Sunday, January 10, 2016

Copyright, artists and so many updates

Back on July 14, 2014, I wrote a blog post on Copyright Info for Artists.
I wrote that post to create a renewable place to gather all the resources and case studies that were popping up on my radar. Indie artists have to juggle many roles ...(image below by Alina Chau
Why are they always getting burned.....often just for posting images to promote their work. Isn't there value in "exposure?" ... more on that in a bit...
The reaction of artists to stories of unauthorized use of images can be summed up by this chart by Adam Ellis:
As we reach a milestone number of total page views for the blog.... it's interesting to note that the "Copyright Info" post is one of the most frequently updated.. and frequently visited.. posts on the blog.
Artists are interested in the topic of protecting images posted on the internet. There are way too many examples of theft of images ... often with uncompensated commercial use of these stolen works.

Where are the solutions?

Social Media sites .. including this blog..  thrive on the free and easy sharing of images. Where is the appropriate credit for the artists who create these images?

Are Indie Artists aware of options like the Creative Commons Licenses?  (btw ... Creative Commons is a Massachusetts-chartered 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable corporation)

From the Creative Commons website: Founded in 2001 with the generous support of the Center for the Public Domain, CC is led by a Board of Directors comprised of thought leaders, education experts, technologists, legal scholars, investors, entrepreneurs and philanthropists.
Website for Center for the Public Domain:

While options like these are a step in the right direction.. too often they rely on the user to track down and credit or notify the creator.

Why can't individual images that are frequently shared be protected by a blanket license agreement that allows use and sharing on the platform.. but simultaneously credits and compensates the artist?
These are complicated situations ... but now is the time for artists to start writing the rules about the use of their images. There's so much money being made already -- but NOT by the artists!! We need to reject the myth that "exposure" is compensation. (blog "loud and creative" by artist Gregor Louden has a great post on this.. )

Art. Is. Not. Free. (chart below from

My next post on copyright will follow in a few weeks... meanwhile, here's a recent copyright item..

Inside the Sunday Jan 10 Los Angeles Times:  a review by Michael Schaub  for the book "The Idealist" by Justin Peters.

This quote in the review got my attention.
" ...Peters' history of copyright law is endlessly interesting — he's fluent in both English and lawyer-speak, and he does a great job explaining sometimes arcane legislation ..."
I'll be reading this book.. not so much for the story of Aaron Swartz... but for the author's views on the wild west of copyright law.

For now... I'm including the complete "Copyright Info for Artists" post here so it's handy. A current link for this post.. and other posts of note... can always be found on the YOUR GUIDE TO STUART NG BOOKS post on the blog every month.
Here's the original post w/ updates through Jan 6, 2016

There are various places on the internet where artists are sharing (horror) stories about images they posted that are stolen and used for unauthorized commercial purposes.

I'm posting here some links I've found to these sources. There are lots of benefits to the internet .. but the rules are also being made up as we all go along. Hopefully, artists can continue to be proactive about revealing these rip-offs and work together to make the rules ... before someone else imposes rules on the artists.

Here's a great Jan 2014 article by Sam Levin in the East Bay Express that lists the names of artists who fought back and the lawyers who took on these cases: “When Corporations Want Profits, They Don’t Ask for Permission”

Here's a facebook page “Designers and Illustrators Against Plagiarism”  that posts examples of rip-offs:

Here'a s blog called "You Thought We Wouldn't Notice" with commentary by a Los Angeles-based attorney
Current posts:

Here's a website for "Copyright Collaborative" an artists collective founded by Emily Danchuk, a lawyer in Maine:

I'm always looking for feedback on these sources ... or other sources artists are using.
(image used is stock image from Dreamstime)

UPDATE -- JULY 29, 2014, after San Diego Comic Con
At the con, I met Dave from (Electronic Frontier Foundation) who told me about New Media Rights, a non-profit assisting artists with intellectual property issues.

Here's info from the "about us" page of the New Media Rights website:
New Media Rights is a non-profit, independently funded program of California Western School of Lawthat provides legal services, education, and public policy advocacy for Internet users and creators.

