Thursday, January 19, 2017

Websites That Make Money Infringing On Others Copyrighted Work

Today, lets talk about copyright and people making money infringing on other people's work. More specifically, lets look at Graphic Tee stores; TeePublic and RedBubble, to name a couple.

If you are unfamiliar with these sites, TeePublic and RedBubble, are stores where artists can go upload their artworks and sell them on various products including; T-shirts, Mugs, Etc... The store makes their cut and the artists also make a small commission on sales.

These sites are great because it enables amateur artists to make some money on their work. But what happens when the artists infringe on intellectual property? The sites have a policy where all artwork uploaded by users must be their own work and have permission to use said work, but if no-one is complaining about the work on the store, do they really care if their site is full of infringing copyrighted art? Probably not, because that's what seems to sell.


Take a look at TeePublic's Popular T-Shirts page for example.

Art work "Just Do It Later" is a parody of Nike's popular slogan and there is also a Pokemon, Snorlax, drawn in the tick, asleep.

"Member Berries" is a clearly a direct copy of the 'Member Berries from South Park's latest season.

"MM8" is Disney's Mickey Mouse running inside BB8 from Star Wars.

"S.T.A.R. Laboratories" is a direct copy of the S.TA.R. Lab's logo from CW's The Flash.

"Gengar evolution" is a drawing using the likeness of three Pokémon ghosts.

"Galactic Rhapsody" uses the likeness of four Sith lords from Star Wars.


Now lets look what's trending on RedBubble:

"Women's March on Washington", there's a few of these trending. An organizations event logo. Used with permission? I doubt it.

"Bee Movie Script". I'm sure the Bee Movie owners would have a problem with this, and probably anyone who actually buys this tee as it'll probably just look like dots.

"Hot Kool Aid Yeahhh" - It's the f**king Kool Aid Guy!

"Retro Obama Logo" is Obama's campaign logo.

"Atari" is a Atari logo.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.


I know you're probably thinking, 'most of this is just fan-art.' Yeah, well fan-art itself is a very sketchy area. Pun intended. And most fan-art IS a trademark violation. You are using likeness of copyrighted and trademarked characters and logos without permission from the owners. It may be all fun when you're just sharing an image, but the bigger issue is when you begin to make money on this work, which is exactly what users are doing on these T-Shirt stores. 'But no, it's a parody, that's fair use! That makes it okay, right'? You can try calling it that, however you'll need to prove that in court when you're sued.

So why isn't there a lot more suing going on? Because for most owners, their legal team will just send out a DMCA takedown notice, to get the work taken down. Clearly however, there isn't enough of this going on and websites like TeePublic and RedBubble are cashing in meanwhile.

Shouldn't we hold websites more responsible for the content on them? They get away with blaming the users if something goes wrong. But it's their website, they're making most of the money. But why would these sites care to take down infringing work if no one complains? Why should they manually monitor and check for copyright infringing work? They are making money on them after all. And while they might claim that they are taking measures to ensure there is not copy infringing work on their sites, anyone who's being alive and has access to a TV or the internet in the last decade can clearly see and know that most of these top selling artworks are infringing on copyright.



1 comment:

  1. Disney is really starting to crack down on this. I sell on Amazon and sellers just recently lost the ability to resell any Disney items on there. So if I have a Disney item that I decide to sell, I am unable to do so on Amazon. I think this may be the beginning so companies like Redbubble, Zazzle and others better start looking over their shoulder.

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