May 28, 2012

Sister Raye

Make money drawing dogs...or not?

Author: Robynne Raye

In 2008 Chronicle Books published our first book—a collection of posters from our then 20-year history, Modern Dog: 20 Years of Poster Art. During the making of that book, my 14 year old Westie became sick – first with Cushings Disease, then Cancer – and died.

So we dedicated the book to him.

We decided to personalize the inside of the front and back covers with illustrations of our dogs and our friends dogs and other random dogs. So we put the word out to everyone we knew, they sent us photos, and we drew portraits which became the end pages.

The end page illustrations included 136 dogs and a couple of very cool cats. On the left are "Dogs We Know" and the right side are "Dogs We Don't Know".

Last September someone from another design studio contacted us saying they had seen our dogs on a T-shirt being sold through a major retailer. Our first reaction was that it was probably just other dog illustrations that looked very similar to ours. We looked at the online version and thought we recognized some of the dogs, but to be sure we bought the t-shirt so we could take a closer look.

If we take our drawings and flip them horizontally, the images line up and do look strikingly similar to our dogs. We believe that all 27 T-shirt dogs originated from our book.

A close-up of the T-shirt we bought. In fact, 2 of the 27 dogs on here look like my dog Conan.

The T-shirt is also part of an advertising campaign for a movie, and was packaged with a hangtag advertising the movie.

We have seen our work show up in unexpected places before, but nothing like this. Bewildered, we felt compelled to make things right. So we entered into a lawsuit that is now more than 8 months in the making.

We've been keeping this on a low-profile, treating it as just a part of business and continuing our regular work, but the lawsuit has affected our lives. For months we have gone through a mix of emotions, ranging from outrage, sadness and even embarrassment when we realized that the lawsuit—which was being blogged about by a copyright lawyer—was showing up on the first page of a google search under "Modern Dog Design."

We don't want potential clients to think that we are litigation-prone, and we are hesitant to say anything that could potentially be used against us as the dispute is not settled. But people we barely know have come up and asked us about the case, and our desire to preserve the reputation of our studio compels us to speak up now.

My business partner and I both teach, and we realize that most students really don't understand copyright law. Ethical questions aside, we are always surprised at what many think is okay.

Here are some examples of illustrations and source photography.

Above and below: side-by-side comparison of dogs from the shirt and the dogs we illustrated flipped horizontally. Some detail naturally drops out in the screen printing process.

My sweet boy resting about a month before he died. We dedicated our poster book to him. The inscription reads: "This book is dedicated in loving memory to Pete the Westie, April 23, 1993 - June 10, 2007. He made it through the 90's without a single tattoo".

So what do you think? We ask that the dialogue remain civil and polite, and even if you know—or think you know who the other parties are involved—please don't identify them in your comment. Thanks!

My partner Mike made a video showing comparisons between our book and the shirt.

