My illustration of the Randy “The Macho Man” Savage was stolen by Freeze Central Mills Inc. and put onto sweatshirts for the holiday season. Freeze Central Mills Inc. is located in New York, I’m located in Toronto.
I sent a lawyer after them, I got to talk with them on the phone to negotiate all of this. I asked for $1500, which would have covered lawyer’s fees ($1000) and a very small sum ($500) for granting them back rights to publish the image.
They declined the offer, told me that I was in trouble with the WWE for even making the image, and then offered $350.
They sold 1440 sweatshirts at an average of $14. Their net profit, $20,160.
I’m asking for $1,500 and trying to be as discreet as possible.
I am furious.
Freeze Central Mills Inc. stole artwork from my portfolio, claimed I was infringing copyright, and then put it on “officially licensed” sweatshirts. Those items were then sold to online retailers.
I created artwork, put it in my portfolio to get work, and was ripped off by a manufacturer looking for free designs.
There’s no contract between me and the WWE. Also, I can’t imagine a situation where the WWE steals fan art and slaps it on merchandise to sell back to them. They’re a publicly traded company, not two thieves bent over a t-shirt machine.
I think Freeze Central Mills Inc. hurt the WWE by lying to creative contractors about their rights to the work and disincentivizing them to create art. It’s fearmongering, and not the right image.
I think it hurts the WWE when Freeze Central Mills Inc. sells apparel items stolen art on it. I think it hurts when there’s an official seal of approval that fools retailers into thinking that everything is above board, when in reality, there’s no agreement between me and the WWE. That we have never met.
I think Freeze Central Mills Inc. hurts retailers when they don’t notify them about these conflict goods. This problem started at the end of October and things are just happening now.
(I should note that 80’s Tees has been pretty great. They helped bring Freeze Central Mills Inc. to the bargaining table, discontinued the product and put my credits up to the item. That’s really big of them, and I really appreciate it. These weren’t easy decisions to make.
(And THAT was only made possible thanks to family, friends and fans that let them know about the problems with this product. So for that, I am really thankful, and humbled. Thank you, thank you, a milion times! thank you)
For Freeze Central Mills Inc., there’s not much I can do. The sum is too low to sue for, I’m in another country, and it’s basically impossible to enforce. They got away with it.
However, I CAN say that Freeze Central Mills Incorporated is a company that’s currently in a lawsuit from Adidas for copyright infringement. I can also say that they lost a lawsuit for copyright infringement against the estate of Bob Marley in February of this year.
And I CAN let artists know that they’re free to make what they want, and that they don’t have to be afraid of infringement claims by jerks like this. That fan communities deserve work made by fans, who care about this stuff and are passionate for it. Make your fan fiction, your fan art, your fan whatever-you-want. Make stuff for yourself, for other fans, have courage and have fun.
I love the comics community, I’m a fan of wrestling, I like loud music and I love the friends I’ve made through conventions. I respect and admire my fellow artists and writers, I love my editors and the publishers I’ve worked with, the retailers, the printers, the convention runners, the shippers, receivers and even the distributors. Hell, I’ll even give a kiss to the corporations that thrive off of this insanity. I love this whole damn business.
Every fan connected to this industry, even if we don’t see eye to eye on everyday issues, we’re still thrilled by this industry and love to help it grow and mature.
Nobody should have to work with thieves. It hurts fans everywhere.