Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Defending my Copyright for my Boxer Dog Portrait Painting

Someone Stole my Boxer Dog Painting Image
How to defend my copyright of this painting of my boxer dog, Sarge?  I had to learn quick.

From time to time, I find one of my portraits somewhere, usually on a webpage, (Sarge has become more than one person's avatar without my permission!) and in instances like that, I generally let them know it's my painting, and I hold the copyright to it, and I'm fine with them using it as long as they credit me with it along with a link back to my Pet Portraits website.

But I found a sad copy of this painting on Etsy where I sell, by some guy who just decided to start painting pet portraits after not painting since high school 20 years before.

So he wanted to compete directly with me, where I sell, using a copy of my painting as his sample!

So I first did a google image search to make sure I hadn't missed that this guy hadn't painted this long ago.  It was so close, though, I think he traced it. Same crop at the ear, same eye, same nose, but he missed the wrinkle on the snout.  The jowls, though were way off, but he had the exact "waddle" as Sarge's with the exact coloring and angle of the neck.  But no, it was straight off of his photoshop, just altered a bit.

I wrote him a very nice note telling him I owned the copyright and he had to remove it.  He ignored.

I searched online for a Cease and Desist letter.  I found a good one by a photographer, but before I sent it, I paid a little trip to the US Copyright Office to officially register my copyright for Sarge.  You have to do this before you can pursue legal claims to protect your copyright, even though the moment you publish a work anywhere, you own that copyright.

It only cost $35 and I could have registered a bunch of them but I didn't know that then.

I sent the guy my Cease and Desist and he wrote back that it was a different dog.  And anyway there were differences.  And anyway, it perfectly permissible to be INSPIRED by someone else's painting and use it.
Custom Wedding Portrait Drawing

Uh, no.  I told him to remove it within the hour, that I wasn't going to discuss his mistaken interpretation of copyright law and that he should consult a lawyer.

And then, 61 minutes later, I filed a DCMA Take Down Notice with Etsy and an hour and half after their office opened in the morning, the infringing listing by the guy I "inspired", was gone and I never heard from him again.  Sarge is glad.  He modeled for this painting and expects a fee himself.  And hasn't seen any samples of cheese coming his way from the guy!
I'm artist Robin Zebley, specializing in portraits of pets, homes and people.  More from this blog HERE, my Etsy Portraits Shop is and my website is


Anonymous said...

So happy you protected your work, Robin. I had a similar situation and wasted no time dealing with it. Fortunately, in my case, I did not have to involve Etsy as the thief removed it as soon as she read my highly aggressive take down notice. We have to fight to protect our rights and those who don't simply make it harder for the next artist. ~ Jae

Robin said...

Congrats, Jae! Here's hoping it never happens again!