The cost of art theft: from Spike Lee to Rachal Dukes

I’m sure over the holiday you heard about how graphic designer Juan Luis Garcia presented pretty compelling evidence that his striking design for a poster for the Oldboy remake was shamelessly ripped off by studio Film District. When Garcia complained, director Spike Lee didn’t seem too sympathetic:

The whole incident enabled us to learn a few things:

• The Oldboy remake was a horrible horrible bomb at the box office

• Spike Lee, who has unquestionably made some amazing movies, is shockingly unaware of the proper use of Title Case punctuation.

• You’re gonna get ripped off.

2013 01 23 420x1024A less publicized case of theft was also revealed just before the holiday, in this case a more subtle and more pernicious case: credit removal by humor sites. In this case the victim is cartoonist Rachel Dukes. who drew the charming cat cartoon above. She posted it, as so many do, on her Tumblr for free, and saw it linked everywhere. however, as she writes, some sites literally cropped off her name and credit, including many of those obnoxious but addictive humor reblogging site that everyone passes along endlessly on Facebook. The result was not pretty:

Taking into consideration that Tumblr notes are made up of both likes and reblogs, let’s be conservative and say the Tumblr notes are twice as high as they should be. (That every single person that has viewed the image on Tumblr has liked the image and reblogged it.) Dividing the Tumblr notes in half, that leaves us with:

Posts using the credited image:
2,912 votes
2,721 Tumblr notes
727 Tweets
0 Pintrest shares
14,000 Facebook likes
10,700 Facebook shares

Posts using the uncredited image:
29,629 votes
62,393 Tumblr notes
0 Tweets
6,000 Pintrest shares
2,085 Facebook likes
347,984 Facebook shares

Dukes estimates that her original credited cartoon was viewed 81,595 times; the “anonymous version” 588,310 times.

Crediting stuff you find floating around on the internet is not the easiest thing. But cutting off someone’s name and credit is one of the most lowdown things you can do. Dukes is philosophical about the matter—Tumblr isn’t a money maker in itself—but she’s right to point the finger at sites like 9gags, LOLcenter, FunnyJunk and so on, which do this kind of thing ALL THE TIME and do it to make money.

Something need to be done by the community as a whole: by the readers as well as the creators. We need to start crediting our content/sources and reporting those who don’t. Sites like 9GAG need to be held accountable for their theft of work. If you see something that’s stolen: say something to the original poster, report the post, or contact the creator of the artwork.

If you have an image you’d like to post but don’t know the source: reverse Google image search it. Figure out where it came from before you post. If you like it enough to share it, it means there’s probably more where that came from.

But…more to come on all of this later today.

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