I have been dealing with a lot of copyright infringement over the past few years and it has been no fun at all. I have seen unauthorized copies of my work all over the place including on Amazon, Etsy, clip art sites, T-shirt vendors like Sunfrog and Teespring… and so far I have been successful in getting these images taken down fairly quickly.
A few months ago, a friend noticed this kid’s shirt at kohls.com
The boston terrier images on the t-shirt are badly traced copies of my Boogie Doggie Language drawings. Small details like eyes and ears have been changed, bow ties and glasses have been added, and most of the images are flipped. (Examples below have been re-flipped to clarify the similarities)
According to my attorney, the legal team at Iconix (the parent company of Mudd) does not believe there is any copyright infringement. They are refusing to take any action or compensate me in any way without a lawsuit. If I want them to stop selling this t-shirt or to get any money back from their sales, I have to sue them.
Litigation may not be a big deal to a large company like Iconix/Mudd; but it would be ridiculously expensive for a solo artist like me. Costs could go up to $60K if the case goes all the way to trial.
I cannot claim statutory damages ($150K per infringing item) because my copyright registration was not completed within 3 months of when Doggie Language was first published.
If I win the case, I will recoup revenue from Mudd’s sales and my attorney fees, but this may not be enough to cover all the other thousands of dollars worth of court fees including expert witness fees. I basically have to pay out of pocket if I want to sue.
I already had in mind a crowdfunding campaign for my Dogs of The World book project later this year or next year, and if I were to request donations now to cover legal fees, I feel that I would be overimposing on people by asking for money twice and I don’t feel good about this. I would rather that people donate to my creative projects than fight this stupid expensive battle to prove that the copied images are mine.
Also - I worry about not raising enough money or not achieving the resolution that all my contributors are hoping for. Taking money from other people = extra pressure.
I have not yet decided what I am going to do; these are just some of the concerns I have right now.
For now, this is HOW YOU CAN HELP:
1. Please SHARE this information. Tell people about this bootleg t-shirt at Kohl’s and Mudd’s response, and spread awareness about the larger issue of fashion retailers stealing and profiting from indie artists and getting away with it. Use Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.
3. Buy directly from artists if you can. I am going to be making a similar Boston Terrier shirt available soon, for anyone who is interested.
4. If you are purchasing artwork online (like stock images, clip art etc), check the source carefully. I have seen copies of my artwork on sites like istockphoto and freepik and had to have them taken down. If you are a vendor/designer who buys stock imagery from these sites, be aware that ANYONE can upload images to these licensing agencies/libraries and lie that the work is theirs. (yes, it sucks)
IF YOU ARE AN ARTIST or DESIGNER:
1. Learn from my mistakes. When you create new artwork, register your copyright within 90 days of publication. You can do this online.
I did not know about the 90-day registration window and I don’t think many people do. If you registered within the 90 day period, and if your copyrights are violated, you can collect statutory damages in court ($150K per item) regardless of whether the infringing party made any money from your work. If your copyright registration is too late (as mine was for Doggie Language), you can only recover their profits & your attorney’s fees - and this may or may not be enough to cover all other expensive court fees. If the infringing party can prove that they made no money from sales, then the artist gets nothing.
2. When you look to other artists’ works for inspiration (as we all do and this is normal), make sure that what you create is not a recognizable copy of what you are looking at. Tracing someone else’s work, changing colors or a few details here and there, or flipping the image 180 degrees is STILL plagiarism and copyright infringement. Another example is taking the “head” from someone’s drawing of a dog, and sticking it on a different body - this is STILL copyright infringement.
I want to say thank you again to everyone who is supporting me. There are times I find myself feeling depressed, insignificant, and powerless, and your passionate support really helps! Thank you for standing by me!
Also thank you to:
- Robynne Raye for her help and advice. Details about Robynne’s/Modern Dog’s copyright infringement case against Target and Disney HERE and HERE. They won!
THANK YOU TO EVERYONE for the signatures, reposts and retweets! There is power and justice with social media group effort: Kohl’s has removed the shirt from their website!!! We have yet to check if the shirt has been removed from physical stores. No response from Mudd/Iconix, but this is a big step!
Kohl’s now claims the shirt design is not infringement (their “design team” created it) and they are going to continue selling the shirt.
It appears that another item in the Kohl’s catalog has an unauthorized copy of my Boogie design on it. Sonoma is a Kohl’s in-house brand. These socks are selling in their stores and on their website.
This boston terrier is lifted from the SAME “Doggie Language” poster probably by their same in-house “designer”. And they are still denying copyright infringement and are refusing to stop selling these products!
In case you haven’t heard, CM recently released an episode of Cesar911 in which he knowingly let a Boston Terrier who had a habit of killing pigs loose with three animals and then goaded him into attacking them. That’s animal abuse, straight up. It’s getting massive attention and CM might actually get canceled. The original video is set to private now, but here’s a reproduction and a breakdown. This video contains animal abuse and injury. Watch at your own discretion.
This is the petition to get Nat Geo to take CM off the air and cancel his show. And it’s getting massive attention. As I’m posting it, it’s at 8.7k signatures and it got 2.5k just in the first 24 hours it was online.
Sign it and share it - share the actual petition on facebook. We could actually get the abusive asshole canceled. I’ve been waiting to post about it because I didn’t want to spread false hope in case it flamed out, but this is for real. Everyone is finally calling CM out on his abusive, incorrect ways.
Here’s the Examiner article on it. And the Dodo Article
Psychology Today hit the nail on the head: “
Certainly the best learning outcome would be for National Geographic to take a stand for dogs, pigs, and other animals and remove Cesar Millan from the air until he reforms his act.”