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« Paperchase has tagged Gathernomoss but I'm not playing | Main | My last advice #Paperchase »

February 12, 2010

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AndrewBrennan

@Former Attorney

The issue isn't that Paperchase knowingly procured and distributed stolen designs; the concern is that once with was bought to their attention they failed to engage with Hidden Eloise. Instead they hoped that the cost of legally pursuing them would be prohibitively expensive and the matter would go away.

I also take issue with Paperchase's assertion that my activity on Twitter is "worrying".

Katy

It's an unfortunate situation. I feel for you because your art's been used to make someone else money, but I feel for Kitty too. It's a terribly hard way to learn that you mustn't ref other people's work in commercial designs. Paperchase are hiding behind vulnerable human beings with feelings to save their corporate behinds and that's just not on. Kitty obviously does have talent as a designer too, but she made a mistake. I hope you can express to her this whole situation isn't malice towards her for making a mistake, but to Paperchase for just not caring about other people. My heart goes out to both you and Kitty on this one. I just hope both of you can continue to have happy and productive careers using your obvious talents!

Kristina

As a Former Attorney, you should be aware of Copyright Infringement. Good Faith does not factor into it. I suppose it's easier to compare it to a newspaper. Let's say, for instance News of the World, publishing a story about a famous couple. Then the story turns out to be wrong. Is the editor then supposed to say "Oh no! It wasn't us! It was the source that was wrong, and we bought the story in good faith!"
It doesn't work that way. Famous Couples sue NotW and win. Consider Paperchase the Editor in Chief, and the illustrator they bought the art from as the source. Maybe the source was wrong, maybe not, but Paperchase still has an obligation to make sure that no plagiarism has occured. The legal document they make their artists sign is simply a cheap attempt to make sure all the blame stays on the illustrator.
If they had investigated properly when Hidden Eloise sent her first email to them, they would have discovered that yes, there was plagiarism involved and they should have settled the matter then. Paying an artist is a thousand times cheaper than suffering bad publicity because they made an idiotic choice (and then decide to blame their "source"). Heck they even blame Twitter. "It's not our fault! Twitter is to blame!". Yes, very mature, and very responsible. At least this is a wake-up-call for anyone wanting to take short-cuts: Don't mess with librarians or starving artists in this day and age.

Mel

I sense a lot of fear and anxiety in Kitty's recent post. This makes me very sad. My best wishes go to both Eloise and Kitty. I hope this can be sorted without anyone suffering further hurt.

Beeberbee

Maybe, Hidden Eloise, you could start up your own online store selling exactly the same products as Paperchase but with your far superior illustrations.

You could call it 'Paperface'..

I've had an idea for the logo.... ;)

Simon

"However, the blame does not lie with Paperchase, but with the other designer.

I will continue to shop at Paperchase and think that this should not tarnish anyone's good opinion of them and their fantastic products."

You're so wrong.

This sort of plagiarism is endemic and is the very reason you shouldn't buy a single thing at Paperchase and instead take the trouble to source from 'proper' designer/makers.

Major retailers are stuffed to the gunwales with shabby, watered-down versions of independent creatives' work.

Why don't they employ and nurture their own in-house creatives rather than just sitting there whilst companies like GatherNoMoss peddle their wares?

Well done Eloise!

Matt

I find it almost hysterically funny that anybody is small-minded enough to actually feel sorry for Paperchase!

Sure- they were initially duped- it happens. This is where my sympathy ends. Unless everybody at Paperchase is blind, then they knew in NOVEMBER that the work was plagiarised. Rather than pull it at that time, they chose to continue profiting from this obviously plagiarised work and have only stopped doing so now because of the power of the internet (which is something to be feared, apparently- especially when it brings your wrongdoings to light).

So yes, actually, I think that Paperchase DO owe Eloise an apology. I suspect that the reason they won't issue one is because they quite rightly fear the fact that any admission of guilt will leave them open to legal action.

To be honest, Eloise, I'd probably drop this now. It's highly unlikely that Paperchase will apologise to you (for the reason outlined above) and, let's be honest, is their apology even worth anything at this point? Again- well done for standing your ground and bringing this to the only place you were ever going to level the playing field- the internet. Hopefully, it will make big business think twice before assuming that they can get away with stepping on the little man in future.

