Sunday, August 28, 2016

Combat art theft -- case studies and taking action

Leaving up this August version, since this link has appeared on social media. Updated version with additional links is in Sept posts.
Counterfeit goods are bad business for consumers and creators.

There is an alarming culture of tolerated piracy when it comes to unauthorized commercial use of images on the internet. 

It starts small. Inexperienced artists or vendors "find" an image they like online and then use it for their own products. Often they are ignorant about copyright laws. Education on creative rights is vital for artists and fans.

Art theft extends to larger companies that know better. (ie Society 6... Red Bubble..Shutterstock.. etc). They manufacture goods on demand (t-shirts, prints etc). These companies dodge responsibility for art theft... claiming that due to the volume of images on their site, they can't be responsible for due diligence on the rights of all the images. Or the companies will slightly alter the artist's work -- then refuse to acknowledge that the original artist retains rights to create any derivative work.

These companies will often comply with a cease and desist notice from the artist ... but by then, the damage is done. The artist who created the work has lost credit.. and compensation.. for all those sales racked up by thieves. 

Worst of all.. when national chains rip off indie artists.
National chains will just tell the artist.. go ahead and sue... assuming the artist won't have the resources to fight them..

Here's link with more info on pursuing lawsuits 
Graphic Artists Guild .. "if you want to sue"

How did we get to this point???? 

It's the double-edged sword of the internet.
Online art is easy to share... and easy to steal. 

Copyright protections for artists are under the jurisdiction of federal courts. The power of these courts.. and the laws... are designed to protect creative rights.

At the federal level, everything moves slowly.. and cases are extremely expensive to even file.. not to mention the legal fees required to prosecute. This powerful.. but thorough and expensive system.. is taking steps to adapt. It recognizes the impact of the internet on artists rights...

Learn more about options in the works for the future.. 

check out this 8.17.16 webinar "Small Copyright Claims Court; New Legislation to Help Authors and Creators"
Hosted by The Graphic Artists Guild .. lots of artists rights resources on their site.

Meanwhile, cavalier attitudes towards copyright protections endanger artists. This points to a critical lack of understanding by the public.. and even some artists... about the benefits of copyright enforcement.

What we need is an online community that doesn't just "like" art on all the social media platforms.... but demands respect for artists' creative rights. 

Treating art like it's free for the exploiting... like it's all inter-changeable... like it has no value... undermines the social and commercial contracts that are the foundation of the artist-patron relationship. 

We don't expect other services or entertainment to be provided to us without compensation. Why do people feel entitled to "free" art.

Artists don't post art to be exploited. They post art to connect their work with fans.. with peers.. and with paying jobs. Their posts are a way to reach out to potential clients.. as well as their fans...  and develop a connection. 

If you see art you like... you "like" it.. you start to follow the artist. If you just want "free" art, then the relationship stays at that level. But if you want more.. if you want a commission.. or a print.. or merchandise... be sure you are obtaining it from the source or their licensed partners. 

The internet provides exposure... but exposure alone is worthless.
All the art that gets "liked" ... is the creative WORK of an artist. If the internet can only provide "likes" and "shares"... but no sales, why should any artist continue to post their work? .. and Why can't the internet provide algorithms that source art images back to the creators.. for COMPENSATION!!! All that online "free" art is making money for somebody... why not include the artists... but I digress... 

How can artists and fans combat art theft??? 

For artists: Double down on branding. Put your name on everything. Don't be anonymous. Be bold about your brand. Be proactive about your rights. Reach out to your fans and patrons. Reward them for buying from the artist/source. Educate them about the impact of unauthorized use of images for commercial use by others.... and enlist fans in reporting art theft. Of course, register your copyrights.. and trademarks if applicable. Also educate your fans about WHY you register your rights .. and how these steps protect them as consumers as well as protecting you as the creator.

For Fans: If you "like" online art.
If you enjoy sharing art on social media.
If you want more art.... SUPPORT ARTISTS. 
Know where you art is sourced from. Buy only from artist owned or approved sources. Report art theft.

