Friday, November 21, 2014

The Ever Greying Concept of Art Theft and The World of Putting Your Stuff on the Internet

"Spotted @dajanx art in a restaurant," posted a professional illustrator and professor who I follow (and follows me) on Twitter. 

He and I exchanged a couple of tweets and DM's. 

"It's a cutesy place, not a giant gross corporation (if that makes a difference to you). They had monkey stuff, art all over. Pretty harmless. I was checking to see if was on their bags and menus, etc. (They don't.) Just a little stand at the cash register."

I posted this on my Facebook page. A lot of people wanted me to bring the hammer down. 

Here's a lot of my different thoughts on this. I haven't made up my mind. I am thinking about what I want to do. 

It's something those of us who put our art on the internet know--someone will use it. I assume there is a giant book of art in China with my stuff in it--that happened to a bunch of illustrators. There are a couple of companies straight up stealing people's things and mass producing them. But that's not what this is.

I have had a couple of people email me and ask use this image--one was a father in England who wanted to put it on his son's birthday cake. (I said yes.) I know that it's hanging in an office at American Greetings. I had someone email to ask if they could use it as their screensaver. I highly expect these folks represent a small percentage of people who have used this image in someway I did not approve.

Here is a small business using my image right next to their cash register. It looks like it's been there for a long time (looking at the water damage on the bottom of the card). It has my name on it, so it is actually credited to me. It's not being used on their menus. They're not selling the image for profit. It is essentially a decoration. It's as if I sold them a print, which they did not pay for. A print that size would be about $20. So, yes. It's theft. (After you've purchased a print from me, you can hang it where you want. The folks from--the now defunct--Texas Sake Company had my "Sumo, Sushi, Soy" print that they bought from me at Comic Con hanging in their tasting room.)

When I think about courses of action, I could do what one guy suggested, call them up and chew them out. Or I could call and ask him to take it down. (Again. My name is on it. So anyone who was really interested could find me. I am the top CS Jennings in Google hits.) I'd first thought about contacting them to see if they wanted me to do some drawing for them, customized to their business, and pay me for it. What I am thinking about doing is asking if I can send him a new image. Put this guy up on my Redbubble site to be on t-shirts and stuff, and include that link on the new art. (In lieu of any action against him.)

It's a slippery slope. If this was not a place of business, it'd be less of a deal. As for myself, I have a whole book of people's pieces I love that I printed out on my professional quality printer and keep around for inspiration. I have screensavers of some of those images. Pinterest is a giant mess of copyright violation--and I am an active member--though I will place the illustrator's name on their images. (And have ended up buying books or art from some of those people I like.) With all of this, and what's important for all of us, is no one is making money off of my work without my getting a cut. Sadly, I expect someone somewhere is. I just don't know about it (yet).

My last thought about this, here's someone who likes my work. Here's someone who is essentially pimping me in the most trafficked spot in their business. The last thing I want to do is make an enemy where I have an advocate. (As a Justified fan, I love what one of the commenters said, "Yes, in the words of Boyd Crowder, 'Why make an enemy when you can make a friend?'")

With this situation, as with anything in my life, the question is "How can I turn this into a win?"

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