Saturday, May 28, 2016

Quick & Dirty Guide: Design Theft

design infringement
I don't know what's goin' on lately, but there has been a huge amount of design theft happening in Wichita and to Wichita Artists. Not that the occurrence of artists' works being stolen is new, just that I've been noticing it here. With the advent of the internet and high res scanning, anything that an artist uploads in order to gain admirers can now easily be stolen and printed on anything from coffee mugs to California King comforter sets.

So, let's take a look today at what to do to keep yourself and your art protected. The below information is useful if you are worried about your art being stolen or if it has been stolen and the offender is not making money off of your work. Get thee to a lawyer immediately if the offending party is making money from your work.

**DISCLAIMER***This advice is in no way meant to replace the assistance of a lawyer, or meant as any kind of legal advice. I am not a lawyer.

What to do right now if you're worried about your art being stolen:

Post a Notice/Disclaimer:
This has been around since the internet! Check out my own disclaimer at the bottom of my 'more info' link: it's pretty informal but gets the job done. It's a statement that all the content, images, and other things belong solely to their creators. In this case, it is me, and whom ever I've attributed images to.

Add Watermarks to Your Images: 
The easiest thing to do is add a watermark to pictures of your work. This site has a very simple privacy policy and is easy to follow. They're not custom watermarks, but hey. Baby steps. Keep the resolution of all the images you post of your work online as small as humanely possible. (Thieves don't generally want to steal art that looks shitty.)

Obtain a Creative Commons (CC) License:
The creative commons website has a handy little html snippet you can post into your disclaimer or anywhere else on your website.

Copyright:
Recently I was tipped off my an old boss of mine (hi Linda!) about copyrighting artistic works. If you go to the Electronic Copyright Office you can upload tiny versions of your work and pay $45-$55 for as many as you can fit at once. Check out the handydandy pdf they've provided for instructions. The website itself is a goldmine of information and I highly suggest you give it a look as you can pretty much copyright anything and everything using that system.


What to do right now if your art has been stolen:

Gather Information

Before you lawyer up, the first thing you want to do is determine who has stolen the art. This may be quite difficult if you've found that someone has stolen your design and is using a website like viraltee or rockmytee, as these websites are only responsible for printing items that have been ordered. The person who uploads the design is the actual person responsible. This is also true for places like Amazon, Ebay, and Etsy. 

Bookmark or keep record of all the places you have found your art. If you're worried about where else your art has ended up use the website TinEye to figure it out.
Read the terms and conditions of each site thoroughly, note that in the terms and conditions of reprinters and online markets they explicitly state that they are not responsible for copyright infringement. You'll need to locate their Copyright Dispute Policy and follow their procedure for removing your art from their site. If for some reason you're having a rough time finding their copyright policy (maybe because they've hidden it, assholes) search 'DMCA' and the name of the site on Google to find it.

If the website you've found your design on is NOT a reprinting company and you CANNOT locate an e-mail address for the owner of the website:
Go to the WHOIS ICAN website and type in the address(es) of the websites you've found your work on. This will give you information on who is hosting the domain. For example, my domain is hosted through Google Domains so their abuse email address comes up as a means of contact.

Contact the ISP - Issuing a DMCA Take Down Notice

Now that you have an e-mail address of this person or what entity is hosting the domain, send them a nice e-mail letting them know that you've found your art on a website they're associated with. Provide them with the links to the offending material and request that they remove it. You can do this yourself by issuing a DMCA take down notice, which should go something like this:

Subject: DMCA TAKE DOWN NOTICE


To Whom It May Concern,
My name is _____(NAME)____and I have found my copyrighted work on the website _(LINK)_ that you own/are providing hosting services for. The images/materials here: _(LINK, LINK, LINK)_are being used without my permission and you are hereby informed that any usage of these images/materials is prohibited under the provisions of Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA").

I have attached watermarked copies of the original work which may also be found at my personal websites__(WEBSITE,FACEBOOK,INSTAGRAM)__ in order to assist with the removal process.

Effective immediately all usage of the items mentioned above shall be removed and measures taken to prevent further infringement in the future. As a service provider you are required to remove and/or disable access to the materials cited upon receiving this notice.

Please use this email as my electronic signature and as my testament to the above being true in good faith under penalty of perjury.

Thank you so much,
_____name___, __date__
____address__
____phone__

____email__ 


If you are uncomfortable sending the above, you can have a company do this for you, but it will cost you money. Also note, that even if you or a company sends a DMCA Take Down notice to the host that the person responsible may file a counter claim stating that they believe you are incorrect. Once that happens, all you can do is lawyer up!

I hope that the above is helpful for you! One of the shittiest things I've seen is my friends being taken advantage of by assholes trying to make a dime. Unfortunately, there's not usually much more that an artist can do EXCEPT NAME AND SHAME FROM THE ROOF TOPS! 

Check out some cases of design and likeness theft:
Patricia Day's Likeness stolen by Mattel and HardRockCafe
Etsy Design Stolen by Target
Forever 21 Steals Designs and Gets Away With It

Let me know if the comments if you have any questions and I'll try to answer them as best as I can, or check out some of the most interesting stories about design and likeness theft on Reddit.

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