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August 9, 2013
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Hey guys. I've written about copyright law in the past, but there are some things I just.. never thought to mention. However now that Sarah and I are working together, we're dealing with several types of art theft at once. Everything from the recast dolls situation (where someone buys your doll, makes casts of it, then sells it to the public. Yes this is illegal, more on that later), to someone submitting my art to a game company as their own for a job. In many cases we are dealing with ignorance, so I thought I would clarify a few things.

This is going to take a while.

The Recast Situation
There is a new trend in the ball jointed doll industry, where people are taking dolls and sending them to 'professional recasters'. These people then make a mold of someone's doll, and recast it. They then proceed to sell the doll to their customers. The artist receives no compensation for this, nor is allowed to even have a say in anything from the quality of the resin, to the color, to if this should even happen. There is heated debate on both sides, and it's been breaking my heart to find out that many friends were not fully educated on copyright law, and were beginning to think that this was an acceptable practice.

Now, Grace, who is the artist of Jpopdolls, has hired a lawyer to deal with the situation regarding the recasts of the dolls. THAT is a piece of work that you should all read and learn about, and I will link the letter from the lawyer breaking this all down. The reason I ask you to educate yourselves on this is because people can sound very, very, very persuasive when they are doing something wrong. But the act of buying a doll that you *know is stolen*.... makes you an accessory to the crime. And I assure you it is actually considered a crime. So please, please before you buy something you know is a 'knock off', make sure you know exactly how the law stands on issues like this. If not for the artist, for yourself in case the artist (like Grace), chooses to pursue legal action.

This is the letter. Please read it thoroughly and pass it along to others. This is real and legitimate information about copyright law that is important to know.  www.jpopdolls.net/images/lette…

The biggest thing I want to say is.. when in doubt? Don't take the word of the person you are doubting. Research it. Look into both sides. If one side is using copyright law of the fashion industry, or things that have nothing to do with the subject at hand, then back away slowly. I say this because *fashion law does not apply to other art forms*. The laws are different depending on what the medium/artform is. If you aren't 100% sure, then better to be safe then sorry, you know?

But recasting doesn't hurt the artist!
This has come up several times from several people. I want to correct this interpretation now. It hurts the artist. It hurts their current career *and their future career*. The catch with doll artists is that they rely on the resale value of their dolls.

What's this? But Jessica! The artist gets nothing from the resell of a doll!

That's not entirely true. What the artist receives is proof of value. This is wildly important to collectors who both love the dolls but *also* want to have a valuable collection. People will choose to buy limited edition dolls with the assurance that they will not be re-released, because over time their value not only holds, but increases. Think of it like buying antiques. They are worth some now, but in later years they are worth so much more to collectors because they are rare and precious.

How this affects the future of the artist is that once they have established that their dolls hold value *by the way they sell in the resell market*, future dolls are desired and purchased regularly. It is possible for an artist to build a very successful career based in part on how well their dolls hold value over time. But to do that, this means certain things have to be in place. The doll has to be quality. The resin can't break down in a few years, rendering the doll's value moot. The doll can't just be an easy commodity, open to the public. It has to be no longer offered. If a doll is limited, it's a rare item. If a doll is not, then resells are of 'used' dolls (because you can buy a new one for x amount of dolls, so why pay more for one that was opened?), and the price is generally lower. The doll no longer holds their resell value. Are you starting to see where recasts of limited dolls hurt the resell value? Why buy a limited edition El doll that's no longer available, when you can get a recast for next to nothing? In fact.. why buy the doll from the artist *at all*, when re-casters sell it for cheaper?

It doesn't take long to take an already fragile business and cause it to crumble. Even the 'big' companies are playing a delicate balance of making sure all their bills are met, their employees are paid and they have enough going that they can continue selling the dolls. Because dolls are NOT a necessity for living, it's a fickle business and a sculpture that's not appealing to the audience can result in a huge loss in money, sometimes even a business destroying loss.

There are other effects to doll artists when their work is stolen, but I would like to move on to another subject now.

"Borrowing" art for portfolios
Welp, I've talked about dolls. But now I want to talk about something else. A situation has come up not too long ago where a young lady placed pieces of my work in her portfolio, that she then submitted to a gaming company for consideration and review.

