Monday, October 17, 2011

Letter to a Student (crafter)

This is another letter I thought it might be helpful to share, because it is not an isolated incident.

Again, identifying information is left out, but this is to a member of a crafting class where the Teacher sent out copies of one of my most popular images freely to all of her Students without my permission. 

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Dear Student,

I'm afraid you're missing the point of my email completely.  This is not about Teacher.  She's not the victim here -- that would be ME.

I'm sorry to tell you, but this is not Teacher's first time getting caught sharing images.  This was not an honest "mistake."  She is known to other stamp companies for violating copyright also, and has been told it is wrong and not allowed and that she must stop -- never mind that it is against the law.  She is WILLFULLY and repeatedly violating copyright law.  Perhaps she is kind to animals, throws a nice tea, inspires your creativity, has a beautiful singing voice -- I don't know.  All that I know is that Teacher feels completely free to steal from artists like me and that you are defending her doing it.

My work is VALUABLE to me -- it is my source of income -- how I feed my children. 

And it's valuable to all the people who choose to enjoy it legally, especially those who like it enough to spend their own hard-earned money purchasing it. 

And obviously, if someone chooses to use my stolen image instead of drawing her own, my talent and my image must be valuable to them too -- though why not valuable enough to pay $3 for instead of choosing to steal it I can't imagine.  Why not find one of the hundreds of freebies people offer?  Oh yes, people value my work.

I contacted Teacher first (as I always do) when I learned she had been passing my images before contacting any of her class.  I did NOT get an apology from a person taking responsibility for their actions (taking responsibility for the violation and promising not to do it again is something I DO forgive.)   As Teacher has been a customer in my shop -- she IS aware of my usage policy, and as evidence that she is aware -- she tried to deny the fact that she distributed my file to you all.  Instead - I got two emails from her claiming that  "I was under the impression that if I coloured the image which I always do for my class that I had not broken any rules." --- even though I told her I had the actual email with the original digital file attached -- of course colored images were NEVER an issue.

Fortunately -- one person was honest enough to show me proof. The rest -- I heard only from you (here mostly defending Teacher) and one other person simply demanding to know how I got her name.  I understand defending a friend, but how about standing up to defend what's right?  Do you think it's right for any of you to allow her to continue the violations?  Do you smile and say "thank you" when she sends you a stamp illegally -- even if in the back of your mind you know it's not right?

The "name and shame" policy we have adopted at Stamp Out comes from the fact that we get so many repeat offenders.  We always give them a chance to acknowledge, apologize and state  to us privately that they understand what they did was wrong so we can perhaps end things there.  -- but when they do not, we have found that the idea of having proof of their crime go up on the Wall of Shame is a great deterrent.   It is a last resort.  It's not something we ever do lightly, but if the internet is going to make it so easy for a person to be dishonest and steal our art -- it is going to also be used as the method to "out" these thieves so they can't hide behind their repeated claims of "not knowing" or "My husband lost his job and I wanted this stamp" or "I did it for charity."  By the way,  I still have not heard an acknowledgment from Teacher accepting responsibility for passing on my digital files.  If you are her friend, you should let her know accepting responsibility for what she has done is how she may be able to move past this.

I honestly do not want your three dollars to "fix" this.  I want every one in the class to read this email and see my point.  I want promises from you that you won't accept, use or pass on copyrighted work illegally again.    I want you all to understand WHY there are laws protecting art creators. I want you all to read up on copyright issues. (try starting with: http://www.whatiscopyright.org/) I want you to understand this issue so well that you can pass on information to others so they can understand it too.  Oh -- and as I said at the start, I'd love it if you all would understand that the only victim here is ME.

If you each can't promise me that -- then I remain violated.


Sincerely,

Mo

17 comments:

  1. Wonderful letter, Mo! You've stated your case clearly, concisely, and in a civilized manner. You were much kinder than I would have been!

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  2. Mo, just sending you big hugs! you write a very eloquent letter.

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  3. To Student from a Mo customer standpoint: We will not let these thieves drive Mo out of business and deprive those of us who do purchase images of her tremendous talent. When she's defending her art, she isn't drawing. Please help Teacher to see that copyright violation is the SAME as helping yourself to merchadise at Target. So your Teacher is teaching you both paper crafting and THEFT. Fortunately, there is no hiding place on the internet.

    Mo, your kindness will save you from a single day in hell. I, however,would like contact info for Teacher on the Wall of Shame.