And here's link to their website:

UPDATE SEPT 16, 2014 
Recent conversation with two artist friends clued me into another image theft issue --- portfolios were people are stealing online images and trying to pass these stolen items as their own art! Seems to be fairly common issue -- more than one artist has reviewed a portfolio where THEIR OWN ART appeared attributed to the thief! Looking for some links on this .. but meanwhile, a general search for "Art portfolio stolen art" brought up a very illuminating list of links ... here are some samples...

How to protect your art tips from 'Empty Easel" website (LEAVING LINK UP, BUT NOT WORKING JAN 3, 2016)

"What to do if someone steals your design"

"How to check if your art is copied/stolen online using Google Image Search"

UPDATE SEPT 24, 2014
Here's an important link with a nifty, detailed FLOW CHART on Image Use Rights from a blog called "You the Designer"

UPDATE OCT 11, 2014 
Blog post "Ultimate Guide to Finding and Using Images" explains why " It’s important to understand how to obtain images and properly use them because you can’t just grab any image from the Internet and place it on your blog. You could run into legal issues and intellectual property infringement, so it’s important to understand exactly what you can and cannot do."

UPDATE OCT 22, 2014
link to gift industry panel discussion on impact of knock-off items:

Here's just a sample from this panel:
A victim of IP theft, Emily Martin, founder and designer of Orange Beautiful, a Chicago-based stationery company told Gifts and Decorative Accessories that she’s seen her artwork used by various individuals at parties and elsewhere on the Internet, but she didn't realize the real impact knock-offs could have until she saw one of her designs on a television competition. A contestant on the TLC network series Four Weddings had allegedly featured one of Martin's original designs for Orange Beautiful on her wedding cake, invitations and even a carved cheese. The network later ran the episode, and the winning design was the one allegedly ripped off from Orange Beautiful. Martin has tracked down the individuals who were featured on the show and has started to take legal action with a cease and desist letter.

also link for International Chamber of Commerce

UPDATE NOV 4, 2014

In Oct 2014, photographer Daniel Foster wrote a blog post about his experience when one of his images was stolen and used on items sold on Etsy.

This is his blog post about the incident and his follow-up with Etsy legal dept ..

The DCMA referenced in Foster's post is the "Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998" .. here is link to the PDF of the US Copyright Office Summary ...

And this is the link for Etsy's Copyright and Intellectual Property Policy

UPDATE NOV 10, 2014
Not exactly unauthorized use of images resources..... but here's a link to a list of 15 rules for creative success in the internet age

UPDATE NOV 27, 2014

Buzzfeed post promoting this company that will take your doodle (mostly art by kids) and turn it into a charming plush toy...

so sweet .. EXCEPT ... the image above was STOLEN...The orignal art (below) ... and story about the theft ... on Sprinklexeater page on Diviantart

once again .. the artist knows about the theft ... but the image still being promoted via unauthorized use.


 This is link to a super informative blog post titled "Isn't the Internet Big Enough for More Than One Angry Asian" written by blogger Jenn from her blog ""

In this blog post, she presents two sides of an interesting case of conflict about trademark issues between two bloggers: "Angry Asian Man " and "Angry Little Asian Girl"


Website "Gothamist" posted this article about so-called "Artist" Richard Prince who steals images off the internet, blows them up, puts them in a show and sells them... without credit or compensation to sources of his "work"

UPDATE MAY 30, 2015
This link to my blog post on this "Instagram Photos Story" includes several links on this controversy... as well as background on the previous lawsuit involving this artist:


SUNFROG shirts (dot) com has reputation for uncredited use of internet images...

Warning post from Artist Jillian about this group...

"I know that I have posted on fb about Sunfrog before---but please dont' buy clothing from these guys. They just snap images off of the internet and drop them onto their shirts and sell them without giving profit to the actual artists or even their permission. Recently they stole Art Corgi's logo and was selling it on a shirt---now they are using other artist's work"

HOLY COW -- Sunfrog even has their own "copyright and intellectual property policy" page, where they explain how they "ooops" may be using stolen art...Here's link to their policy page:
SunFrog Shirts respects the intellectual property rights of others, and we expect our users to do the same. We do not have an opportunity to prescreen every design that is submitted to our site for sale, so occasionally, user may inadvertently or deliberately submit and display content that breaches the SunFrog Shirts Terms & Conditions for art submissions.
We have adopted the following general policy toward copyright and intellectual property infringement in accordance with U.S. intellectual property laws, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. Notice & Takedown Requests should be sent to our designated agent to receive notification of claimed infringement at the address
Nothing there about getting artist any compensation for shirts/images sold in the meantime...
Here's link to their policy page:

