About 9gag, sexism and my art
A few days has passed since I hurriedly made my last post. I still feel the urge to write
a bloody essay a few lines about what happened to one of my comics and elaborating how I feel about that.
For you who don’t know what happened…
I made a comic a while back. It was intended to hilariously expose how problematic some self-proclaimed allies to LGBTQA+ people can to be. Oh, look, here it is:
It was liked and reblogged by many people on tumblr, which made me very happy! Apparently, queer awareness just wasn’t a 9gag user’s cup of tea when they stumbled upon my comic. This is the version which was uploaded on their site:
…let’s do our best to just ignore how the image quality looks like it has passed through 7 levels of JPEG hell and instead focus on the deeply problematic aspects of this edit…?
poor unfortunate soul 9gag user who made/uploaded this just couldn’t relate to queer people, and thought the topic of LGBTQA+ oppression was just too boring to have a place on their favorite site. But! They saw great 9gaggy potential in the comic’s art, airbrushing away all the text in the speech bubbles, using my work for misogynic purposes!
This bothers me. This bothers me very, very much. Because this is blatant art theft. Because someone made a comic about something very important a huge mess. Because the original comic has 29,365 notes on tumblr while the 9gag one, well…
And then there was some unspeakable sexism, racism and general stupidity in the comment’s section which bothers me so much I can’t even deal.
The edited version of my comic is being used to ridicule girls in the gamer’s community, girls who already have to put up with a lot of patronizing bullshit for liking what they like. If you have a strong urge to be an obnoxious gamer elitist, stop aiming your elitism at girls only. I know plenty of boys who “only” play cell phone games, but I don’t hear anyone complaining about them.
It bothers me that people think this is funny. Thousands of people have seen the edit which stands for something I can’t possibly stand for myself. It makes me sick to my stomach that my work is being used for sexist purposes.
Thank you to all of you who have reported this mess. I have the loveliest, kindest followers. I hope 9gag will take the edit down.
And perhaps replace it with this…
DON'T JOIN SHOPAXEOr “How I Learned To Keep Worrying and Love Reading Fine Print”
This morning I received a very pleasant, complimentary note from a group on deviantART supporting a site called SHOPAXE, which is supposed to be something like deviantART but more professional. I was asked if I would be interested in joining their site, most particularly posting my portfolio there to help bolster numbers while they get off the ground. I’m always up for helping new sites get their running shoes on (I do web design partially for this exact reason) so I checked it out.
The first thing I noticed was how disorganized the front page seems to be, followed by the running ticker of things people have recently bought. So this is a commercial based site rather than a community based one, that’s fine. I read through their information, and found no mention of intellectual rights, commercial usage, etc, so I went looking for their Terms of Service. Like most sites, it’s at the veeeery bottom of the page, in the tiny tiny links along the footer.
Overall the terms seemed fairly normal (you must own copyright to everything you post, no theft or plagiarism, etc) until I got to the clause titled “Use of Information and Member Content.” This is what I was looking for.
And this, folks, is why I ALWAYS read the fine print.
I’m going to break this down.
All remarks, suggestions, ideas, graphics, Member Content, or other information communicated by you to us (collectively, “Submission”) is considered assigned to us and is as such considered our property.
If you upload something to SHOPAXE, they own it.
But wait, you say, doesn’t deviantART have a similar clause, for use in advertising, Daily Deviation selection, etc? Yes, yes they do. What deviantART’s terms lack, however, is the following.
To the extent that such Submission contains copyrighted, either owned by you or licensed to you, you grant Shopaxe a perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, world-wide license to use such Submission as we see fit, in any form whether on our Website or elsewhere. We will not be required to treat any Submission as confidential, and will not be liable for any ideas (including without limitation, product, service or advertising ideas) and will not incur any liability as a result of any similarities that may appear in our Service or other operations.
If you submit something to SHOPAXE, not only do they have the right to use the image however they want, but they can also copy the concept if they like it, and there is nothing you can do about it. That logo you created for a local company? It’s pretty cool, and they want to make something identical for their own use. Because of this clause, they are allowed. There is nothing you can do.
