Friday, February 14, 2014

Art Thieves: Vienneau's Woes

One of my art teachers who taught me drawing for many years during my undergraduate days at UAF, Larry Vienneau, has been waging war on the internet, stomping out the brush fires left behind from people stealing his artwork. He recently started a blog - link here - specifically devoted to exposing and educating about this piracy. Particularly popular are his series of raven-themed imagery which are being stolen by a host of if not simply ignorant, then outright malicious people. An example of the latter would be these folks:

What better way to demonstrate fairness, solidarity and for being against exploitation than by ripping off other people’s creative work with no credit, no compensation, no permission and no respect. Hosting benefits, auctions, and fundraisers and soliciting donations off the back of stolen artwork isn’t a terribly effective manner to get support. Funny how we don't see them ripping off the artwork of, say, Marie Mason et al: presumably her works along with that of other prisoners are ironically off-limits according to their relativistic ethics.

Another case-in-point was the audacity of another individual for using Vienneau's imagery on their products, who apologized after getting caught and gave credit where due and posted links. Haven't taken anything down though, and still using it.

There are steps one can take, especially if it's your artwork that's been ripped off, and there are many resources available at Vienneau's blog and through other sites such as Plagiarism Today. Another handy resource is to have people on your side who can independently weigh in on the issue by leaving comments. For example I joined this group specifically to report the thievery.

Now here is an interesting and rare situation: on the one hand the person presumably spent hundreds of dollars to have the tattoo professionally done (many inkers being incredible artists and skilled craftsmen in their own right) – but none of which made it’s way back to the original creator - another one of Larry's ravens. On the other hand, one can’t really think of a higher compliment than to indelibly etch an image on one’s own canvas of skin. Never hurts to ask permission, though it’s easier to ask for forgiveness afterwards. Credit where credit's due - at the very least a backlink is in order (just maybe not on the tattoo).

Here's another example of Etsy artists getting ripped off: check out Lisa Congdon's experience with Cody Foster & Co.'s shameful conduct (and an equally damming photoset on Flickr). 

UPDATE: the fun never stops when the proverbial can of worms has been opened. Seems that after a bit of digging around turnabout is fair play, and Congdon herself may be a guilty party to the very same infringement she has charged Cody Foster with (who has since issued a lame response for their part).

Link to image gallery here

It's a worthwhile effort to try and stem the flow of intellectual property theft, especially when it's your own work,and you have an obvious vested interest in protecting yourself financial from such ripoffs. The Mighty Wombat has recently pointed out some of my work appearing on-line (posted by me) without any credit line or protection above & beyond the basics afforded by current copyrights. And along with Vienneau, he unfortunately also has plenty of cautionary experiences aplenty, and it behooves the contemporary creator to be aware of the issues involved (see "You Thought We Wouldn't Notice" for more information). Forewarned is forearmed!

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