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  4. Copy laws are different for teachers. As a teacher I am allowed to give out the exact number of copies of something to my students as allowed by law. I cannot sell, nor can I give out more than 1 per student. Check with your local universities education training department and they will give a copy of the laws showing that classroom use of materials falls under a different condition than non-classroom/school use.

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  5. PS--I am not sure if art teachers are covered under this law.

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  6. You may find this helpful:

    http://www.halldavidson.net/chartshort.html

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  7. Donna, there are a lot of different elements involved with what you are referring to (legally it is called "fair use" But there are certain requirements that have to be met, even by a school teacher for it to fall under fair use. Here is just one thing to consider:

    The effect of use on the potential market for or value of the work.
    In general, a work that supplants the normal market is considered an infringement, but a work does not have to have an effect on the market to be an infringement

    This comes from Standford Education Dept
    http://www-sul.stanford.edu/cpyright.html

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  8. I'm sure there are ways that a person teaching a group Cardmaking could use the "fair use" rule -- but handing out images to "color" without permission would not be one of them.

    For instance. The teacher could bring a few of my illustrations to her class (without permission) and demonstrate herself how to color them. She could put them on an overhead and talk about them. But she could not make copies of them to give out so that students can color them -- unless she has asked me for permission. (And some craft teachers HAVE asked me for permission to hand out a few prints for the students to color in class.)

    I would NEVER give permission to a teacher (or anyone) to email a digital version of my art freely to the members of her class. That's what happened here.

    Donna -- honestly wondering -- have you started to come round yet about copyright?

    xoMo

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  9. oops -- and I should say that if the teacher brought some of my images to class -- they would have to be legally obtained by her as well. :)

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  10. Mo, Please take some comfort in knowing there are those of us out here who always pay and never, ever accept an image from someone, without paying. As you said, there are plenty of freebies out there. (As an aside, it is considered rude to take advantage of those freebies without a proper thanks to the artist. Thank you is mighty small payment, indeed). In this case, I say a BIG thank you to Mo for letting us play with her images and for keeping her prices low enough that we can afford them for about the same as a cup of coffee. For you thieves out there: drink water and use your drink money to get your images honestly!

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  11. Well written, to the point, and honestly, very tactful. I hope more and more people understand that this is wrong.

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  12. I just don't understand why people continue to defend their behavior when they know it's wrong! I'm not innocent. While I never gave away digital files, I did participate in a few image swaps when I started stamping. When I learned that I was violating copyright law and understood the consequences that swapping might have for the stamp companies I loved I stopped swapping immediately. I told my swapping "buddies" that images shouldn't be swapped, thinking that they would want to know too. Turns out they didn't. I heard lots of excuses and justifications. I even received a few hostile emails. I was surprised by that, but the response from "student" (the gall of which I can only imagine based on your response)is absolutely mind-boggling. I wish you didn't have to deal with such nonsense. I get so much joy from coloring your delightful illustrations--it makes me sad to know that others are taking the joy out of the process for you. :(

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  13. Oh, and perhaps you can take some comfort in the fact that I learned about the evils of swapping from YOU! So, you're personally responsible for at least one reformed swapper. :)

