Thursday, 6 August 2009

My two cents

So I've plenty of time to think on yesterday's revelations now and I guess here's what I want to say. It's a long 'un and sadly image free, normal posting to resume shortly.

When i first opened my emails and read about Samantha Beeston presenting Lauren Nassef's and my own work as her own I felt a bit sick. It was a real sudden punch in the gut and sat in the middle of a starbucks on Marylebone high street it was one i wasn't expecting. One of the things I worry about as an illustrator who has a website, a blog and a flickr is that my work is accessable to anyone and that is both a blessing and a curse. Whilst it allows me, and thousands of other artists, to present work and connect with people all over the world it also throws my work into the public domain where anyone can find it, post it, print it, or copy it. The internet is a largely anonymous place, sites like ffffound although often enjoyable and useful, regurgitate images, often without crediting their creator which renders them orphans to many viewers. They appear totally without origin. As a result it is far too easy for people to take their 'inspiration' that bit too far.
In this case the culprit was clearly aware of who created the images concerned (the handwriting that was lifted from me was posted only on my blog which is a far from anonymous source and the images from Lauren's 'A drawing a day' project are only available on her personal site) which sadly makes it a far less innocent crime. It is one thing to copy someone's work and keep it hidden in a sketchbook, (when I was at school I loved drawing paintings from The Art Book, it seemed like good practice) but it is quite another to present it as your own publically and then to enter it into a competition. Alas short of her tutors and the competition's judges following every illustration website and blog going how on earth were they ever going to know? I guess that is what made this all so easy. I'm sure that there are hundreds of people out there presenting other people's work as their own. In fact I know a fair few people who have fallen victim to it recently. I can consider myself lucky that someone spotted this when it could quite easily have gone unnoticed. In that respect the internet and the community of people who follow illustration blogs like my own are invaluable.
This whole thing has raised many questions (not least over at BBIC) about copyright and ownership. As someone just starting out professionally I am hardly equipped to answer them (but Julia Rothman is!) however it is safe to say that if you are taking heavily from someone else's work then you are likely in breach of copyright. It is never ok to rip off other artists, especially if you intend to make that work public.
My advice, though no one has asked for it and I am not really licensed to give it, would be to look at things other than illustration if you are an illustrator, look at fine art or film or read some good books that way you can feel safe in the knowledge that your inspiration has come from an emotional reaction rather than a desire to ape something you've already seen. Listen to conversations on buses, draw in unlikely places and avoid the internet when trying to start work!
I would also emplore people to put notices on your blogs claiming possession of your work...when posting to flickr make sure it is clear that this is your work and not for other people to copy. It seems anal but it could well help. I know that from now on i'll be making sure I tag everything I ever did as my own!

OK. I'm done. Apologies to those who come to this blog for cheery posts about drawing bears. I assure you this is a one off musing and hopefully we'll have no more of this nonsense! Thanks again to everyone who has contacted me about this and offered kind words of support. Knowing that people are keeping an eye out for each other is the only reason I am happy to keep on posting my work online.


Clare said...

I read all about the Samantha Beeston fiasco when it started and just found it unbelievable. The only thing that gave me a wry smile was that I had never heard of Lauren Nassef before and so ironically this girl's actions only served to reinforce the reputation of the artists she has ripped off.
When I found out that someone whose work I have followed for a while was also involved it left a nastier taste in my mouth.
I hope this gets sorted very very soon and does not affect your work or morale. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Hey! Good post, I think those are some fine tips about being an illustrator and using the untameable internet. I hope this Beeston twerp gets her comeuppance, but it's great that you are putting this horrible and frustrating episode behind you...onwards with those excellent drawings of bears and such, please!

Karin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
naa said...

OMG! I can't believe some people are so shameless! It makes me sad and angry as well because I often think about the same problem... it's a great opportunity to put our works out there but at the same time you can't never be sure what's happening to your work. I sympathize with you and I hope this will not change your mind with presenting us your beautiful work which is very inspiring for me (in a normal meaning not as copying as for some people). I wish you good luck and don't lose your will!

Karin said...