Without limitation, we will have exclusive ownership of all present and future existing rights to the Submission of every kind and nature everywhere. We will be entitled to use the Submission for any commercial or other purpose whatsoever, without compensation to you or any other person sending the Submission. You acknowledge that you are responsible for whatever material you submit, and you, not us, have full responsibility for the message, including its legality, reliability, appropriateness, originality, and copyright.
They can use your work, sell your work, do whatever they want with your work, and they neither have to compensate nor notify you that they’re doing it. Furthermore, you’re the one who maintains the legal responsibility of the piece, meaning if they put something into print that contains copyrighted material (eg: fanart, commercial fonts, etc) and get sued for it, the artist is the one responsible for handling the suit. The artist, who might not even know that their piece has been used commercially, will be the one to go to court over it.
This is why it’s so important to always, ALWAYS read the ToS on a new creative works site you’re joining.
This is a message from one of my favorite artists, Loish:
so, as some of you may know, my artwork has been illegally printed on a sweater and is being sold in numerous webshops in korea. one of them already removed the item; as of now, i only know of two, but there could be more.
a link is here:[link]
please don’t tell me how cute or funny you think this sweater is because hearing that really just makes me feel worse.
 apparently it’s worse than i thought, they are also selling this clothing item with two more drawings of mine printed on them: [link] [/edit]
i am truly exhausted and depressed by all of this. i’ve literally been in tears. i am at a loss for what to do. the fact that this is happening in korea complicates things enormously because a) it’s really far away, b) they have different laws and c) there’s a language barrier. this eliminates all cheap and easy solutions for me, because besides having to find a laywer in holland that can help me out, i’ll also need to hire a korean lawyer. i’m not exactly swimming in money so i have no idea how i will be able to afford this.
i’m going to see what my options are but i’m feeling extremely discouraged and just sad. i don’t know how to defend my rights to this artwork, all i can do is sit here and let these assholes abuse my work and make money off of my efforts.
anyway, i wrote this journal for two reasons: to let you guys know, maybe you guys can help spread the word. maybe there’s someone out there who’s been through the same thing, or has connections with a korean lawyer. chances are slim but you never know, right?
secondly, to ask if anyone out there speaks korean and can help me figure out what brand this sweater is? since the sweater is being sold in different shops, the webshops are not the ones who made it. i need to find out which company has fabricated these sweaters. it could save me a lot of money if i decide to take legal action, because then i won’t have to hire a lawyer to figure this out for me. so if anyone who speaks korean, or knows someone who speaks korean, could pretend to be a potential buyer of the sweater and inquire as to which brand it is, and ask for the contact information of this brand? any contact information at all would help enormously.
anyway, i wish i could do more and stand up against this kind of stuff. sitting here and taking it sends out the wrong message to all art thieves, telling them they can just get away with stealing our hard work. i feel a responsibility to send out the right message, but i don’t know how at this moment.
thanks all for reading.
PSA on stolen Pixiv fanart
Hey guys, you know this picture?
It has been floating around the internet, especially Tumblr, for months without any credit tied to it whatsoever. Because it is so nice that it practically looks official, lots of people are treating it like official art—and therefore fair game. I realized how far this is going when I saw this pop up for sale in the Sailor Moon tag.
This is actually by Pixiv artist Nardack. They drew this. And because reverse Google images searches rarely work for Pixiv, it is nearly impossible to trace back to the artist unless you know how to track them down.
Please, if you must post someone else’s artwork, post it with the source. The more art like this gets reposted without a link, the easier it is for people like the above poster to shrug and say “well I don’t know where it came from, but I see it all over the place so it’s not so bad if I use it too.” As fans, we should be supporting and protecting the people who contribute to our fandom, especially those who cannot do so themselves due to language barriers.
What To Do If Your Art Is Stolen
By “stolen”, I mean someone took your creative work and used it without your permission, probably without credit to you, and maybe even for profit. Here’s how to fix it.