This has happened in the past, with people submitting my work as their own for things like college applications, gaming jobs and so on. The response I've gotten from them when confronted was usually "Well it's not like it hurt you or anything".

I want to address that now.

That's wrong.

The effect of portfolio theft on the artist
It hurts the artist in really subtle ways. For example, when I applied for the visual art's institute a second time to continue my career, the dean recognized my work. Why? Because someone had used it weeks before and gotten accepted into the school. They proceeded to lecture me on theft, and fraud, and I was declined from the school outright. It took months for me to get the dean calmed down enough to show her my body of work and prove to her that I was not a thief, was in fact the legitimate artist. Then she had to find the artist who DID lie, and had to do a ton of pretty horrendous paperwork and legal crap to remove her from the school.

I did not end up continuing my education. It was my personal choice, but it took so much out of me to get this done, that I was worn out and simply didn't want to continue. This was years ago but it still burns me to this very day.

In the case of people who use your work for gaming companies, it puts the company at very real risk. I assure you that if I saw my work on their games, I would come after them for theft. Then that would involve a very,very, very expensive court battle, and a loss of my creative time. That art that is so precious and worth enough to that person that they stole it? I cannot create more of it while I'm going to court regularly to deal with this issue. The company that is liked enough that this person wants to work for them? They can't release/continue selling that game while the legal issues are taken care of. Both sides lose a great deal of money, more then the thief received/will lose (because they will end up in the court case too). It hurts, but it's something we would have to do in order to protect ourselves. (the person who submitted my work to the gaming company did not know that the company owner's daughter a. knows me and b. has watched me painting. So she was busted immediately. Not all artists and gaming companies are that lucky.)

A friend of mine tried to apply to a company as one of their illustrators who does t-shirt designs for their company. She submitted her art.. and was promptly rejected. She found out later that it was because *her design was already on their competitors t-shirts* and they thought she was trying to be underhanded. It took a great deal of time to sort out the mess, get the stolen art off of the other company's shirts, and get things straightened out. But by the time it was done? The job had already been offered to someone else and she missed out on a great opportunity.

Just think. That's all I can ask anyone to do. Please think. Artists defend their copyright, not because they are 'greedy' or 'zealots'... but because they have to. When we work in this industry, what happens to our art has far reaching consequences that only the artist can really analyze and work with. It's more then just the art.. that piece of work that was put on a pro gay hate board without the artist's consent can result in difficulties for them later, perhaps even very real physical harm (this also happened to a friend). It can ruin contracts, destroy reputations, fragment the value of the artist's work.

I understand that art is a wonderful thing, and it's natural to desire it, want it in your hands and on your walls. And I get that it's easy to think 'it's just a drawing' or 'it's just a doll'. Too many people think of artists as not actually being a real job or a real business. The fact is.. it is a real job. It's a real job with consequences that are not easily seen on the surface. And when we reach out and say "Stop." It's not to try and hurt you, and certainly not over something petty. It's because we have to, this is our livelihood.

So please care for your artists

When I researched moving to another country, I found something interesting.

Artists are considered cultural assets. In the immigration paperwork on DOZENS of countries, an artist is often as valued as a doctor or a scientist. Just like them, the artist has to prove their worth, show that they are truly a creature of creation and expression that moves the world. But the important part is *they are a cultural asset*. They are an expression of the uniqueness of our civilization. A country's value as a civilized society goes up *if they are rich in art, music, dance, CULTURE.* Tourism increases when countries have these things, when the beautiful art and sculptures lure them, the native dances, the incredible expressions convince them to step out of their country and come to another.

Protect them. Protect them, value them, cherish them. They are what brings light and beauty to the world, be it dance, music, art, sculpture. There is no limit to the beauty and creativity that will be your reward for their care. No price that can be put on the joy and inspiration that you will feel when you look at what has come from their gifts. That's what an artist gives to the world, and you. That's why they are a cultural asset. It's as close to magic as we will ever get in this world, so take it and keep it safe.
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:iconemasqueradegallery:
EMasqueradeGallery Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2013
I've now posted a couple of your entries here regarding art-theft to my Facebook, linked back to you, of course.:)    I'm hoping your words reach more and more of the right ears and it serves as an education to them.

