Thursday, May 20, 2010

Plagiarism, copyright infringement, and the occasional downside of caricaturing...

Someone stole my artwork.
That someone "followed" my blog, "liked" my Facebook caricature page, and was supposedly a 'fellow artist'. Not that I know this person... I don't. But because our caricature community is small, and close-knit, I found out about a website/blog/FB page that had many examples of stolen caricatures---traced and re-done, or a different face substituted on another artist's work, or like mine, simply worked over with some heavy-handed rendering.
Specifically, the theft was of my two-year-old caricature of Kerri Walsh and Misty May, current beach volleyball Olympic champions. The 'artist' managed to especially ruin Misty's likeness and even added sunglasses, which makes no sense since they won their gold medal in a monsoon, as I depicted...Click here to see my original blog post about them and their caricature.

What's really sad is that this unscrupulous person plastered copyright notices, "all rights reserved", his own website and his own SIGNATURE on others' work. Certainly, he didn't think he would get caught. But the internet is a pretty exposed place nowadays, and many of the violated artists are making this public on their own pulpits. That has to be done to discourage other would-be hacks from doing the same thing, which is why I'm writing this post. I smudged his offending website and name above, but it's obviously a copy of my work. And it's just as obvious that this person had NO right to be selling prints of my caricature, which was clearly marked with my website address and signature. That's not even touching the issue of Kerri and Misty's right to profit from their likenesses (which is why I do not sell prints of any celebrities I draw.)

The downside to a caricature blog is that to put anything creative on the internet carries risk. The average person doesn't understand copyright issues, but this 'artist' did. If one is going to ever copy another's work, it would be for learning purposes only, never to sell or to mislead clients into believing that's what one is capable of.
Hopefully, this person learns from this, aside from the cyber-punishment he's bound to reap. He's already removed many of the offending images from his website due to caricaturist outcry, but because the internet is a permanent public arena, he will have to live with the exposure his actions have led to. The last irony is that on his "about the artist" page, he proclaims himself to be a church-going Christian--and his signature includes a cross.

UPDATE 5-22-10. Due to the cyber-efforts of artists whose work was stolen and others who supported them, this fraudster's website has been decimated--he's had to remove the majority of "his" images. Both his personal and caricature-fan-page FB pages have been deleted. He also sent me an "apology" email , where he stated:
In the Misty May and Kerry Walsh drawing I have made several changes to the drawing, color of suits, sunglasses , etc. It was my understanding that you can use another artists image as long as there are significant changes..
However, I am apparently misunderstanding copyright law.. We all borrow ideas from each other but I obviously crossed a line and I want to apologize. I have never sold any prints of this drawing. After evaluating it closer I can see how it is too close to your original. I have removed the drawing. Please accept this letter of apology.

This doesn't fly with me (he knew enough to seemingly twist the "significant changes" aspect of copyright law in his favor and hoped to get away with outright theft) but I don't plan to pursue this any further, after the two polite but assertive emails I sent to him. The best part of this has been the collective working-together of caricature artists ( and others) across the internet.


  1. Plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery. Not!

    He plunders from the internet and got exposed big time online. Now he probably has to change his identity and do it all over again.

    So you kids out there behave. Listen to Aunt Emily. Don't steal and be a Jackass!

  2. What a douche bag! What a loser! We all know who he is and as a result he has alienated himself from the tiny world he so desperately wants to be a part of. Desperate enough to steal other people's work, lie about it, and use/abuse god or Christ as a tool for his sniveling worm-like actions while breaking two of the ten commandments.

    Go get a job at Burger King and steal some fries you clever guy.

  3. Thanks for the alert Em! I found one of mine still on his pricing page so I wrote him demanding her remove it. And bookmarked the page to go back and check!

  4. Thanks gentlemen! Having a group of colleagues who all look out for each other is an amazing thing!

  5. Yikes. I always hate seeing that. It's amazing what people will do when they think they have no chance of being caught, but the internet has shrunken the world.

  6. I can go break his drawing thumb. I know where to find him. Just let me know.

  7. Tom, I was beginning to think you'd avoided this particular infringement-party. So far now, this guy has ripped off caricatures by:
    Patrick Lamontagne (Canada)
    Mecho ( South America)
    Tom Richmond
    Ismael Roldan
    Chris Rommell
    Roger Hurtado
    Terry Dunnett
    Paul McCall

    And they're just the ones on the top of my head!

  8. Oh, and whoever commented about breaking his thumb, (sarcastically, I hope) I think the internet humiliation will be far more effective in preventing him or others from trying this again.

  9. I too am a victim in this unfortunate situation. He stole a John Wayne digital painting of mine, painted on top of it, and is now claiming it as his own.

    Evidential prints have been made and are being sold at the Dodge City Convention and Visitors Bureau gift shop in Kansas.

    I am not a caricature artist, but an animator who does a bit of digital painting, so it's good to know word is getting out to the rest of the art world as well.

    I would never had known any of this had it not been for another artist I've never met informing me on my blog. Thank goodness for the honest artists of the world.

  10. Matthew, I am sorry to hear that. On our ISCA forum, someone had said, (and I agree) that this guy couldn't possibly have produced the John Wayne portrait he was displaying. Glad you were notified and that it's been taken off his website, but you have a legitimate right to pursue this if he is selling prints of your work in an official capacity...good luck!