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  14. FIRST OF ALL, YOU ARE FULL OF BS, THIS IS A TEACHER YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT IT!!!! TEACHER ARE UNDER PAID AND YET THEY TAKE WHATEVER IT TAKES TO EDUCATE OUR CHILDREN. YOU WANTED THAT TEACHER TO SPEND $300 ON YOUR DAMN STAMPS!!!! YOU DON'T SEE TIM HOLTZ GOING AROUND CRITICIZING PEOPLE WHO USE OR SHARE HIS STAMPS, HE SOLD IT AND THAT WAS THAT!!! YOU WANT TO MAKE MORE MONEY AND THAT IS AN ACT OF SELFISHNESS. IF YOU DON'T WANT YOUR IMAGES SHARED THEN DON'T POST THEM ON THE INTERNET AND DON'T DESIGN THEM. AS AN ARTIST FEEL PROUD THAT SOMEONE LIKED YOUR STAMP ENOUGH TO USE IT 100 TIMES. YOU ARE RIDICULOUS AND ARE DEMANDING WAY MORE THAN YOU SHOULD. I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF ANYTHING MORE RIDICULOUS IN MY LIFE IN MY MANY YEARS OF CRAFTING. NOT ONLY ARE YOU CUTTING YOURSELF SHORT, BECAUSE AS PEOPLE SEE YOU COMMENTING AND BASHING A TEACHER THAT IS MAKING AN EFFORT TO EDUCATE OR CHILDREN, AND EVEN ADULTS THAT WANT TO LEARN. YOU WERE A STUDENT ONCE, YOU HONESTLY THINK THAT ALL YOUR IDEAS COME FROM YOUR HEAD, YOU MAKE AND GET INSPIRED BY SOMETHING OR SOMEONE, THEREFORE I FIND IT HARD TO BELIEVE THAT ALL YOUR IMAGES WERE AN IDEA THAT YOU YOURSELF CREATED, BECAUSE SOMETHING INSPIRED YOU. MOST OF YOUR IMAGES ARE HALLMARK OWNED, INSPIRED FROM CARTOONS FROM CHINA AND THEY ARE NOT SOMETHING THAT YOUR YOURSELF CREATED! THESE IMAGES ARE ALL YOUR ORIGINAL STAMPS, THERE IS NO WAY, YOU WERE INSPIRED BY SOMEONE OR SOMETHING. I AM NOT GOING TO BUTTER OR SUGAR COAT THIS, BECAUSE I AM A TEACHER AND YOU SHOULD BE DISGUSTED WITH YOURSELF. YOU ARE MORE CONCERNED ABOUT A $1.00 THAN THE FACT THAT CHILDREN WERE INSPIRED BY YOUR CREATIVITY. YOU POSTED AND BASHED A TEACHER, WHO DIED AND MADE YOU GOD???? WHO MADE YOU THE STAMP POLICE, IF YOU DON'T WANT PEOPLE TO USE YOUR IMAGES THAN DO NOT POST THEM ON THE INTERNET NOR SELL THEM. AN TRUE ARTIST GETS INSPIRED WHEN SOMEONE ADMIRES THEIR WORK, AND I CAN HONESTLY SAY THAT YOU ARE A DISGUISE TO TEACHERS AND ARTISTS.

    I PERSONALLY WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHAT ARE YOUR STAMPS, WHERE DO YOU SELL THEM, BECAUSE I WOULD NEVER BUY THEM, THEY COULD COLLECT DUST ON YOUR SHELF FOR ALL I CARE, BECAUSE NO STAMP WITH SO MUCH RESTRICTIONS IS WORTH MY HARD EARN MONEY.

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    1. Hello -- what a rant! All caps make it very difficult to read.

      First of all: A teacher should know and understand Intellectual Property rights enough that that they can TEACH that also to their students. It doesn't sound like you understand the law at all.

      Secondly: Being a teacher or a student (whether we're talking about adults or children) does not give anyone the right to steal. You can't afford to buy something -- you save up for it or you do without it -- just like I have to do.

      Thirdly: If you don't even know who I am -- why are you claiming my stamps are unoriginal?

      If you are a teacher (I'm dubious) you really should think before you start ranting. I don't know if you even understood what this original post was about . . . an adult woman "teaching" card making to other adults and distributing images to each member of her class in violation of the terms of use.

      xoMo

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  15. I do not understand how people think its ok to do this?! Perhaps one of them could clarify to me why just because it is a virtual item, by way of digi stamp rather than a physical item, it makes it not stealing or ok to just take because this person is a teacher? Firstly let's just assume for the purpose of my post that this person was a teacher teaching little kids in a real school- are you telling me that this makes it ok to take something that is not theirs to have? On your arguments if these same pupils needed markers to colour their images the teacher could go in the store and just take, without paying except for her own set, 20 sets (or however many) since she is only teaching with them and actually the store owner should feel honoured that the children were so inspired by the colours of the markers !!?! Or same story but colouring books! I mean tell me how is that any different to giving these pupils printed out copies of someone else's artwork with only one image copy being paid for? If that had been in the store, teacher or no teacher, that would be one arrested teacher! And just in case you doubt my credibility in this matter I am a criminal defence lawyer so I figure that makes me pretty qualified to comment. But in all seriousness explain to me your 'defence' cos right now if you were my client I would be suggesting you took a plea!

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  16. A lot of artists find that teachers are among their infringers, and this is especially sad because they're ignorant of what the law allows 'educators' to do, and are passing on that ignorance to their students. A teacher who infringed on the work of numerous artists, including me, was giving our work away to a licensing org, Creative Commons! This could've caused unending headaches and infringements, and diluted value of our work, for every artist whose work he was using. Giving work away for 'licensing' is NOT an allowed use for educators. I sent him a couple of easy to read links on copyright FAQ's from the copyright.gov site, and a 'copyright myths' page that covered what he was doing. His blog later reflected that he either didn't read, or didn't choose to comprehend, those links, and he was still blaming artists for his infringement and claiming we would never sell anything now. Ridiculous!

    Infringers are like little kids who lie, deny and make excuses for what they have done.

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