I've been lucky, so far, (well...to my knowledge) in that I don't believe anyone has tried to steal any of the images of my work, but a friend of mine makes fairy wings and sells them. She's got a family that her sales help to support. Well, she's currently got someone copying her designs and selling them not only to friends and family, but also to the public. She's issued cease-and-desist letters to this woman and it's had no real effect.  This woman actually told her, "You're making me do this." -all because her wing prices are a bit pricey.  To me, her statement just proves that she 'knows' that what she's doing is wrong.   
But she's got all of these excuses and now her family backing her up and encouraging her to keep on using someone else's designs and even to open up an Etsy shop selling them.
And a concern my friend now faces is that should this thief start selling her designs to the public, she's facing people thinking this is her work and if the quality isn't very good, that reflects back badly on her -even though it's not actually 'her' work. 

It's absolutely and insanely ridiculous what artist's have to put up with and that it's so hard to make it stop or to fix the damage post-theft.

I'm so sorry you've repeatedly had to deal with this bullshit, but I'm thankful that you've continued to push through it and keep on creating your beautiful art all this time. I've been watching your gallery for several years now and I always enjoy what you've posted. And I'm greatly enjoying your art-specific journal entries. They give me great pause and push me to really reflect on certain issues.
-You recently wrote an entry talking about 'why' you create art....it made me start to really think on what drives me to create my own art...which then led me to write my own entry on exactly what inspires and motivates me in my own artistic endeavors.   So thank you for that inspiration.:)
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:iconlittlecorax:
LittleCorax Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2013
Well said. This kind of thing always makes me shake my head. And sometimes makes me glad that I'm not well known enough for it to be an issue (though that hasn't stopped me from not posting story stuff out of sheer paranoia).

I would definitely be curious to hear your take on things like this for mediums that don't require dedication to honing skill, so much as Vision, like chainmail.
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:iconjessicamdouglas:
JessicaMDouglas Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2013  Professional General Artist
I don't think that art is less valueable just because the skills used are not always the most time consuming. I've seen amazing paintings that were done the simplest ways possible, yet were infinitely lovely. It still needs to be protected, it still needs to be cherished, and it still is a skill that many people do not possess.
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:iconlittlecorax:
LittleCorax Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2013
I didn't mean that it was of any less value. I don't think that at all.

Only that there are certain mediums, chainmail being one, with a sort of automatic, built-in "simultaneous inspiration" aspect.

If someone who has never seen chainmail, has no idea what it is, is suddenly taught basic european 4-1 and left to their own devices, secluded from everyone and everything, and they decide to make a choker or necklace, sooner or later (probably sooner), they are going to make one with downward pointing triangles. Either flowing down from a band, so it's all one piece, or as separate triangles attached at the corners. Why? because Euro 4-1 all but screams "make triangles and diamonds with me!" It is an obvious design with that weave.

When nothing different is done with it (no intricate -key word there- color patterns, no mixing in of other weaves in a neat way, no using that weave to create a different effect, or other signature bits) how can one claim their idea was stolen when someone else using euro 4-1 does the does the same obvious thing, because the weave itself makes it obvious?

Neither one is any more or less artistically valuable than the other, neither are they more or less artistically valuable than artwork in other mediums, but when the medium basically does the design work for you, claims of theft seem a little insubstantial to me.

That's what I don't get. And that is more what I was talking about.

Not cases where someone has figured out a way to use weaves in a particular fashion to create a very specific effect or garment..  Because then they did have to go through the trial and error to figure out exactly what weaves worked, if ring size had any effect, how the pieces/weaves/sections should be attached, etc. Then, while it's possible someone else could have spontaneously done the same thing, the chances of that are pretty super slim, and so to me the claim that the idea or pattern was stolen is a valid concern.

But when all you're doing is letting the medium do the work, because it's obvious and easy, rather than investing the time and thought to do something different with it... yeah, not so much. Doesn't make it less valuable or valid, it just mostly negates your ability to claim theft.