This is based on personal experience. My art was stolen and used for profit— entered in design competitions online— but everyone helped me, and so the issue was resolved in less than a week.
Thank you, first and foremost, to my family and to Atty. Ronald Ventura at Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & De los Angeles law firm. Thank you especially to Mama and her partner (Ginggay Hontiveros and Gabriel Malvar) for their overwhelming support in spite of their busy schedules— they are doing very important creative work to help the Philippines! Thank you to Graniph, DesignByHumans, Springleap, and all the other design competition websites involved, for recognizing me as the original artist and acting accordingly. Thank you to caring friends and kind strangers who spread the word and supported my art.
Yesterday, Lendl Dale Romero sent a formal written apology in response to my lawyer’s demand letter. I consider my issue with him to be resolved. I can forgive him without condoning his actions. I believe he has realized his mistake and is sincerely sorry. I recognize that we are all human and we all make mistakes, and we all deserve the chance to make up for it. Copyright violation is not a heinous crime.
My hope was for this issue to contribute something of value to the creative industry as a whole, and to inspire dialogue on copyright law in relation to creative culture. Therefore, I transformed this blog entry from accusations to instructions, using my story as an example. I removed most of the screenshots of my art being stolen, except for a few to illustrate my story. Please feel free to share this blog post, especially if you are an educator in the creative industry. Scroll to the bottom of this post for the Creative Commons license.
Dear fellow creatives, I hope this helps you. :)
Make art not war,
Filipino artist, Metro Manila, Philippines
June 9, 2012
1. Educate yourself.
Study the applicable copyright laws so that you know your rights and responsibilities.
Fellow Filipino artists, you can find the complete text of Philippine copyright law on the Chan Robles Virtual Law Library, and a complete outline on the IPRotect of the OVF law firm. Thoroughly read the part regarding Limitations On Copyright, which includes rules for “fair use”.
Also check out Berne, the international agreement governing copyright, applicable in over a hundred countries including ours.
A few key points on copyright law:
- Copyright literally means “the right to make copies (of a creative work)”, but actually includes many other rights such as the right to be credited as the creator, the right to make money from the work, and the right to create derivative works.
- You automatically own all the copyrights to your work from the moment of creation. Even if you don’t place a copyright notice on it. You own these copyrights until you sell, lease, or give them away to the public, person, or institution of your choosing.
- Copyright law does not protect any idea, only the execution of an idea. So you can’t copyright the style or subject of a drawing, only the drawing itself.
- Some unauthorized uses may be considered “fair use”, meaning it was used for personal use, education, satire, or critique, and it wasn’t used for profit or in a way that would harm the commercial value of the original work.
For an in-depth, easy to read explanation of copyright law in relation to creative culture, I highly recommend the book Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig. You can legally read the entire book for free online. The book explains that sharing and remixing are essential in creative culture, but artists should definitely be given fair reward and credit for their work. Current copyright law should be updated to reflect this. Atty. Lessig is a major proponent of Creative Commons, a movement that gives artists the legal tools to strike a fair balance between sharing and protecting creative work.
2. Document the evidence.
Take screenshots of the webpages showing your stolen work. Note the webpage URL, the date that the webpage was published, and the date that you took the screenshot.
Do a side-by-side comparison with your original artwork. Note the webpage URL where you posted your original artwork, and the date that you posted it online.
Do an extensive search because there may be more than one instance— as I discovered in my case. Reverse image search is your friend!
Here is an excerpt from the evidence I documented in my case:
Screenshot (taken June 4, 2012) of a t-shirt design that won at Graniph Design Award 2012:
Original artwork from 2007 on my deviantart gallery:
Screenshot (taken June 5, 2012) of a t-shirt being sold online at C28.com since June 2011:
Original artwork from my 2010 exhibit:
Screenshot (taken June 6, 2012) of a t-shirt design submitted to 9fountains.com:
Original artwork from my 2010 exhibit:
The side-by-side comparisons should be clear and compelling.
3. Assess the damage.
- Which copyrights were violated?
Use your knowledge of applicable copyright laws.
- How many times?
