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Colorful Theft
April 19, 2008 2:45 PM   Subscribe

Illustrators up in arms. Darren De Lieto, owner of Little Chimp Society, recently received word that his work and the work of 93 other illustrators has been used without permission in a dubious 350-page book entitled Colorful Illustrations 93ºC, being sold online and in bookstores for $100. With the rise of copyright-shaky China and the revitialization of the Orphan Works Act, are artists rights becoming more precarious? (Via Drawn!)
posted by billypilgrim (30 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
(firstpostdon'tdevourme)
posted by billypilgrim at 2:46 PM on April 19, 2008


No, not really.
posted by the dief at 2:49 PM on April 19, 2008


The Orphan Works act sounds like a pretty good idea.
posted by delmoi at 2:57 PM on April 19, 2008


Six Misconceptions About Orphaned Works

The article linked does address the points in the Misconceptions post, but I'm not convinced it addresses them rigorously. It's definitely a thorny issue with many facets, but I don't think a panicked "You may lose all rights to everything you've ever created!" screed helps clear things up.
posted by lore at 3:23 PM on April 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Your comment about China reminds me that others have made some historic comparisons between the copyright situation today and the physical goods situation of the past -- see the Slashdot article on the pirates of Barbary as a metaphor for today.
posted by Leon-arto at 3:35 PM on April 19, 2008


For the record, I don't think the "you will lose all your rights" semi-hysteria is particularly accurate either, the link was more for the Brad Holland explanation and the multitude of other sources linked within.
posted by billypilgrim at 3:44 PM on April 19, 2008


So this book is full of 72dpi images grabbed off a website? How does that not look like utter crap?
posted by monkeymike at 3:53 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of the dinosaurs at the writers guild when they have a hissy fit over anything remotely web or technology related. I'm not saying it's identical, there may be issues here. I just couldn't get past the sky is falling routine.
posted by -t at 3:56 PM on April 19, 2008


I find it somewhat disingenuous that Di Lieto would take umbrage with the unauthorized distribution of his and others' work while, at the same time, maintaining a gallery showing every page of book in question. Wouldn't that put him in violation of copyright every bit as much as the Chinese publishing company?
posted by JohnFredra at 3:56 PM on April 19, 2008


The Orphan Works Act hasn't even passed yet! How could the Act even remotely be related to the obvious plagiarism in the first link? The result of the Orphan Works legislation would be access to knowledge and art in libraries and other public institutions when copyright owners cannot be found after MUCH much searching (one of the central requirements of the proposed legislation).

I really like what Megan Prelinger of the Prelinger Archives had to say about the issue (pdf):

History is at stake. The retroactive extension of copyright term on works copyrighted since 1963, and the loss of renewal requirement, means that American history since 1963 is under a lock and key that will impact young people hardest. When this author was in public school in the 1970s, teachers brought to class their magazine clippings and souvenirs from the World War II and Korean War eras, and the class was encouraged to copy, interpret, and re-enact the stories told in those souvenirs as a way of learning history. The climate of cloudiness and fear that currently surrounds copyrighted works has a prohibitive effect on that kind of learning. Repairing the regulation of orphan works would make a great impact on the availability of historical teaching materials.
[...]
Most works are abandoned by their rights holders after their copyrights expire. Before copyright renewal was made automatic, up to ninety percent of copyrighted works entered the public domain when they were not renewed. Resolving the problems posed by orphan works would re- open the public domain in a way that fully respects rights holders, yet enables the rediscovery and educational re-use of important historical materials and ensures that recent history is not lost.


See also: the actual report on Orphans Works from the Copyright Office, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Orphan Film Symposium, Public Knowledge.
posted by ethel at 4:18 PM on April 19, 2008


I find it somewhat disingenuous that Di Lieto would take umbrage with the unauthorized distribution of his and others' work while, at the same time, maintaining a gallery showing every page of book in question. Wouldn't that put him in violation of copyright every bit as much as the Chinese publishing company?

Not really. Since he's directly discussing the theft of the images, I think that's under fair use as well as serving to alert the true copyright holders of the images.
posted by Mcable at 4:28 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


JohnFredra, I was under the impression that the artists in the book were all members of Di Lieto's portal, and thus had already given him permission to publish the images in their original form. Wouldn't that by extension give him permission to publish the images of the book pages as well?

While I agree that the "pirate hysteria" is certainly going overboard in some instances these days, this is a baldfaced theft and a totally despicable way to make money off other people's creativity. And the efforts the publishers went through to hide the actual company responsible for the book shows pretty demonstrably that they knew very well what they were doing, and that they knew they were doing something wrong.
posted by gemmy at 4:30 PM on April 19, 2008


The rise of the internet and digital publishing has had a really tumultous relationship with artists' rights. Now that pretty much anyone can learn how to put something together in Photoshop (I only use Photoshop as an example because so many people think that's what us graphic designers work exclusively in, and I get a lot of ad submissions in various Photoshop formats), it has opened up the graphic arts field up to a lot of people who know nothing about the issues that designers are educated about.