If you see stolen art being used by third parties to make's a handy phrase to put in the comments section for that item...

"This (mug.. t-shirt.. etc) is unauthorized use of an artist-owned image. You are producing commercial items without permission of the copyright holder."

Be part of the solution. Art theft robs us all of what we cherish -- great art shared from the heart by creative people. 

Artist Lili Chin has worked hard to build her "Doggie Drawings" brand.

She has a huge fan base. Her website is extensive.

Lili is active via DoggieDrawings on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. She works with companies that license her images for products like personalized Pet ID tags.

Her art is popular with her patrons .... and with internet art thieves.

Imagine her frustration. Create charming art. Do pro bono info-graphics for pet safety education. Donate auction items for animal rescue. Have over 100,000 followers.... and still ... 

See your art get stolen... over.. and OVER.. and OVER AGAIN! All those counterfeit goods.. made from Lili's images... are money she will never see. Not to mention the hours wasted on "wack-a-mole" with fly-by-night counterfeiters... and worse... even national chains!

Lili is fighting back. She has created FREE info-graphics on copyright for artists to use.

Getting these info-graphics in the hands of fans is a great way to raise awareness about these issues.

She is posting about her art theft cases... sharing her story so others can learn.. and getting help from her fans and peers. Below is a sample post from Lili...

Posting again with a photo of my dog.
Dear Doggie Drawings Friends,
I have been finding lots of products (t-shirts, bags, prints, phone cases etc) on the internet with stolen copies of my dog breed designs on them. The copyright infringers download my images, trace them, change a few details, and then re-upload the images under their own name; re-selling or licensing these copies to online shops. So I am finding my images and derivative works being sold on etsy and elsewhere.
When I contact these shops and inform them that they are reselling stolen artwork, some are understanding and remove the artwork. But there are also sellers who get nasty and defensive because they believe they paid for legit artwork or they simply don't care about ethics.
I am trying to track down the copyright infringers and I could use some help. If you see copies of my dog breed images on any image-licensing sites (eg Shutterstock. Yes, I have seen derivative works on there before), please let me know.
Thank you for your continued support and for not putting money in the pockets of thieves. More about my dog breed designs here:
- Lili
Please feel free to reshare this post.

And this .. Lili's blog post on Kohl's case .. a fan alerted her of this egregious theft of her work.. stolen from a pro bono eductional graphic she created .... and another fan started an online petition to call out Kohls...

Don't let Art Theft happen...

Learn from these and other cases.... here are more links...

link for Lili's educational blog post on derivative works....

Eli Halpin post on "do not copy"

photographer's article " This photo is not free"  by John Mueller on

Even more cases of  of art theft by Kohl's...

Bizjournal 2010
Spin 2013
Leagle 2015's%20Department%20Stores,%20Inc

This article calls out other National Chains ....

Clutter Magazine "Good Artists Copy, Great Brands Steal"  article by Marc 8.10.16

So many sample cases! design theft has been going on ... but it's more blatant now with unauthorized use of artist-owned images posted online. 

What's giving me hope.. is the fans who are reporting the thefts to the artists.. and rattling the cash registers of retailers by calling out the case studies via social media. 

Retailers are struggling... brick and mortar store are closing. The retail word knows its future is a hybrid of online sales and in person shopping "experiences." They need to woo the online customers.. and gain their trust. 

Retail chains and online platforms pay attention to social media posts.

Sharing stories that document art theft helps educate artists and customers. 

Artists must stay strong and fight on. Your IP (Intellectual Property) is worth it!

For more case studies on art theft and links to more resources, see my frequently updated post "Copyright Info for Artists"

Friday, August 26, 2016

Where are the other Ripleys??

Artist Karla Ortiz posted this You Tube link and it arrived on my social media radar.
It's an interesting 8 mins from a lecture by Mike Hill.
His analysis is thoughtful... and thought provoking.