As for Kitty, I think she used a shortcut that she thought nobody would notice. Again, it happens a lot- and that's not to say that I think it's right- but she's not alone in the industry and I'd hate to think that she'll be singled out for this. I genuinely hope that she can chalk this up to a series of bad choices and be allowed to move on. She's obviously got talent and doesn't deserve to have this hang over her, in my opinion.

To anybody that genuinely thinks this is all about publicity- I think that you're very sad. And possibly a bit simple.

Beeberbee

I agree with Simon. They want their stuff to look original so should buy the original designs from independent designers. They, of course, won't do this as it will eat slightly more into their huge profits. They'd rather get bargain basement copies & make more money. Sad but true - and happens everywhere these days.

Thank goodness for the internet making the independent artist's work more accessible (and, unfortunately more likely to be copied..)

Fabrizio Martellucci

As a Paperchase customer and former employee, I find their statement ludicrous that tweeter is dangerous: do they mean dangerous as the truth will come out and it can hurt them. Fair enough they were blissfully unaware that your artwork was copied until you told them otherwise an internal investigation would have sufficed, a stern warning to the agency and the copying 'artist' needed and finally either a percentage of the profit given either to you Eloise or to a charity of your choice. Instead they sat on it hoping it would go away but that's the beauty of the internet and people power...companies cannot ignore wrongdoings anymore and sweep them under the carpet. I really admire your tenacity and persuing Paperchase, I hope their ethic 'department' will notice this PR disaster and learn from it.

I haven't checked your blog thoroughly but you should definitely licence your art to create papers that can be use for cardmaking, it's beautiful !

Marcia Furman

This whole thing is so terrible. You are doing a great job in fighting them.

Not to mention...the other design is horrid! Ack!

Lola

One thing thats interesting is the amount of a certain type of girl with bears and forests in the "indie" "art" world....

Who copies who there or is it a "genre" ?

Matthew

Being influenced doesn't count as plagiarism - that's the distinction. Tracing someone else's illustration is plagiarism, clearly.

I'm not about to claim that Eloise is a hugely original artist or even that interesting (in my opinion, anyway) but she doesn't have to be to protected from having her work copied in this way.

Artists influence each other - and they accept that. It still takes work to create an original work inspired by another. Tracing the outline of someone else's figure is using all of their work in composing that figure and passing it off as your own.

There are some case studies here:

http://www.epuk.org/The-Curve/456/visual-plagiarism

Leese

I don't think Kitty is blameless, or much of a victim here. In the series of artworks she sent to HiddenEloise, it's clear that the one containing Eloise's girl is obviously different from the others. Kitty attempted to profit off another artist's work, just as Paperchase did, and Gather No Moss did. Just because she's a fellow 'indie' doesn't make it any better, or any more acceptable. She did it because she thought she wouldn't get caught. Tough luck - next time, don't steal.

Paperchase's childish way of dealing with suspected plagiarism, and their pathetic way of handling negative PR, makes me doubly disgusted with them. As others have said, Paperchase hoped the matter would go away. Now that it didn't, they're childish blaming everyone and everything (including Twitter), instead of growing up and issuing an apology for their part in the matter. They certainly don't have to say "Yup, totally our fault, sorry about that", but they CAN say that they "regret their part in the matter" and "apologise to the original artist for the distress this caused", and other b*stard phrases that don't actually mean a damn, but may help their PR case.

I work in professional PR and I wouldn't dream of representing my employers in this way. Hey, Paperchase, you've hired Marketing morons as well as theft-happy designers and agencies.

Brother Tobias

Congratulations on having pursued this and rooting out the truth. I don't understand the folk who are implying Paperchase were blameless; they should have reacted initially, as they have since been forced to, to the use of your artwork. Since they have profited from the use of it, I agree that they should offer you some sort of recompense. What you have achieved may help to make derivative designers and companies more careful, and thereby help to protect independent artists. Good work - both by you, and by the internet users who have supported you.

Libby

You mean "redacted," not "reducted."

