Copyright Infringement

  • This is a very common occurrence with canine artists. That is, some manufacturer (usually based in China) swipes images from artist websites and manufactures products that they sell cheaply to distributors (cross-stitch patterns, charms, etc.).
    Distributors then wholesale cheaply to resellers based in the U.S. who list items on eBay, Facebook, etsy (Etsy’s market Is starting to look like eBay now for this reason—mass-produced cheap goods). I once found a cross-stitch pattern of one of my Christmas images being sold on eBay with my large copyright watermark EMBEDDED in the pattern and they disputed my ownership🤣

    I try to educate my customers when I see infringed use of my images and ask them to please not support sellers who are profiting from stolen art. One reason I avoid eBay and Facebook is because this is such a rampant practice and makes my blood boil when I see it. I happened to be on Facebook recently to monitor after-effects of hurricane Dorian on Ocracoke island 😢. One of the first things I see in my feed is a person selling bracelets with a charm created from an image I painted in 2003.

    The interesting thing about the bracelet seller’s charm image is that you can see my image underneath as a shadow in the 3rd charm and the background is actually my full-size watercolor image. I assumed the seller had copied my art and had it manufactured, so posted to Facebook that people may be unaware that this practice is a violation of copyright law and to please not support it. The seller was responsible enough to give me the name of the wholesaler she purchases charms from, but I doubt I will get the name of the manufacturer from them and pursuing international copyright violations is an exercise in futility.

    Question: is there any responsibility on the part of resellers once they are informed that the product they are reselling violates copyrights?

    When I posted to FB that I painted this image, another Bichon owner posted a pic of earrings with this charm she purchased at a craft show from a different seller and the bracelet seller said she has been buying these for at least 5 years. It’s probably best for my health that I do not know how many people are profiting from my image. Another woman posted that I needed to “show proof of papers” that I owned a “patent or license” 🙄 so ignorance abounds.

    Has anybody else experienced this with your images? I remember meeting a woman who designed flip-flop charms several years ago and she ultimately went out of business because of cheap foreign knock-offs of her designs.

  • Pro

    @BichonBistro Patty, I'm so sorry to hear that 😞 I've been lucky enough to not get anything stolen in 15 years of posting online (that I know of), but I'm really sorry to hear this is so common with canine artists. I can only imagine how my blood would boil if someone did that to me. Especially using your original watercolor background in the product images or including your embedded watermark in the final product is just... so disgusting it makes me sick to my stomach.

  • ugh, this is terrible. I have painted a lot of dogs. How would one find out or do you just randomly come across it? I don't watermark..............I will have to get on this asap

  • @NessIllustration I have wondered if some of your cute animals or food illustrations might have been infringed. One reason I prefer instagram to FB is because I haven’t seen it evolve into a selling platform for mass-produced copyright-infringed items...YET 🙄

  • @Coley I no longer watermark because they infringe regardless 😝 I find out by randomly coming across it (or work I recognize and report to another artist) or having a customer say “I didn’t see this on your website—did you authorize it”. It’s why I no longer sell on ebay and try to avoid FB...

  • Pro

    @BichonBistro Maybe that's why I haven't seen infringement - I don't have a Facebook page for my work and post exclusively on Instagram and Behance right now. In the past I've also posted on Deviantart and Tumblr. I haven't noticed anything stolen, so far so good... It's really sad that FB has become a nest for unscrupulous companies looking to rip off creators 😞

  • That must be a trip to come across something like that. That sucks! I know the artist Loish has had a lot of her artwork used without permission. It might be worth googling to see what she does in those situations.

    As for your question:

    Question: is there any responsibility on the part of resellers once they are informed that the product they are reselling violates copyrights?

    Maybe @davidhohn would know?

  • @BichonBistro UGH that must make you so angry.

    I haven't dealt with my artwork being stolen, but I once bought an iPad cover that used stolen artwork. I found the original artist a few months ago on Instagram and asked her if she released her art on tablet covers, and she responded that she hadn't, but she gets her art stolen all the time. It's really terrible. I felt bad about buying something with stolen art, but the artist was really nice about it. Anyway, now that I know who did the painting originally, I'll know who to support from here on out.

  • @NessIllustration pre-FB they were stealing from my website—this image is from 2003, so who knows how long it’s been ripped off. I licensed it to a U.S. company for a few years in 2004 so it was all over the internet on their products then (flags, mousepads 🤭 etc)

  • @TwiggyT that’s so nice of you to seek the artist out and support her directly 😊. I find it’s usually artist-to-artist who look out for each other and try to educate non-artists that stealing art (to display as their FB cover page as if it belings to them, to post in their messages without attribution, etc) is not ok. Some people honestly believe that if something is on the internet, it’s in the public domain. The manufacturers I am talking about are not ignorant; they just know they can get away with it.