I get so many requests at work to "find a picture you can use on the internet." Sometimes I'll even get a Google Image Search printout with a picture circled. And these are from people who are supposed to be trained in acceptable sourcing of artwork. Same goes for fonts. There have been times that I have had to call in a question on whether or not an agency has the rights to use an image that I have seen online before. Again, these are people that should know better. Add in a ton of new people that have no idea about this, and it becomes very hard to enforce the laws that protect the rights of artists.
posted by azpenguin at 4:37 PM on April 19, 2008 [6 favorites]


JohnFredra: I find it somewhat disingenuous that Di Lieto would take umbrage with the unauthorized distribution of his and others' work while, at the same time, maintaining a gallery showing every page of book in question. Wouldn't that put him in violation of copyright every bit as much as the Chinese publishing company?

Disingenuous, how? Presumably he has permission from the artists in question, all of whom know each other somewhat.

Even if that isn't the case, I don't see that "displaying images on a web page for free" is at all the same as "selling images in an expensive book".

And, :-D just to nail the point home, I don't think you mean disingenous: "lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity" but rather hypocritical.

Also, your font could do with an improvement, and your keyboard's dirty. :-D Sorry, sorry, but I was compelled to point out the inconsistencies....
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:44 PM on April 19, 2008


Mcable, gemmy -- Good points. I hadn't considered the Fair Use aspect, nor did I realize the connection of De Lieto to the artists in the book.

lupus_yonderboy: I was under the impression that copyright doesn't distinguish between the intent to profit and non-commercial distribution. Isn't that the RIAA's stance, anyways? Not that I disagree with your smell test assessment, but isn't all of this copyright mess a mess precisely because of that lack of distinction? And I looked up disingenuous before I used it: lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity; falsely or hypocritically ingenuous; insincere. But yeah, I should probably stick to nickel words and avoid the 50-cent ones. :)
posted by JohnFredra at 4:54 PM on April 19, 2008


Artists rights ≠ Copyright.

Most visual artists I know favor more lenient (or "precarious") copyright law. The Orphan Works Act would be a boon to many who use appropriation.

Although I invite the wrath of Henry Darger to the creator(s) of Illustrations 93:

All the Gold in the Gold Mines
All the Silver in the world
Nay, all the world,
Cannot buy these pictures from me.
Vengeance, thee terrible vengeance
On those who steals or destroys them.

posted by Izner Myletze at 4:59 PM on April 19, 2008


But to the original point: how to deal with this?

The idea is that while images belonging to large companies won't be stolen, the work of small businesses will be because they can't defend themselves.

So if you know me :-D you'll know I wouldn't have posted if I didn't have some good idea of how to do this, and here's how.

Here's how it would go, the first time at least. You have two people in suits come in to some reasonably-sized bookstore with three fairly strong people in overall. The two people in suits ask politely to see the manager while the men in overalls bring the books to the front and put them in a neat pile. The suits identify themselves as from the Artists Copyright Enforcement Group, and ask the store manager if they are aware that the store is carrying a book that's entirely filed with Copyright Violations from our Member Artists - "this book here" (they point to it).

As the manager is talking, the guys in overalls start very professionally destroying the books -- you'd want to have this really down and have specific tools, you want to be extremely neat, then pull out a garbage bag of just the right size, drop the pieces in, and quickly sweep the floor and make sure that there's no trace of your actions.

As the books are destroyed, the manager is being told that you've posted a bond for the value of the books plus 10 percent against the case where the manager proves that they DO have the right to sell these, which expires in 30 days. You hand them the certificate and leave.

It's not just that the video would be entertaining and dramatize your point: IANAL, but were you to actually go through due legal process with the specific store, proving you owned the copyright and that these people had no license, they would eventually destroy the books, not as some sort of punishment, but because these items are legally not allowed to exist (i.e., if they just found somewhere this cache of illegally printed books and had no idea who had done them, they'd also destroy them).

And it would establish a great precedent for this: you'd file for a destruction certificate by posting a bond equivalent to the price of the book, destroy the book, wait 30 days, collect the money, you're out only the interest. Once people knew who you were, if you had an organization and were nice about it, a lot of decent bookstores wouldn't make you post the bond.

You couldn't use this as a way to rip off the store, because they'd get a certificate from the publisher saying they had a right to sell it, and you'd lose your money, plus 10%.

(* -- I hear that's a popular choice these days.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:16 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Copyright infringement isn’t the same thing as theft. Presumably the original images are still with their rightful owners.