Sekino

First off, I'm really happy you got an apology. As a fellow illustrator, I was livid to see everybody was giving you the run around. Bravo for not backing down (Your illos are beautiful BTW :)).

I do somewhat disagree that the designer was thrown under the bus (Although Paperchase response- or lack thereof- was indeed disgraceful). Being an indie designer shouldn't be an excuse to break fairly well-known rules. Actually, 'indie' should mean you are your own individual, not represented by a larger a company. Reference has to be used responsibly. Your very job as a designer is to craft original designs. Inspiration is allowed, but tracing is a very dodgy practice. Perhaps she was naive in doing so, but she still is the one who made that decision. As an independant artist myself, I am extremely careful how I use reference; I am certain you are as well. It is part of our job if we are to call ourselves professionals.

May this be a lesson to other inexperienced artists out there: Do NOT trace others' work. Ever. Use reference as a loose visual aid only. Not only it is courteous to fellow artists, it can save you a LOT of potential stress and embarrassment.

Lizzie

Cheating is always wrong. It doesn't make it less wrong because it's "only a small company, or an independant designer". It is still cheating. Plagiarism is cheating - and stealing.

Lying is also wrong. The designer was lying when she claimed she did not copy Eloise's work. She was wrong and should accept the consequences. Even children understand that.

As for Eloise, anything I have read from her has been about her own work and the fact that it had been copied. Also that she had written to the retailer about this, but they had taken no action.
Whether they did or did not think her claims were correct, they should have followed it up and suspended sales of the items while they did so.
By selling plagiarised designs, they were breaking the law - and they are still selling them, so they are still breaking the law.

If I were Eloise, I would be sending copies of all correspondence to the Consumer Association, the Trading Standards Authority and one of the BBC programmes that investigates consumer and business issues.

Paperchase most certainly do deserve to be prosecuted - they were told about the problem and did nothing. They have still not withdrawn the items from sale. They are still breaking the law and they know this.
I have no sympathy for them, or the designer who copied other people's work.

Indeed, having seen the whole set of designs, I wonder who the rest were copied from.

mokie

"Indeed, having seen the whole set of designs, I wonder who the rest were copied from." (Lizzie @7:59pm)

I believe I recognize the unicorn, though I wouldn't know how to find the original artist at this point--old, old image. The differences in styles between images, even between objects in each image, suggests that she uses her tracing pad pretty liberally.

Tom

This is a brilliant twist on that old classic, it's not you, it's me.

Only this time, it's not me, it's you.

Shawn

Paperchase may have no legal obligation to make an apology, but the question of decency remains. That said, there are many people who realize that while there might be some nifty things to buy at Paperchase, common decency and doing the right thing outweigh the convenience of buying tote bags and notebooks from a big store. Paperchase may have no legal obligation to make an apology, but I most certainly have no legal obligation to shop at or support such a business.

DrFunfrock

Sad to say, I'm starting to regret my part in supporting this sudden little movement.

I'm as happy as anyone else to see the internet giving power to the powerless, and was initially glad to do my part by sending PaperChase a message informing them that I would be boycotting their products until this issue was resolved, but I'm finding myself less and less certain of that position.

I fully understand Eloise' outrage at being brushed off by PaperChase. I agree that if evidence was presented to them of an infringement, good practice would demand that they properly investigate, even if their legal responsibilities did not.

I'm distinctly less comfortable with how Kitty is being treated here. It's well known that art does not, and cannot exist in a vacuum. I'm not going to argue to the specifics of whether what Kitty did would legally be defined as plagiarism, I'm simply saying that I understand entirely how she could feel that she was doing no wrong here. It's easy for everyone to sit here and throw stones, but this kind of "remixing" is a part of all art. As a writer, I know full well that most of my ideas aren't my own, they're just blended together in new ways, and new shapes. Astute readers could probably still point to what came from where.

Alan Moore's Watchmen are all drawn from clear influences in existing comics; the Comedian is a direct analogue for the Punisher, Rorscach is The Question (down to the hat, coat, suit, and faceless mask, every detail of the "pose", to use an appropriate example, is the same, and their silhouettes are identical), Night Owl is the Blue Beetle, and so on. Yet this is all just accepted as a part of the book's metacommentary on the nature of superhero stories.