UPDATE JUNE 28, 2015

LA Times story on how music copyright protected on You Tube
Los Angeles Times op-ed story by Stephen Witt is excellent primer on how profits are made from background music in uploaded videos. You Tube uses its automatic copyright detection service to flag  videos and notify music copyright holders... launching option for revenue stream via ads that benefits publishing companies Google (owner of You Tube) and musician .. but not the folks who upload the video.
My question is ....  Why can't there be something like this for artists??? Perhaps a code or symbol to imbed when uploading an original image???
Read the op-ed piece here.

UPDATE JUNE 29, 2015

Great business tips for artists
Link here is for "Maria Brophy Art Business Consultant" website. This post showed up on my Facebook freed via an artist .. and there are some great tips here how to respond to requests for free art for charity event, etc. Always remember your VALUE before you give away anything. You have to make a living. Help your art help you make that possible....


Lawyers who take image theft cases Law firms are starting to take more cases to protect artists from image theft. Here's a May 2015 profile in LA Weekly on a firm in Los Angeles:  For Artists who worry that they can't afford legal help ... Here's an excerpt ...
Burroughs and Doniger have represented artists, designers, photographers, writers and other creatives in more than 1,000 cases in the last decade.
They have an approach to copyright cases that makes them somewhat unusual: They often work on contingency, meaning they don't get paid unless the client wins — commonly in a settlement — which allows artists and entrepreneurs to pursue legal action they otherwise couldn't afford. Burroughs says copyright infringement cases can be drawn out, and when they go all the way through trial can cost up to $3 million.

UPDATE JULY 12, 2015

Online art theft via website "WallPart" website
This link has been making the rounds among artists... it's an effort to shunt down the page called "". The WallPart website posts images from artists and claims ... CLAIMS .. to re-direct orders for these items back to the artists. It's a lie... artist have found their art there being sold on the site WITHOUT their permission ... and that's why the same artists are fighting back. Here's the link for the Petition to take down the site...

UPDATE JULY 16, 2015

USE CAUTION if you visit the "WallPart" website directly. There are reports in the artist community that there may be a computer virus active on the official WallPart website address. There is also chatter that the website may be using art orders to collect emails and personal information. I have not gone to the website myself so these warnings are only anecdotal .. but it comes from messages circulating among artists warning each other about this site -- better safe than sorry. (the petition address is fine)

UPDATE JULY 20, 2015

Entire post with lots of links and resources on Next Great Copyright Act...
This was follow-up to first post here on July 17....

Here is the update from JULY 17, 2015 

Next Great Copyright Act (NGCA)--
This alert showed up on my radar via an artists group I follow...Posting excerpts here for the record...

Artists Alert: From the Illustrators Partnership 

The Return of Orphan Works
Part 1: "The Next Great Copyright Act" 

JULY 1, 2015 
For more than a year Congress has been holding hearings for the drafting of a brand new US Copyright Act. At its heart is the return of Orphan Works. 
Twice, Orphan Works Acts have failed to pass Congress because of strong opposition from visual artists, spearheaded by the Illustrators Partnership.
Because of this, the Copyright Office has now issued a special call for letters regarding the role of visual art in the coming legislation. 

Included bullet points for NGCA

Here are the Basic Facts
"The Next Great Copyright Act" would replace all existing copyright law.
It would void our Constitutional right to the exclusive control of our work.
It would "privilege" the public's right to use our work.
It would "pressure" you to register your work with commercial registries.
It would "orphan" unregistered work. 
It would make orphaned work available for commercial infringement by "good faith" infringers.
It would allow others to alter your work and copyright these "derivative works" in their own names. 
It would affect all visual art: drawings, paintings, sketches, photos, etc.; past, present and future; published and unpublished; domestic and foreign. 

This alert also urged artists to comply with Copyright Office request for letters. Deadline to submit letters is July 23, 2015. More info .. including link to submit on-line letter.. here:

UPDATE JULY 30, 2015

Article from Los Angeles Times on the copyright case for "Happy Birthday" .. a simple song with a complex copyright history...