This has impacted me personally. I’ve found my video art on YouTube posted without my permission or knowledge (crappy quality, presumably lifted from a film festival print and encoded without care.)

If anything I felt flattered. Art isn’t always made to be some precious one of a kind thing. While I understand that many artists feel the right to make money off their work, I’ll be damned if some Artists Copyright Enforcement Group sends a takedown notice in my name. I find the idea of such a group creepy, and the idea that such a group would destroy books in the name of art ludicrous.
posted by Izner Myletze at 6:19 PM on April 19, 2008


dinosaurs at the writers guild when they have a hissy fit over anything remotely web or technology related.

Assuming you're talking about the WGAw (tv and film writers), there are so many things wrong with that statement I don't even know where to start.

But I'll try: I didn't know a union wanting its members to be compensated as writers for their work as writers constituted a "hissy fit."
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:19 PM on April 19, 2008


If anything I felt flattered.

Some people feel flattered when a stranger puts his hands on them in a bar. Others feel assaulted. I certainly don't want the "flattered" crowd in charge of making the laws about who can touch me.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:22 PM on April 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Pssst, drjimmy11... he's probably talking about The Author's Guild, not the WGA.
posted by headspace at 6:36 PM on April 19, 2008


Art isn’t always made to be some precious one of a kind thing. While I understand that many artists feel the right to make money off their work...

Illustrations (and reproduction specifically) are an illustrator's livelyhood. If you want to use my work, you either pay me for the reproduction rights or offer me enough exposure or perks that I'll let you do it for free (and most certainly not without my knowledge). There's a difference between fair use and outright copyright infringement.

As flattering as it may be for someone to like your posessions enough to come around, borrow your stuff without your knowledge, and make money off of it without giving you any kind of cut, I think I'll pass.
posted by billypilgrim at 6:36 PM on April 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


I get so many requests at work to "find a picture you can use on the internet." Sometimes I'll even get a Google Image Search printout with a picture circled. And these are from people who are supposed to be trained in acceptable sourcing of artwork. Same goes for fonts.

Fonts can't be copyrighted, so, I'm not sure what you mean.
posted by delmoi at 7:26 PM on April 19, 2008


Fonts can't be copyrighted, so, I'm not sure what you mean.

Font files are considered software and are covered by copyright, like any commercial software.

The lack of copyright you referred to (which is not true world-wide, btw) would allow you to draw a clone of another font.
posted by D.C. at 8:26 PM on April 19, 2008


It's typefaces that can't be copyrighted, not fonts (a typeface is the shape of the letters, the font is the computer-readable description of the letter shapes). I guess this is unique to the US.
posted by breath at 9:41 PM on April 19, 2008


drjimmy11, I indeed meant the The Author's Guild, and not just in reference to the Google situation. My apologies to anyone whose blood pressure rose because of my mistake. That was ridiculous of me to confuse the two.
posted by -t at 11:51 PM on April 19, 2008


lupus_yonderboy writes "So if you know me :-D you'll know I wouldn't have posted if I didn't have some good idea of how to do this, and here's how."

Sounds like a scene from Brazil. What sort of weird-ass, dystopian future are you from?
posted by krinklyfig at 11:56 AM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Others feel assaulted.

Artists who freely share work are pleased by strange barfly touches? Okay….let’s try again.

I can understand Darren De Lieto feeling assaulted by someone making money off his work. As I mentioned with Darger above.

However, equating strong copyright with artists' rights is not so simple. Many visual artists find current copyright law aggressively anti-art and live in fear when creating genuine work or displaying it in a theater, gallery or museum. The Orphaned Works bill (as pointed out by ethel) will aid the general public and artists who wish to appropriate.

your posessions enough to come around, borrow your stuff without your knowledge, and make money off of it without giving you any kind of cut

When you make art without a paywall, there’s nothing to borrow. It’s already on the curb for you to keep or use as you wish. Imagine that!
posted by Izner Myletze at 3:10 PM on April 20, 2008


Wait, so you're saying that visual artists "live in fear" as a defense for the main links clear copyright infringement on both illustrators works and text interviews on their websitye, and to back this point up you show a case of appropriation and two sound-cases? (Clearly I'm not following your reasoning here at all, care to humor me by fleshing it out?)
posted by dabitch at 3:59 AM on April 21, 2008


you're saying that visual artists "live in fear" as a defense for the main links clear copyright infringement on both illustrators works and text interviews on their websitye

I'm talking about the last sentence of the post, which raised the question:

With the rise of copyright-shaky China and the revitialization of the Orphan Works Act, are artists rights becoming more precarious?

to which I would respond, no.
posted by Izner Myletze at 8:18 AM on April 22, 2008


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