that sets them apart from the rest of the competition ... oh wait...except for the 'tribal' design!!!

Grafixgibbs said...

Von,

Good luck with your ongoing battles. Thanks for all your posts. They are always insightful, entertaining and inspirational. Thanks for sharing your years of experience and insights so freely.

Hope it all works out with the lawsuit.

M.O.B.-A.I.R. said...

Hey you are a fantastic artist. I still draw with pen and pencil, haven't reach digital status yet.

Michael Critz said...

Von,

In your opinion would it help to join a collective like the Graphic Artists’ Guild where creatives can file a grievance and have the Guild’s lawyers resolve the dispute?

My issues aren’t as prolific as yours. The only times I’ve ever had an issue is with the occasional deadbeat client that won’t pay. I ask my lawyer to write a letter or call. The implied threat — I am willing to sue — usually does the trick. Have you tried that approach?

Michael

Vonster said...

Michael,

In all honesty I think Graphic Artist Guild (GAG) is a joke.

How you handle deadbeat clients I've had to do as well from time to time. No fun but sometimes that approach is necessary unfortunately.

Von

Kyle Jones said...

That iPhone case takes the cake. I hope that everything works out... and you come out on top. Best of luck!

Alaska Stafford said...

I don't know you'll see this comment, since this is an older post... But, I'm totally bummed that AlaskasList.com ripped off your logo... When I first saw their logo when I started using their website about six months ago, I remember LOVING their logo, and I remember I had seen it somewhere else before.
I had seen it before... On your site.
I love their site, but I'm done with them if that's how they are going to operate.

Vonster said...

Alaska Stafford,

I originally caught them but then we worked out a fair trade for continued usage on the site. They don't own it but have permission now to use it on their site.

Thanks.

Von

girl*in*gear studio said...

Such a bummer. Not sure if you knew about this, but Google labs has a tool that finds similar images (called Google Similar Images). Maybe it would help you find more images of yours that are being sold illegally? I think I remember you mentioning on Freelance Radio that you wished there was a search tool like this available.

Richey said...

That would be extremely frustrating. I hate it when someone doesn't give you credit for your own work and originality. Do you ever turn any of your work into sports embroidery designs? I have been looking for a designer for some uniforms I'm making.