Ponder his quote: "Cinema should inspire.. not just technically... but morally."

30 years have passed since "Aliens" -- and the role that set the standard for heroic women protagonists. In the 30 years since.... why can't we name even a handful of female characters that followed her.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Signed books - a service prized by SNB patrons (UPDATED 6.19)

Signed copies of in-print books is a service Stuart Ng Books provides for patrons.
For several years, I kept a map in the store. It was an adventure to add a push-pin on the map each time we shipped to a new location. The map quickly filled up. Stuart's world-wide mailing list continues to grow. For many of his patrons, Stuart is their only access to books that have been in the hands of the artists that made the illustrations.
Of course, online searches reveal listings for all sorts of books at "loss-leader" discounts. Cut-rate pricing seems like a benefit to some customers... but it a challenge for indie booksellers to compete with.

UPDATE June 2019 --
Amazon, for example, built its empire on the business model of selling books at a loss. It was never their goal to make money selling books. The goal they achieved was driving competition out of business, and using book buying as the gateway to a user-friendly, one-stop source for all on-line consumer purchasing. Now Amazon dominates. Their business model of deep discounts and "free shipping" -- which was never really free, just marketed to customers that way and absorbed by Amazon -- keeps them on top. Now generations of online shoppers are conditioned to expect these perks. Small indie businesses cannot operate at a loss, or on a monopoly's margins.

Why do patrons select to support Stuart? How can he afford to offer in-print books that are readily available for less at other sites? 

SNB patrons buy books from Stuart for the unique benefits he provides.

When Stuart carries in-print books, it's so he can add a service for his customers. He can't match the steep discounts... but discounters can't match the value Stuart adds to the books. Patrons put a premium on what Stuart's relationships and access brings to their book buying experience. With in-print titles, Stuart is often able to provide signed copies. This is a personalized experience benefit massive websites can't match.

Stuart's patrons enjoy buying books that have passed through the hands of leading artists. Having that connection to the creative source that inspired a film or project they're interested in is priceless. And of course... mail-orders are packed to Stuart's exacting standards. 

Behind the scenes, Stuart works hard to coordinate signing opportunities via his relationships with artists and studio creative personnel. He and his team often travel with boxes of books to a studio. They co-host the signing with the artists and/or studio staff. Stuart goes the extra mile to make sure the artists know their time is appreciated. The artists enjoy knowing their autographed copies will go to fans and collectors who might not have another way to meet them.

Stuart's stock of signed, in-print books is constantly changing. Once in-print signed copies sell out, it's not possible to re-stock. Don't delay if you see a signed in-print title on the SNB website that meets your needs. It might not be there for long.


When this post was published in August 2016, these were active links for signed books -- in a range of price points --  currently in stock:

Art of Inside Out   $95

The Meanwhile Adventures... art by Brian Adjar .. signed with a drawing  $20

Little Golden Book, Disney's Princess and the Frog ... signed by Lorelay Bove $8

In August 2016, aritst Steph Laberis had recently signed Stuart's stock of her two just-released Little Golden Books.

Stuart provided a link on the website (featured here on the blog!) so customers could pre-order copies with two options... just a signature/inscription... or signed book with a color sketch. The prices for these pre-orders. $5 and $10.

Here are samples of the signed books with sketches that went out to some of these mail orders..

Steph signed the remaining copies of these two books .. so right now, all the copies at the store, and available for mail order, have her signature. More about Steph's career.. and more art images... in this July post:

She also signed copies of this Ronald Searle tribute book "Searle in America" ... joining the signatures of other contributing artists for this title.

Below is original pen and ink art of Steph Laberis ... her contribution featured in the book. 

Stuart carries many in-print Little Golden Books that feature artists working in the fields of illustration, animation and comic art. These are the artists Stuart's customers are following.

Little Golden Books have an easy price point for all levels of collectors. The subject matter is charming. They make fun gifts for all ages. These books in Stuart's stock are often signed by the artists.