Graphic Design & Copyright Infringement

Update: Since writing this post, I’ve heard back from the companies in question and have provided updates throughout my post explaining what has happened at each step. I would like to state that I am in no way a lawyer or legal expert. I am simply a self-employed graphic designer and wanted to share my experiences and what I have personally done to remedy this situation.

Hey Everybody, it’s been a long time since I have posted anything new to my blog. I have been taking the time to work on my graphic designs which I have for sale in my Zazzle store. Which you may remember me mentioning in this post a few years back. Yesterday I came across a sponsored Facebook post that featured a crochet themed t-shirt. To my surprise, I found myself looking at my own design on a shirt that someone else was selling. Needless to say, I never gave my permission to this individual, or anyone else, to use this artwork as their own – especially not for their own personal gain.

This is a new experience for me and I wanted to write about what I’ve done so far to handle this situation. I hope that it may help someone else in a similar situation. It’s definitely been a crash course in DMCA and copyright infringement!

This is my design that contains the artwork in question and a link to where you can find the original on lots of great products.

watermarktshirt

Here is a link to the fraudulent seller’s Facebook page and their post that shows the t-shirt containing the stolen artwork.

UPDATE: After contacting Facebook about this situation, the photo was promptly taken down. I worked with them to get other images containing that design on the user’s page taken down as well. It would have helped if I had originally looked through their wall posts and listed all the URLs at one time. Since I didn’t think to do that right away, it took a couple more days to get the rest taken down.

I was also contacted through Teeholic (basically by this user) asking me to retract my request to Facebook to remove the images. The reasoning was that the user was “very upset” that they were being asked to take down the photos. Since they are using the product pictures to advertise and market their Facebook page, I declined this request. I let them know that I’m also very upset by this situation, and the lost time and revenue that this has caused.  I also informed them that I would happily accept any money that that individual has made off of my design. I haven’t heard back about that 😉

As a self-employed graphic designer, I work extremely hard to not only produce original artwork, but to market and try to sell them as well. I make an incredibly modest amount off each design and pretty much only gain the personal satisfaction of knowing there is someone out there that likes my art enough to buy it. It is truly disappointing and heartbreaking to see that someone else has taken my hard work and used it as a way to make money for themselves. It’s even more frustrating that they are making enough money off my stolen designs to be able to afford advertising. I don’t make nearly enough to do this for my own original designs. I rely on word of mouth, my own Facebook page, and my Twitter account to get my designs out to the public. It’s instances like this that make me want to throw in the towel and stop creating artwork at all.

I’ve taken steps to get the products this person is selling removed from the marketplace as well as the postings on Facebook. There is no direct way to contact this seller about removing the products themselves. I tried to comment on the Facebook post, but the comment has been deleted. They are obviously aware that they have stolen my design, and that I know about it, yet they continue to sell the products.

I’m hoping that the people at Teeholic (where the stolen design is being sold) are willing to work with me to get this matter resolved as quickly as possible. They don’t have a clear cut method posted on their site as to how to report copyright infringement. I messaged them through Facebook and was told to contact their support team through email. I’ve sent in documentation that clearly shows my design were created four years ago, and thus greatly predate the products that are for sale on their site. Hopefully I will hear back from them soon.

UPDATE: I heard back from Teeholic about a day after contacting them. Since I’ve never dealt with this situation, and they aren’t clear about how to handle it, I just sent in links to my own products containing the artwork. Each product lists a creation date directly on the page. In this case, the earliest creation date for this design was August 1st, 2012. I was basically told that I needed to provide more information, and that if I couldn’t they would seek redress against me for “claiming” the artwork as my own. Upon further communication, I found that I needed to provide a properly formatted DMCA letter. After drafting and submitting the letter, the listings were immediately removed from the site. I did a simple google search and found tons of sample DMCA letters which I based mine off of. I found that most companies have a legal section that contains what information they require in case of copyright infringement claims.

It was also brought to my attention that my image was also being used by the same user for a campaign on Teespring. Other users are using the same graphic on products on Redbubble and Sunfrog. Luckily each of these companies clearly state how to handle copyright infringement. Redbubble requests a DMCA letter and has specific guidelines on what to include. After sending my letter, Redbubble took the infringing listing down the same day. Sunfrog and Teespring each have forms online (Sunfrog’s Form, Teespring’s Form) that can be filled out, with Teespring allowing additional supporting documents to be uploaded and sent with the complaint. I followed all the necessary steps in each case. After a few days the content was removed. However, I was not notified, nor have I heard back from Sunfrog or Teespring about the issue. 

In addition to contacting Teeholic, I found that their shop is powered by Shopify.com. In researching how copyright infringement is handled by them, I found that Shopify provides information on what kind of documentation to send, what information to include, and where to send it all. (See Shopify’s policy here).  They clearly state how to handle the situation, so I’ve emailed all the requested documentation and hope to hear back soon.

UPDATE: After sending Shopify the proper DMCA letter, I received a response within hours. They were more than helpful and informed me that a copy of the letter was being sent to Teeholic and that the content would be removed within 24 hours. So basically, even if Teeholic hadn’t removed the content themselves, it would have been removed by Shopify. 

For the time being, I’m sadly taking a break from posting any new designs to my Zazzle store. Any new artwork will be added to my own personal portfolio and likely not released to the public anytime soon – if at all. I spend a lot of time and effort on each of my designs and it was simply heartbreaking to see that they are being stolen and others are greatly profiting off of them.

I also have a little one on the way and I don’t want to add any unnecessary stress to my pregnancy. I’ve been busy getting the little guy’s nursery ready and have been crocheting lots of fun stuff for when he gets here! I’m working on getting back to blogging about my crafts, so be on the lookout for more posts soon!

I wanted to get this off my chest, outline the steps I’ve taken in the hopes it may help someone else, and most importantly call attention to this deceitful seller. Unfortunately, my design is probably not the only one that has been stolen by this individual. I will update this post as the situation progresses. If you have any questions, I would be happy to try and answer them –  or if you’ve dealt with a similar situation, feel free to comment! Happy Crafting!

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