  • @BichonBistro whenever I have my copyright infringed commercially (mostly photos being used on instagram or websites) I register the complaint through my agent then we hand it over to the lawyer and they do it on a no win no fee basis - they do all the copyright registration and sending out legal letters prior to a court case. If you're in America it's worth asking a few copyright lawyers to consider your case. My friend just got paid £27,000 for copyright infringement, his share was £16K. It takes time but is often quite fruitful. I've got 3 cases on the go - one case has taken just over a year.

  • @sigross wow, that is great you have lawyers willing to take on cases for that amount of money on a no win no fee basis! And that artists win!

    My brother is a lawyer (not a copyright lawyer) and when I asked him if I had any recourse to recover about $4000 that my 3rd party payment processor took from my customers via my website but never paid to me, he laughed. He said #1, the parent company is based in Iceland, so I would need a lawyer certified to practice Icelandic law and #2, damages would have to be in the hundred thousand and up range for any lawyer to consider taking it on.

    I know my brother was involved in a case where they wanted to recover funds from a guy in Thailand and they had to hire a Thai lawyer, but it was a case involving millions of dollars so they could afford it.

    Have the infringement cases your agent is pursuing on your behalf involved infringers from countries outside your own?

    I have a jaded opinion of legal channels in the U.S. based on a personal experience (not copyright law, property law) where the plaintiff won at the first trial with none of the legal shenanigans that are usually required to win a case (no discovery, no jury, just a simple “judgement on the pleadings” based on a judge’s review of property deeds and other documents). Plaintiffs were also awarded attorney’s fees (very rare in property law) but even a simple cut-and-dried case like that took 3 years and cost over $100,000, because defendants appeal. Wealthy defendants appeal until it’s impossible to appeal further, driving up the plaintiff costs and hoping that finally the plaintiffs simply can’t afford to continue and are forced to settle or drop the case.

    I can’t imagine the expense involved in trying to sue a manufacturer in China for copyright infringement. But I am curious if there would be any legitimate action against U.S. distributors & sellers who continue to sell infringed items after they are informed that the items are in violation of copyright law. Even if a cease & desist letter stops internet sales, though, there’s no practical way to monitor dog show sales, craft fairs, etc.

    Maybe if I had an agent or lived someplace other than the U.S., legal action might seem like more than a lot of money and hassle for very little payoff. My perception is that in the U.S., you have to be a big name, high visibility artist with potential for a hefty chunk of change in the lawyers pocket to be considered for copyright infringement cases taken on no win no fee.

    Anybody here from the U.S. who has prevailed in a copyright infringement suit?

  • @TessaW thanks! I went to her site and it sounds like she also has never taken legal action. Having my lawyer brother send a cease & desist letter probably won’t be effective since we have the same last name 😉but I have never tried a DMCA takedown notice as Loish has, which might work at the charm distributor level. I did notice on the DMCA takedown page that there is a reference to “assuming they're not in Rumania, China, or some other country where the locals don't fear U.S. copyright lawyers‘, which confirms what my brother says about taking any kind of action against foreign companies.

    I guess the bottom line is that life is literally too short for legal action in the U.S. 🙄 but publicly shaming infringers and trying to educate people who know and appreciate our work that it’s being used without permission (or financial benefit) is the most we can practically do (unless we are rich & famous😊).

  • SVS OG

    @BichonBistro i’m so sorry this happened to you. If there’s any consolation, their product looks like the an overweight dog with a bunch of stretch marks. 😂 your art is great and really cute tho. I just hate it when these things happened.

  • @BichonBistro I'm in the UK but the cases I have are being dealt with in the US - the case my friend won was in the US. My understanding is that the lawyers take on bulk cases of copyright infringement and put them all through copyright registration at the same time to save on money. Some cases are settled out of court. Lawyers take the costs off the top of the settlement and the rest is divided between agent and creator. And yes it does take years! Obviously I don't know the full workings of it. But if I get a payment every few years I'm happy for them to settle what cases they can globally. They'll only go after the cases where the payoff is bigger than the outlay. I'll ask my lawyer more about what the process is to gain a better understanding.

    Although I wouldn't bother with China, as they have no rule of law when it comes to stealing IP. But ebay and facebook are US companies so at the least a take down notice can be served to cut off their avenue of sales.

  • @BichonBistro personally I havnt, but one of my instructors at the SVA residency had his art stolen by disney. And he did win the lawsuit but disney dragged it out intentionally so that he would run out of money. It was a serious ordeal for him.

    Im sorry this happened to you it sounds so frustrating. I had no idea doggy pins were such a big thing!

  • @Aleksey Now that is some SERIOUS theft! I am so glad he prevailed against the odds and won—such a typical strategy for defendants with deep pockets 🤯

    Yes, doggie art theft is very common—people like it on “stuff” and crooks have figured out how to make money without spending money. Much of the royalty-free canine stuff is really bad, so they look elsewhere.

    Looking forward to seeing your piece at the Torpedo Factory show in Alexandria today 😊

  • @BichonBistro ohhh yay enjoy! Mine isn’t as great as some of the others damn. I saw some on their website and was totally blown away.

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