Hi Lizzy
I can imagine that this whole thing really made you think twice about posting stuff on the internet. It got me thinking too, but I'm sure that this big international community of creative people are looking after one another and that thefts like this always will surface just because of the internet. I suppose that it was even easier to plagiarize before the internet because the chances that someone had seen the original work would be slim.
The internet is both a curse and a blessing in this matter. But I also think that the positive outcomes are far greater than the negative. For me, the internet has generated work and friends that I wouldn't have found "irl".
I LOVE your work and following your blog, you have a really unique style that I think communicates on subconscious level and I hope that this doesn't effect you that much in the long run. I think it will be proven to be most hurtful to Samantha Beeston because most likely her career is over even before it begun.
I'm sorry that this happened to you but hopefully you feel stronger from all the support.

Becca said...

This is really horrible and i'm so sorry for all of you involved. I'm particularly disheartened by it because I graduated from illustration at falmouth college of arts (where beeston did textiles)5 years ago- she definitely wouldn't have gotten away with this on the illo course. Console yourself with the knowledge that your work is clearly bloody brilliant if someone is already ripping it off!

Grace said...

Hello there,

I have just read this post and very sad to hear that this is happening. If the person who copied your work entered a competition with it, have you been able to contact the competition judges to let them know what happened?

On another note, I am a photographer and have had my copyright breeched many times. As horrible as it is you really must follow up each time it happens so that less people think that they can get away with it.

A few years ago there was a case of an illustrator being sued for breech of copyright as their illustration looked the same as a photographers portrait (I will try to find an article on this). The photographer won, as the judge felt that the illustration wouldn't have existed if the artist hadn't copied the work of the photographer.

I know that another case is going on at the moment with the guy who made the screen print of Obama taken from a photographers portrait. Surprisingly the photographer lost. I wonder if it is because the screenprint has become such an iconic image in its own right?

You can read about it here:

June Chanpoomidole said...

Hi Lizzy
I read up all about this on Books by it's cover blog and I can't believe how far this goes. Im sorry that this has happened to you and also thank you for giving us advice and awareness on this issue.
I definitely agree with you, as illustrators we are vulnerable to the web when we post up all our work to see.
I am even considering putting a watermark on my works. But don't give up and keep doing what you love best.
By the way, I love your work at D&AD and your hand lettering. Wishing you the best for the future.

forest bound said...

thank you for this blog post. this is an issue that unfortunately has been occurring SO MUCH lately! i feel like every day there's a new instance of someone claiming work as their own. it's so hard not to get discouraged when this happens.. but your work is truly wonderful and you are so talented. i feel like this issue should be more openly discussed on blogs/flickr/everywhere on the internet.. so thank you again for writing this.

hellojenuine said...

the internet truly is a blessing & a curse at times. i noticed that the girl used your handwriting too!
it really is terrible when people think it is a-okay to use/copy someone's work without permission. i had someone use part of my work in theirs, & their excuse was that the default copyright on my flickr meant that they didn't have to ask! fortunately most people possess common sense & decency, & it's when things like this happen that the good people on the world wide web make themselves known.

really hope this gets resolved soon, & nothing of the like happens again. back to bears!

teresa murfin said...

So sorry to hear your news. How do these people sleep at night?! I really don't understand how they think they can get away with it. I guess as illustrators our work is made to be out there, it's very difficult to protect it, so it's great that there are so many people out there who care and are on our side!
I've been meaning to put up a copyright statement on my blog but I'll definitely be doing it now.
Hope this hasn't affected you too much, look forward to seeing more of your lovely work :)

Anonymous said...

Pfoo, I can't imagine how just must feel, it is so sad! I hope you are feeling a little better by now - and will rock the world with your suuuuupergreat drawings!

Anonymous said...

I just posted a comment on one of your other posts, and began to read your other entries. I had heard about that girl copying Lauren's work, but I didn't know that she had copied yours too!! Truly awful. I only hope that this event has had a positive impact on you, in that it has brought your work to the attentions of others, and also highlights copyright law more clearly for any wannabe fraudsters. Please get in touch if you fancy doing some work for our magazine! x