The C Word Project.
Something that has been an issue since I started creating but has completely consumed me for the last 6 months. Copyright. While this negative side of the business has been oh-so consuming, I needed to shift my focus to trying to create something positive from it. Since then I have been brainstorming this awareness project. The C Word will be a continuing series on my blog, talking about creatives & copyright & consumers.
My first post today will be discussing the case that really took my experience with copyright infringement to the next level, tips for creatives who find themselves in similar situations & a note to consumers.
Last December my brother found a 2016 diary in Target Australia that had one of my artworks on the front of it. I have had to deal with quite a few similar cases of this in the past but for those who saw me 5 minutes after finding out.. you saw how much it hurt. Other’s that have had similar experiences most likely can relate to that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach – it fucking sucks. Not only that your work has been used somewhere without your permission or knowledge but made worse by feeling like you can't do anything about it.
I could have ranted online back in December when it happened (and trust me I have wanted to about 30 times since) but I really wanted to try and take the right steps moving forward with the matter. My first step is always to personally contact the company. In the past, I have approached a company with a similar matter and it was resolved quickly and with remorse for how it all happened. Unfortunately this wasn't the case this time and by the end of December I felt I really needed to have a Copyright Lawyer act on my behalf. The matter has been handled since January between lawyers. As of April it had finally been settled.
I know there are so many creatives that have their work used without permission and feel helpless. And I know that feeling all too well. There has been so many times this has happened in the past where I felt I couldn't do anything about it or I didn't have the savings in my bank account to have a lawyer act on my behalf. There are still some cases today that I put in the 'too hard' basket. Looking back I wish I had stood up for myself and my work a lot more than I have. I let companies tell me I didn't have a case and believed them, when I knew it was my work.
So I have a few things I would like to say to Creatives first;
- In Australia if you create something original, it is automatically covered by Australian Copyright Law
- If someone uses your original work without your permission this is an infringement of your Copyright
- My first place to go is the Arts Law website. It has Copyright Infringement Demand Letter Templates that you can use.
- Ask a copyright Lawyer for advice if you are unsure if the matter is being handled correctly.
- Weigh up what it is worth to you. As much as this can fucking suck, it also fucking sucks for the months after that you are still dealing with it. Think about how much energy and money can you put into this without feeling completely drained. A Legal Letter can start from $1000 AUD so keep this in mind also.
- Give 'em hell. Stand up for your work. As much as this is draining and a negative side of the business, think about what you are standing up for. You are standing up for the nights that you spend awake brainstorming, the tears you have had when you reach a goal, the relief you have when you send out that last order or finish that project you spent weeks pouring your heart into. These people that copy your work do none of that, they don't get to have the fun that is the process. They have no creativity and that is the reason we all do what we do. We live to create, so stand up for it.
- If you're designing, really watch how closely you're 'inspired' by a work. It is so easy these days to see something online and go 'I can do that' without seeing the process in which the original creator took to get there. Do the process, it is a lot more fun.
Lastly this is one for consumers (which is all of us)...
Yes that trendy item at an inexpensive price point may be tempting but we have to think at what cost is this to our creatives? These items have been made overseas & been designed by someone who only knows how to google image search. Do we have to have this item right now, or can we save a few weeks for the real thing? Do we love this item enough to by from the original artist? These are questions I now ask myself before purchasing.
If you think something looks like someone's work and doesn't credit them or say it's a collaboration with that person it is most likely a copy/rip off. There are so many times that consumers have been mislead into purchasing work that they thought was mine when I had no idea of its existence. If you do see work online that is someone else's or looks like another artists work, tag the original artist and call them out. Nearly every time I find out about my work being used or copied is from one of you or my family. These brands/people get away with it when we aren't looking out for one another.
I hope this series is useful for someone who maybe is going through the same thing and feels helpless. I wish I could say that now this case is closed I feel relieved, but before I could even publish this post I found another large Australian retailer allegedly using another artwork, on another mass produced product. So let's give 'em hell...
I will be continuing The C Word on the blog so if you would like to join in leave a comment below or send me an email. It's a topic I feel passionate about and would love to hear your opinions.