Some may think that copycats are isolated cases with minimal impact. Unfortunately, many artists and makers would prefer to ignore the mounting evidence that copycat thieves are taking their toll on our community at many levels.
In this particular example, after years of effort, artist Brad 'Tiki-shark' Parker * was thrilled to finally gain some recognition with a commission worth $250,000 for towels featuring one of Parker’s paintings, “Forbidden Island.” Then the buyer discovered that images of this exact painting were "already being reproduced on over 218 items by Internet retailer CafePress.com." As a result the commission was withdrawn and Parker lost the order.
This is a real example of copycat thieves in the AGE of the Internet. It is just too easy for copycats to take online images (which are intellectual property of the artist) and upload those images to sites such as Cafepress.com. Watch the video.
Brad Tiki-shark Parker says on his Facebook page, "BIG Things are happening this week... I'm headed to Oahu to see what's up with this on-going law suit against Cafe Press over the theft of my art work - in Federal Court."
Here is an update "Big Island artist goes head-to-head against CafePress."
How would this affect you or me?
If your work has a strong graphic quality, then images of YOUR WORK could be already printed on coffee mugs, t-shirts and telephone covers unknown to you.
CafePress.com and RedBubble are just two of many online sites that allow anyone with a "profile" to upload images with the express purpose of printing the image on consumer merchandise. Cafepress.com allows the account to "pick the money making option that's best for you, never any upfront costs" to sell merchandise. RedBubble, with a tag line of "A GLOBAL MARKETPLACE FOR INDEPENDENT ARTISTS," seems to have a range of strong graphic images.
Cafepress.com and RedBubble allow anyone to upload images, print the image on merchandise, and sell the merchandise for a share of the revenue. Without your knowledge, copycats can profit from your artwork!
I have heard of many similar examples to Brad Tiki-shark Parker where artists discover images of their art on unauthorized merchandise.
RedBubble and Cafepress.com are two of many internet sites with similar revenue models . Their entire revenue streams are based on anyone, and everyone uploading images for printing and selling consumer merchandise.
I tested both sites.
Cafepress.com requires the content provider to check a box which says: "I agree to use the CafePress.com service in accordance with the Terms of Service and Content Usage Policy" but you are never required to look at either document before uploading images."
The user is not required to read the policies.
The user is not required to review the information before uploading images.
Anyone could order items with the uploaded image printed on the items.
Just pay at the checkout and "earn" a share of the revenue.
Anyone could upload any image whether or not they own the image!
Cafepress.com does have a policy regarding Intellectual Property on their site. It is very hard to find. The policy that prohibits the sell of merchandise that infringes on intellectual property rights should be a hurdle in clear, plain English that must be checked specifically before images can be uploaded. It is not.
RedBubble.com did not have anything better. RedBubble is full of images that are obviously stolen.
Neither site gave me any warning about the illegality of uploading unauthorized images that were not my property.
RedBubble requires larger files to make good prints on their merchandise. At least the higher resolution makes it a bit less likely to copy an image large enough for printing on RedBubble....but not impossible.
At all these sites, the barrier is practically non-existent for unethical copycats to copy images of art or craft from the internet and print the images on consumer items.
People are making money by selling items with images that are not their property. This makes me mad!
What do you think?
CafePress.com is located in the San Francisco Bay area. Write to them. Ask them why they abdicate all responsibility for content on their site. They don't even ask people when they upload images:
CafePress should be held responsible when vendors sell items printed with images they copied from artists without permission.
1850 Gateway Drive, Suite 300
San Mateo, CA 94404
Phone: (650) 655-3000
Toll Free: (877) 809-1659
Fax: (650) 655-3008
Artist Tiki Shark’s lawsuit vs CafePress goes to federal court - a YouTube video from local Hawaiian television.
This is resonating in the craft community.
Thank you to Ruby Reusable for bringing the example of Brad 'Tiki-shark' Parker case to my attention.
*Brad Tiki-Shark Parker artwork can be found at his gallery Abbas Hassan Tiki Shark Art, Kona Hawaii www.tikishark.com