Quantify the evidence you’ve gathered.
- Who is responsible?
Someone famous or unknown? A big or small company? If this is someone very famous, or if it’s a very big company, they have greater responsibility. Here’s another article on design theft with a practical discussion of this.
- Did it seem intentional and malicious?
If someone did it more than once, it probably wasn’t accidental.
- Was it done for profit, and did you receive credit?
You should probably be most concerned about people making money off of your work, or claiming your work as their own.
- Can any instances be considered “fair use”?
Remain objective enough to ensure that “stolen” is right word to describe your situation.
In my case, I found a total of seventeen instances of economic (rights to reproduction and public display) and moral (rights to attribution and alteration) copyright violations using five of my works. All violations were done by the same person, a Filipino individual claiming to be a graphic designer. As far as I know, he is not someone famous. In fifteen of those instances, the works were used in t-shirt design competition submissions. Two instances were successfully used to gain profit. This was all done without my permission and without credit to me. Due to the number of violations, and the fact that my signatures had to be digitally erased from my drawings to be used in those submissions, I can consider the actions to be intentional and malicious. Clearly, none of these instances qualify as “fair use”.
4. Define your ideal outcome.
What would you like to happen? Obviously, you will want them to stop stealing your art. Here are some other things you might want:
- A sincere apology, perhaps in formal writing or in public.
- Acknowledgement that you are the original artist.
- Financial reparation or share of profits made off of your work.
- Some proof or promise not to do it again, perhaps in formal writing or in public.
A good question to ask yourself is: What outcome would benefit everyone involved?
Or: What would a happy ending look like?
Your ideal outcome should be both fair and practical.
At this point, you may want to get a lawyer to help figure out your options. If profits were made off your work, I think you should seriously consider hiring a lawyer, especially if financial damages exceed PHP 100,000 (around USD 2,500).
In my case, I wanted to be acknowledged as the original artist, and I wanted the offending submissions to be removed from the design competition websites. I also wanted Lendl Dale Romero to acknowledge and understand what he was doing wrong. I was lucky to be able to have Atty. Ronald Ventura of Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & De los Angeles law firm advise and represent me in my case. I was advised to ask for a formal apology in writing, to serve as a legal record of this incident.
5. Determine your options.
Even if you are the aggrieved party, you should still act responsibly. Of course you’re angry and frustrated, but you can express these feelings without violence and unnecessary aggression. Retain perspective, stick to the facts, and remember that copyright violation is not a heinous crime. Your actions should be both firm and humane.
Depending on your ideal outcome, and the gravity of the damages, you may choose to do one or more of the following things:
- Communicate with the offending party, showing them evidence of their copyright violations, and listing your demands.
- Communicate with others involved, showing them evidence of the copyright violations, and enlisting their support.
- Publicly expose the actions of the offending party, using the documented evidence.
- File a lawsuit. This is a very powerful but time-consuming and stressful option, so use it as a last resort if the situation truly calls for it.
In my case, I was alarmed (okay, infuriated) by the fact that he won a design contest using my artwork. I decided to publicly post my story on my blog, to be acknowledged as the original artist and to warn others of the incident. I soon discovered more instances where he stole my work, which strengthened my conviction that his actions were intentional. Apparently, he had been doing this for about a year now, so I wanted people to know about it.
Of course, I also emailed the design competition websites where he submitted his work (Graniph, Springleap, DesignByHumans, Threadless, CanvasThreads or C28, 9Fountains), presenting my evidence, requesting for the works to be taken down, and recommending that he be banned from future contests. I used strong but civil wording (“Copyright Infringement Notice: Immediate Action Requested”) in my emails to them, but made sure to express my appreciation once they responded with support for me. Here’s a sample letter. I don’t blame these websites for the incident, and I recognize that they have done a lot to contribute to the design community. I would like to acknowledge Graniph (thank you Dave), DesignByHumans (thank you Craig), and Springleap (thank you Eran) for being the swiftest, most professional, and most supportive in the manner they handled my case.