"This Website Will Steal Your Photos, Then Hack Your Computer" By Patrick Hall
Link for more on the Wallpart theft of internet images website. This post is from FStoppers .. a site for photographers. This post shows how Wallpart exists not to sell prints.. but as bait to lure in photographers and artists and get their personal information.


An internet image good news story...via this image by artist Jeff Victor.....

This quote from Jeff Victor artist arrived on my radar today .. "MY MIND IS BLOWN. Robert Downey Jr himself actually shared my evolution of his work. This is just...holy (###)...I can't even brain right now."

Jeff had posted this image on his blog... and via the ways of the internet.. it came to the attention of Robert Downey Jr.  and it arrived 9.9.15 on Downey's own Facebook page (with 25 million followers)....

The internet isn't just a platform for art theft. It can also connect artists with credit... recognition ... support .. and appreciation. Not to mention a fun fan boy moment .. in person and by proxy.

The post on Downey's FB was brief.. and sadly didn't mention the artist in the text... HOWEVER -- and IMPORTANT NOTE TO ARTISTS HERE!!!! ... Jeff's blog address is featured on the image... making it EASY to credit.. and FIND.. the artist. Help your art .. help make your name! (to 25 million people one day.. it can happen)

Congrats Jeff! See more of his art .. and his nice write up about this image.. on his blog "Wicked Crispy"

UPDATE SEPT 29, 2015

Flurry of online posting of this You Tube clip .... it's an interview with "artist Lee O'Hanlon"..
Social media shining a spotlight on this egregious case of art theft. The real artist behind the works is Brandon Dicks... This lowlife Lee just downloads the art of Brandon Dicks and slaps his own name on it. The jerk even did a book! Comments on this you tube clip rip the mask off this rip off ... Use this link not so much to hear the useless interview.. but to read the parade of scathing comments and defense of fellow creative rights...

UPDATE OCT 24, 2015
"Creator's Legal Program"
I've just learned about a new legal service for indie artists/creators. It's a monthly-fee membership called 'Creators' Legal Program." that gives artists access to legal counsel that specializes in copyright and creative issues. The service is provided by a Counsel for Creators, a law firm based in Southern California. I know one artist who has been using the service for about a month and has been really happy with it. I'm going to try to learn more about this service and will update here on this post...

UPDATE DEC 14, 2015
This chart arrived on my internet radar. So impressed with the clarity of info and format.. I contacted creator Ginger Davis Allman and got her permission to cross post on my blog.

Here's link to her in depth article with  more details on the chart topics:

Here's link to my post sharing the chart:

UPDATE DEC 29, 2015

"A Closer Look at the New Amazon Handmade Section"
Article by crafter Marnie on her "Marnie's Creations" website
.... she posted it in Oct 2015, but it's popped up again via social media, so am sharing here as a Dec update.

This quote from Marnie's article, with language from the Amazon website, is chilling....
You know what actually got me to immediately delete all of my products? It was this, copied from the Amazon website. License: You grant us a royalty-free, non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use, reproduce, perform, display, distribute, adapt, modify, re-format, create derivative works of, and otherwise commercially or non-commercially exploit in any manner, any and all of Your Materials, and to sublicense the foregoing rights to our Affiliates and operators of Amazon Associated Properties. Now if you’re thinking of selling your handmade items I want you to read that again and when you’re done, a third time. I did. I read it multiple times mainly because I could not believe that they are so blatant about it. Yes, we have the right to exploit you. You give us this right. This right is irrevocable. Well crap. I had 50 something products listed. I did a batch delete immediately after reading this. It might not even matter because they were there and Amazon now owns those product pictures and designs. Fortunately in the few hours it was up nothing sold so perhaps Amazon won’t have any interest at all in my designs.

Read the entire article for more...

DEC 31, 2015

"The Devaluation of Music: It's Worse Than You Think" by Craig Havighurst for Cuepoint
This article is on music... but many of the points here apply to visual art as well...

JAN 6, 2016
Article "How 3DPrinting Threatens our Patent System" by Timothy Holbrook in Scientific American Like the music business model, where streaming flatforms took off before the industry could catch up, the new technolog of 3D printing, and the increasing access along with decreasing costs, could impact patent law:
"Each printed copy of an invention is a lost potential sale to the patent holder. But, to sue for infringement, the patent owner would need to be aware that someone is using a 3D printer to make the patented invention. And that’s a very tall order since these printers are widely dispersed across households and businesses."

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