That's how art works. Maybe in this instance Kitty crossed a line. All I'm asking is how she was ever supposed to know for sure just where that line lay?

Step back from the clever little zoomed in lined up flick back and forth animations. Look at the pictures. Each whole image, placed side by side. Look at them as pieces of art, not as a collection of lines. Tell me if those pictures are really all that much alike.

To put it in legal terms here, can it seriously be argued that Eloise has actually suffered financial loss because of this copying? Can we really say that people who would have bought a tote bag with 'He Says He Can Hear The Forest Whisper' printed on it decided not to buy that bag because a competing product was available from PaperChase? Or does that argument perhaps seem as ephemeral as the RIAA contending that every album downloaded constitutes a sale lost?

I'm not saying I have the right of it here. I'm saying that I'm finding it hard to see where the right of it is, and that's exactly why I don't blame Kitty for what she did.

April (WordyNerdy)

Eloise, as someone who has purchased several of your prints for myself and as presents for others in the past, I am appalled to find you've been treated this way! You're always so lovely to do business with, and I've directed several people to your shop.

Don't let any of these idiots who are full of themselves (former lawyer or not) make you feel bad for making the only decision I think you could make. To turn a blind eye to the blatant stealing of your work is to suggest that this other so-called designer did nothing wrong. The comment that really boggled my mind was the creep who asked how your sales have been since bringing all this to light. What? It's okay for Paperchase and Amazon to profit from your work, but you can't?

God bless you for keeping a sense of humor and maintaining your grace. ♥

Matthew

Dr Funfrock,

It's not about originality (who could ever judge that?) it's about work. Eloise worked to draw that girl and, by taking an exact copy, Kitty took that work and passed it off as her own. It's about as clear-cut as it can be.

Without that basic protection, anybody who wanted to market goods could pay for a studio full of cheap labour to trace existing designs. The people who came up with those designs would receive no payment and the company that did pay them would have their products undercut. It would very quickly become unsustainable to have a career as a designer or illustrator.

As a writer, you a free to be inspired by other writers, but you can't just lift whole passages from their works and pass them off as your own. Even if you're quoting them for the purposes of criticism or comparison you'd still have to attribute the quote to them and, usually, keep it short and (in fiction at least) get permission.

Likewise, you cannot claim ownership of someone else's character.

Now, I think that copyright lasts too long in perpetuity (it should carry on for twenty years after someone's death, at most), but it's an essential protection for all living creative professionals.

Matthew

And another thing (or two)...

Regarding the comic book characters and The Watchmen. Of the one's you mentioned, only The Punisher is not owned by DC Comics. So, if they are sufficiently similar, DC wouldn't be concerned any more than if Alan Moore had proposed using the original characters. Regarding the Punisher, I'd say that the Comedian is sufficiently different and that they idea is quite generic anyway. It still, morally, comes down to the difference between being influenced by and blatantly copying (without permission).

Regarding the RIAA. In absolute terms, they are correct: obtain music without paying for it is theft. The only moral justification for doing it is that you download stuff to sample that you would never have paid for if it wasn't available for free. Even then, if you're serious about supporting people who make music you should look into ad-supported streaming sites like Spotify.

In this instance, though, it's more like someone taking an illegal download and making money by selling it. Or using an uncleared sample as a prominent part of some music. To make money in this way is freeloading off others' work - and it can't be justified.

If you look at this site you see that Eloise has licensed her work for non-commercial use (under Creative Commons) - I applaud that position. Even commercial organisations tend to take a similar view of non-commercial fan creations. The line is when you want to make money out of someone else's work - at that point, you have to get permission.

Hidden Eloise

Hello lovely people!

I've been reading all your comments since i woke up. Thank you for your kind and supportive words, they really put some energy back into a very tired me. :)

And thank you to all who give opinions different to mine too. It is very important for me to see things from all perspectives.

Have a lovely Valentines and Sunday and i'll be around getting some rest myself.

Bear hugs,
Hidden Eloise

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