designer

Hall of Shame: More Commercial Exploitation of My Copyrighted Work

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Having lived with widespread infringement of my copyrights for almost eight years now, one would think I’d eventually get used to it. But stumbling upon infringements still always feels really raw and violating. Case in point, one of the latest commercial infringements turned up on the website of Andy Jansma, a Chicago-based Graphic Designer/ Art Director. I was disheartened to find my Zesty Mower and Banana Riders images being used on his website as examples of past work (a print ad campaign that he apparently worked on for Costco). My studio has absolutely no record of Mr. Jansma or Costco ever seeking permission or license to use my intellectual property. They appeared on his website without attribution where he was using my images as an instrument to bring himself more business, on top of whatever money the Costco campaign may have brought in. The cherry on top was that there is a disclaimer on Mr. Jansma’s site which reads: “Don’t Steal My Stuff.” Right buddy.

An e-mail to Mr. Jansma has thus far gone unanswered. I suppose he feels totally comfortable downloading images off the internet and using them as free content to enrich himself, but is perhaps feels less comfortable about taking responsibility for it. Fortunately, Mr. Jansma will not be able to ignore this situation for very long. My (US) legal counsel has been consulted and a letter was sent out this week to Costco Wholesale Corporation. We’ll start there with the knowledge that a claim for actual and statutory damages in federal court will motivate someone to get to the bottom of this.

I have no idea yet who is actually responsible for initially infringing my copyrights, Mr. Jansma, Costco, or some other party involved with this project. But we’ll start with the brand whose logos are on my copyrighted works and they can turn around and sue anyone else who may have represented to them that they had permission or license to use my work. In the meantime, Mr. Jansma’s ISP (GoDaddy) was very efficient in removing the infringements from their servers.

If I had a dollar for every instance of my copyrights being infringed I’d have my own jet on 24 hour standby right now. I honestly would much rather devote my time to creative endeavors than to have to chase down thieves who think they are entitled to steal online content. But I feel strongly about defending my copyrights from commercial entities who seek to exploit my work. As long as it continues I will pursue these cases.

This infringement will be just one of the topics I will be discussing with a class of students at Photo Center Northwest (PCNW) here in Seattle in a couple of weeks, at which I’ve been invited to speak. In the meantime, I’ll post an update here was the situation progresses.

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