United States copyright law currently goes a long way towards helping protect artists from those who would steal and publish their artwork for profit. (Unless Congress passes the Orphan Works Act, in which case American artists will be doing a lot of nail biting and hand wringing. But I digress.)
Unfortunately once you leave American shores its another matter. Copyright laws vary from country to country, and if someone halfway around the world wants to steal your artwork and publish it for profit, there’s not much you can do about it.
Just ask Luc Latulippe and the artists over at the Little Chimp Society. A Chinese publisher (the “Great Creativity Organization”) recently stole hundreds of their art samples off of the internet, plus a few artist interviews, and published them in a 350-page book being sold online for over $100. The book translates the interviews word-for-word and even includes a CD containing all the artwork. The book even has a fake ISBN number. You can read all about it here.
Since filing a lawsuit against the Chinese would be expensive and likely fruitless, the only alternative the artists have is to spread the word about the thieving publisher, Great Creativity Organization, and the book’s distributor (the Azur Corporation), in hopes that the bad press will rise to the top of Google searches and assassinate their reputation. I want to help out, so I’m writing this blog post to spread the word and linking back to the original story (it’s called a trackback, and search engine’s love ’em).
If nothing else it’s also a good reminder that any artwork you or I publish on the internet is fair game for thieves and crooks all over the world. I’m not advocating that artists stop posting artwork. Just remember that once you put it out there, you can very easily lose control over what happens to it.