We sent Lendl Dale Romero a formal demand letter, which he was required to receive in person at the law firm’s office. In response, he sent the formal written apology that I asked for. I considered the issue resolved at that point. I feel very fortunate that he was willing to make amends— it is probably uncommon in situations like this.
6. Find closure and move on.
Once you reach your ideal outcome, be thankful of everything you’ve learned from the experience (hopefully, you will feel super grateful for the amount of support you get from family, friends, and even strangers) and move on.
For me, moving on meant changing this blog entry into an instructional article so that other artists can learn from my experience. I consider myself exceptionally fortunate for having been able to find the happy ending in my story after less than a week! :)
Here is my message to Lendl Dale Romero:
Thank you for following my lawyer’s instructions and for the formal apology in writing. I hope that what you did wrong— and how you can redeem yourself— is clear to you now. A couple of my friends (thanks, Avid and Jon) suggested that you can donate the profits to a charity of my choice (if ever, that would be PAWS or any eco-friendly cause). You may also post your own blog entry about this experience if you like, and in your blog post you could even include a resource list of public domain or Creative Commons resources of stock images that artists can freely and legally appropriate for creative remixing. You could publish a statement that encourages artists (of all ages and stages) to be original, or at least fair, and to do proper research on copyright law, and especially to fulfill the moral rights (attribution) to their fellow artists.
—- —- —-
For the record, I still believe that when it comes to sharing my art online, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
I am not afraid to post my artwork on the Internet, and I am not afraid of technologies which allow people to easily remix, copy, and share creative works. These technologies helped me build my art reputation online, and it was my reputation that helped me prove I am the original creator of the stolen artworks.
I am happy to share my images online without much of a watermark, in spite of (rare and easily remedied) incidents such as this, because I am happy to let people enjoy a good view of my artwork. I am happy to share my music online, with free downloads, because I am happy that people enjoy my singing and songwriting. This will not change. I refuse to let one person’s actions steal the joy I find in making and sharing my creative work.
“I am not a precious sparkly unicorn who is obsessed with the purity of his characters — rather, I am a glittery and avaricious dragon who is jealous of his steaming pile of gold. If you do not steal the dragon’s gold, the dragon will leave you alone. Offer to bring the dragon more gold and the dragon will be your friend.”
— Author Charlie Stross wrote this, regarding fanfiction, and I feel the same about my artwork. I’m fine with people using my work, as long as it’s for non-commercial non-evil purposes and they credit me. (My personal favourite is when people tattoo my artwork on their own skin— what an honor! They even send me photos, which I really appreciate.)
Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me and my art— please continue enjoying my work!
—- —- —-
If you are an educator in the creative field, I hope you will share this with your students. I am using the Creative Commons License below, for my writings and images of my works in this blog post, to grant explicit permission to anyone to use this blog post for educational purposes:
This work created by Feanne is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Thanks so much to everyone who helped spread the word about China Glaze’s apparent blunder with the “Wicked” label.
I have received a formal apology from the company, and a call from their head who apologized personally and offered me compensation and a job. That was super nice. They’re now going after the “artist” they hired who ripped me off, and I hope they tear him apart.
They did make it clear that what happened was completely unethical and against their beliefs, and that they are very sorry it happened. I feel like it’s only right to clear their name because they did the right thing by apologizing to me.
So thank you to everyone who wrote them e-mails and who posted about it, and spread the word, and opened their eyes to what was really going on. And thank you China Glaze for reaching out to me.
Okay, let's be honest, art thefts piss everyone off.
Apparently it’s okay to take someone’s drawing and go like, Nah, let’s put it on a shirt *miserably* and sell it, that’s a good idea isn’t it? HELL FUCK NO Do they bothered to get my permission? oh, no. but whatsoever, what a good idea it is to earn money without a single fucking effort. Well if someone ever will buy something like that because that drawing clearly wasn’t for tshirts and just not made for it. agh fuck. people./
is there a way to put it down because I can’t figure it out??? I don’t understand those specific words and for some reason this email or whatever this is doesn’t work properly with me.
ho ho it seems to be taken down already!:3