{"http:\/\/\/content\/column.php?id=303":{"comments":{"data":[{"id":"10150879560739697_28436973","from":{"id":"1362150310","name":"Peter Spacek"},"message":"-bastards. ","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2013-09-24T16:40:22+0000","like_count":0,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_26992127","from":{"id":"689618344","name":"Lili Chin"},"message":"Good luck, Modern Dog! * To people reading this, please share. There is power in knowledge and numbers*.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2013-05-25T21:45:55+0000","like_count":2,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_26619563","from":{"id":"1425100858","name":"Jen Addotta"},"message":"I think this is outrageous!  This is a company that makes so much money they may as well have it growing on trees.  This is a company that charges $25 for a soda refill cup in its parks.  This is a company that has so many artists working for them (that could've drawn them a million dogs) that they might as well have talent growing on trees too.  Most infuriating is that this is a company that if they even THINK someone has infringed on them will go after that person so fast that their head would spin.  For them to do this, and it's VERY obvious that they have, is just beyond disgraceful and hypocritical.  I sincerely hope you win your suit.  Anyone with eyes can see that they've stolen your work.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2013-04-26T19:05:25+0000","like_count":0,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_22678463","from":{"id":"750900451","name":"Marc English"},"message":"there is copy right and  copy wrong. every designer knows it. every school knows it. and every lawyer knows it. when work is lifted almost stroke-for-stroke, as it has happened here, it's clearly in the wrong. professionals, academics, and plain old decent folks - with or without dogs - are right behind you. make your bite worse than your bark.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-05-11T16:50:39+0000","like_count":22,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_22702212","from":{"id":"608898872","name":"Art Chantry"},"message":"about ten years ago, charles anderson sent me a tshirt he bought at a nordstom rack store.  it was covered with images of old postage stamps and cancellations.  this looked extremely suspicious to me because I had done the very same design on a poster for an old theater company in seattle (the bathhouse theater) and the poster was published in my monograph (on chronicle), called \"some people can't surf.\"  but I barely noticed that, because there among the faked canceled stamps design was a reproduction of MY BUSiNESS CARD!  at the time it was also (literally) a postage stamp with my name and face on it, stuck to the cardblank and then rubber-stamped cancelled with a cancellation  with my name, address  and phone number (all outdated info.)  so, there was not only my design idea and my artwork from an old poster design on this tshirt being sold at nordstrom department stores - its also had MY FACE, MY ADDRESS AND MY BUSINESS PHONE NUMBER  on it.  and all of it was lifted directly from my book!\n\ni approached a law firm who had just won a major copyright infringement case against another major retailer (winning millions and even forcing the sale of the department store chain.)  however, the firm didn't understand my complaint and immediately dumped my case onto an intern.  this intern could not figure what my issue was and said, \"well, maybe if you could produce the original artwork, we could get some royalties for you.  but, mostly the publisher (chronicle) would have to file suit because the image was lifted front 'their' book\".  then he said  that I should just think of the tshirt as free advertising for myself. (!)\n\nso, I walked away from the whole mess and took my lumps.  every time I've tried to sue people over outright fraud and theft concerning my artwork, I've run into this 'ignorance and incompetence'  problem.  so, I wish you the very best of luck.  I hope you stomp them (for all of us.)","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-05-13T17:35:50+0000","like_count":20,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_22676896","from":{"id":"769270369","name":"Debbie Millman"},"message":"This is outrageous and evil. SO SO SO evil.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-05-11T14:28:17+0000","like_count":18,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_24107927","from":{"id":"564922354","name":"Tommy Lynn"},"message":"So wrong. Keep fighting!!!","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-09-14T23:55:12+0000","like_count":3,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_22677943","from":{"id":"715832076","name":"John Foster"},"message":"This is truly upsetting. That is my dog and I am more than happy to have him included in the wonderful Modern Dog collection (it was an honor) and incredibly disappointed that someone would soil that connection by lifting it and profiting off of MD's hard work AND their friendships. That image is very clearly based on my photography as well. Not happy about this. Let me know if you need me in any way as this moves forward. Scooby and I are with you.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-05-11T16:06:08+0000","like_count":11,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_22676298","from":{"id":"730536405","name":"Jeff Fisher"},"message":"So sad that this happened to you - especially with such an emotional and personal project. I appreciate you going public with this matter in hopes of educating other designers and illustrators about copyright issues.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-05-11T13:27:23+0000","like_count":11,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_24081346","from":{"id":"1028574192","name":"Dan Ripley"},"message":"I remember Robynne with great fondness. She did some inspired design work for Seattle Group Theatre, a seminal and feisty multicultural theatre for which I worked in Seattle for many years. I deplore the actions of those who would steal her work, and I hope all goes well in court. I also remember Pete as a puppy, and he was a little sweetie. Good luck Robynne!","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-09-12T17:52:08+0000","like_count":2,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_24069982","from":{"id":"611886636","name":"Rosmarie Heimbach"},"message":"Love the video. Well done at starting to get the word out thus far.  It is clear the dog images come from your book. I am so surprised Disney messed up like this. The media loves david and goliath stories. Submit this to all the major news agencies and see who bites?","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-09-11T16:06:16+0000","like_count":1,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_22677041","from":{"id":"641606519","name":"Felix Sockwell"},"message":"crazy. let us know how this case progresses.