Like my rosaries. If someone wants to make a chainmail rosary that's an actual chainmail one (i.e. not beads just hooked together with eyelet wires), well, mobius balls are an obvious choice. Blatantly obvious, really. They are essentially the beads of the chainmail world. I certainly can't claim someone stole my idea for that, even if the colors are similar, nor can they claim I stole it from them. BUT, because I don't use standard pieces for the Y connection and cross, if someone uses the exact same combination of pieces I did, AND the same colors.. then I have grounds for a claim of theft of idea/pattern.

But that's just my two cents.
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:iconjessicamdouglas:
JessicaMDouglas Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2013  Professional General Artist
Ahhh I get what you mean now. Yeah this is one of those things where it's kind of tricky. You HAVE to know your medium. Also copyright law on clothing/wearable stuff is completely different from copyright law on visual art, so be careful about mixing them (and it's different for that EXACT reason, because there are only so many ways to make a shirt, chainmail, etc.). Another example of that is with art, you want to draw a dancing lady. Now your drawing is copyright... but the pose she's in is not. So someone else can draw a girl in the *exact same pose* and it's not copyright theft. If they are overlapped and traced, that's the theft (because your particularly lines are what's protected), but the pose.. is not. Because there's only so many ways to position the human body.

Also I am VERY RUSTY on this part of the law (since I don't do jewelry), but I'm pretty sure you can't copyright patterns. (such as the jewelry ones). But I'm rusty on that one so don't quote me there. But *if* I'm remembering right, it's because there are only so many ways to string together necklaces and it's entirely possible for two people to make the same pattern. BUT DONT QUOTE ME ON THAT can't say that enough, my knowledge of that area of the law is rusty beyond all belief.
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:iconlittlecorax:
LittleCorax Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2013
*nods* It may be something I'll have to start looking into at some point. As well as differences between copyright and trademark and such.

I was only curious because I recently saw someone complain about people copying their work, but when I looked through their gallery, I honestly didn't see anything special. Nothing that looked different, style, design or effect-wise, or with a signature look/element. I'm sure it's possible they could have been referencing some things that were created and sold (or for sale at an actual booth) that were not posted to their gallery, but the logic in my brain keeps trying to tell me that if that were the case, they'd have said so.

Without that, it just sort of made it seem like they were.. I dunno. Trying to take credit for things that I don't feel they should be taking credit for?

Like you said- know your medium. As a chainmail artist who does jewelry, at some point you HAVE to sit back and realize that unless you actively try to do something interesting/innovative/different, a lot of what you make is going to look like a lot of what a ton of other people make. It's the nature of the beast.

That's why I was asking. In case I was reading it wrong because there was some kind of information about patterns, copyrights, etc that I just don't have. Just because logic says X, that doesn't mean the law or government says X. Though if what you said is even close, it's reassuring to think that the laws for jewelry and such are at least based in logic. Will definitely have to do some looking into it.

Speaking of which.... what would be the best way to go about that kind of research so that when I find the information, I actually understand it?
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:iconjessicamdouglas:
JessicaMDouglas Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2013  Professional General Artist
Sorry it took me so long to reply. Honestly? I inevitably take my doubts to a copyright lawyer, but that can be pricey (yes I really have gone and paid one to explain the law to me before ,and I'll do it again lol). But that said, you can always just read the berne convention yourself. The problem is when it hits grey areas that it's difficult to really understand. And it's hard to research the subject because a LOT of people who really really REALLY want to break the law and have it be on their side, post up wrong information in order to try and get their way.

But start there, read the Berne Convention. This is the treaty between a LOT of countries that has what is and is not illegal across all of those signers in it. If you look on wikipedia they have a list of who's a part of it, and links to things like the treaty itself and so on. Start there.
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:iconbrokenangel:
brokenangel Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2013
Well said. I found one of my artworks being used as a smartphone background, by a german company no less. Nice C&D mails didn't work, so now they'll get send a bill.
It always boggles my mind how thieves think they can get away with theft in the first place...
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:iconart-of-darkelegance:
Art-of-DarkElegance Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2013  Professional General Artist
brilliant! thank you for posting this!
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:iconalanralph:
AlanRalph Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2013  Professional General Artist
I've shared this article on most of my social networks. (Sadly, Pinterest won't let me pin it there, which sucks because a lot of people there should probably read this).
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