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-05-11T14:43:39+0000","like_count":7,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_22678384","from":{"id":"722251071","name":"Robin Landa"},"message":"If you need expert testimony about the obvious similarities of the images, I offer it to you. I agree with Jeff Fisher and Debbie Millman. You have my sympathy and support, MD!","message_tags":[{"id":"730536405","name":"Jeff Fisher","type":"user","offset":107,"length":11},{"id":"769270369","name":"Debbie Millman","type":"user","offset":123,"length":14}],"can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-05-11T16:43:17+0000","like_count":6,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_24066470","from":{"id":"771449397","name":"Jennifer Greiner Clark"},"message":"I don't know if this is helpful but artists post plagiarism things like this here. Perhaps you can get some advice from others who have been in this position...\nhttp:\/\/\/blog3\/","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-09-11T05:44:11+0000","like_count":0,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_22677818","from":{"id":"1124215877","name":"Michael Collins"},"message":"I'm sure they'll maintain that it's just a coincidence or that flipping them makes it \"original\".     I love \"Tube Sock\" and the one that looks like Gregg Allman...I could draw 2,000,000 dogs\u2014not one them would look like that!","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-05-11T15:55:00+0000","like_count":4,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_22676919","from":{"id":"624045166","name":"Terry Marks"},"message":"so strange it's hard to believe it happened on this scale. Robynne, I applaud you for going forward with this; it's not right and offends on both professional and very personal levels. Know I'm in your corner.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-05-11T14:29:55+0000","like_count":4,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_22677419","from":{"id":"1477891020","name":"Michael LaMonica"},"message":"Go get em, Robynne.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-05-11T15:17:19+0000","like_count":4,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_23129157","from":{"id":"1684170877","name":"Elizabeth Resnick"},"message":"Thank you for sending this to me. As Carlos has stated in his comment, \"it seems to be the way of the world\". It has become just too easy to go to the 'store' we know as the internet, download what's appealing and make it your own without a blink of an eye. Two years ago, one of our GD alums contacted me asking for advice when he discovered one of his projects was lifted off his  website, altered it a bit and presented as another student's portfolio work on Behance. I contacted the dean of that student's school on my alum's behalf, and the work was removed from her site within days. I also hope that student got a good finger wagging! As someone who researches contemporary poster design, you would truly not believe how much copying is going on right now. It is truly sad. I am sorry you were a target in such a personal way.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-06-19T11:34:02+0000","like_count":2,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_22717461","from":{"id":"100000602336347","name":"Pat Hackett"},"message":"I'm Ed Fotheringham's rep (see below). He makes good points about what happens with images. Another case worth noting is one that my pal, Mel Curtis, a Seattle photographer, was involved in. His case involved a midwest ad agency and a (very) large east coast client. There was a blatant rip-off of one of his photos, which had appeared in C.A. Magazine, that was used in the client's ad. (Mel happened to see the full-page ad in The Washington Post while going through the airport in D.C.) At any rate, the case took 4 years from start to finish; Mel won; and it set a precedent for subsequent cases. Stick to your guns!","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-05-14T21:47:32+0000","like_count":3,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_22678538","from":{"id":"781191179","name":"Matthew L. Porter"},"message":"Stealing artwork to make a profit for your major retailer that markets to the young, creative and hip is nasty, uncreative and cynical. Stealing the images of beloved pets drawn by loving pet owners to make a profit for your major retailer is public relations suicide. Since the author of this post could not say which retailer or movie company OBVIOUSLY infringed on these artists and dog lovers, I will suggest one has a logo that looks like a Bull's Eye and the other markets under the image of 75 year old rat.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-05-11T16:56:06+0000","like_count":3,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_22676243","from":{"id":"1478634879","name":"Cami Travis-Groves"},"message":"Unbelievable. Unacceptable. Unfortunate.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-05-11T13:19:59+0000","like_count":3,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_22879816","from":{"id":"521303123","name":"Tony Pinto"},"message":"I can't imagine whoever did this could possible think it was okay to blatantly copy your work? In this day and age, most everyone knows something about copyright laws and infringement - especially designers. Good luck with your case, the people responsible for this need to be set straight.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-05-28T22:43:46+0000","like_count":2,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_22702499","from":{"id":"1329680507","name":"Christopher Scott"},"message":"Many designers believe that nothing is original anymore.  I disagree with this belief as I always strive for creating original designs that are my own;  I put myself into each piece of art\/design that I create.  Obviously we can all get inspired by other designers and artists and this is all perfectly understandable.  However when we start deliberately copying others we are damaging not only the lives of the people concerned in this sad situation but also the ethics of design and humanity.  For me something is either right or wrong (there are no shades of grey in between).  In this case it is very clearly wrong and Modern Dog should be compensated for this.  Simple as that.\n\nChristopher Scott \nhttp:\/\/\/","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-05-13T18:05:12+0000","like_count":2,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_22702288","from":{"id":"608898872","name":"Art Chantry"},"message":"ps - I have a LOT more horror stores where that came from.  I've been doing this stuff for 40 years now.  and very time I think I've seen it all, they seem to come up with a new attack angle.  \"it's a jungle out there...\"","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-05-13T17:44:19+0000","like_count":2,"user_likes":false},{"id":"10150879560739697_22678169","from":{"id":"549581118","name":"Tiffany Laine De Mott"},"message":"It's truly unconscionable that this could ever happen. The way the people currently understand copyright law must be addressed. If anyone can do it properly it's you. Thanks for putting yourself out there as an example of what happens to big corporations who think that they don't have to play by the same rules. Bravo! Keep us posted.","can_remove":false,"created_time":"2012-05-11T16:23:55+0000","like_count":2,"user_likes":false}],"paging":{"cursors":{"after":"MzM=","before":"NTc="},"next":"https:\/\/\/10150879560739697\/comments?limit=25&after=MzM\u00253D"}}}}