Saturday, June 20, 2009

An Offensive Rip off



Ty Buttars, comic enthusiast and all around nice guy, sent me this photo he took today saying that he knew I "wouldn't like this". He's right. The photo above is of a fellow he ran into at Heroes con in Charlotte, who was wearing a t-shirt featuring a rip off of my artwork. According to Ty, this guy said he "found it at a goodwill", which may or may not be true.

Either way, let me just say a few things about this. Firstly, I don't like people ripping off my artwork to put on t-shirts. Even if they print only one, for themselves. My work is clearly copyrighted by, and owned by me. It says so at the bottom of this blog. If a company ripped off my work to reproduce in mass quantities for profit, I'd be really pissed. If its just an individual doing one for themselves, I'm not pissed but still offended. Especially if, as is clear here, that person has removed my signature from the art. And please note, this isn't a "re-draw" or a "re-creation" or a drawing similar to mine, - this is just a straight grab of my artwork, as is, minus the signature.

Secondly, I am particularly offended by this specific drawing being reproduced on a t-shirt. Why? Because its a drawing of Jack Kirby: a creator whom I have immense respect for, and who was also routinely and unfairly exploited during his lifetime. I did this drawing as a tribute to him, to post here on this blog, and have had several comments from people suggesting that I make it into a shirt for sale. Unfortunately, I'd never want to do that. The reason for that is obvious: I don't want to make money off of his memory or likeness. Kirby has a fine estate, and unless they authorized the work, I would never ever want to violate his memory by exploiting him one more time.

In that same spirit, I've inked several pages of Kirby artwork for fun over the years, yet I'll never offer them for sale for that very same reason. Its just a personal decision of mine.

So, I'm posting this blog entry to make it clear that this t-shirt was never authorized or approved by me, and to ask a favour. If you're the guy who printed this shirt and you did it just for yourself, please be kind and stop wearing it. You're probably a Kirby fan like me, but please understand that you're not only ripping off my artwork, but that you're using it in a way that is upsetting to me. I don't want anyone to see the shirt and assume that I was responsible for it, especially anyone connected to Jack Kirby's estate. If you like, I'll send you a blank shirt or any of my other t-shirts I've designed over the years to make up for it. Contact me via email, and I promise to honour that pledge with no hard feelings. However, If you're a company and you printed this shirt for profit, stop being a douchebag and desist right away. I will do everything in my power to stop you if you don't.

I am also asking a favour to anyone who sees someone wearing this shirt. If you could be so kind as to tell the person wearing this that the artwork was ripped off and that he should stop, I'd appreciate it very much. I realize that's a big favour to ask, and I wouldn't ask for most other rip-offs of my work, but this particular case really bothers me. And if any of you know any more information about this rip off, especially if it's by a company producing mass quantities, please contact me. I'll make it worth your while.

For those who read my blog regularly and were hoping to see an art-post here today instead of this rant, my apologies. I'll get back to posting art again here soon, but I really needed to bring this problem to attention.

Thanks for your patience.

48 comments:

Rob said...

Thats gotta be killer. I'm so sorry dude. I will keep my eyes peeled around the comics circles I float through. This t-shirt ripping business has gotten so out of hand. Everyone does it and gets away with it. Its awful. I hope this gets sorted for you.

rob g said...

wow man, that is SO offensive. especially given the stolen material.

david renĂ³ said...

hey! as i was reading, i dont understand why you're so mad about someone do it by himself. but the fact they erase your signature and you offer another t-shirt was fair enough to me. but i don't really know how to overcome this....our work on the internet depends on personal values in the way its used. or we post it and realy on people, or keep to our selves.

anywayz....love your work. cheers from brasil
(sorry my shit english)

Michael Cho said...

Thanks for the support folks.

Dave: The reason I'm upset, even if its just by one person who made one shirt for themselves, is that I don't want anyone from Kirby's family or his estate to see or hear about it and think that I was printing lots of t-shirts with Kirby's image on it for profit. That's what makes it worrisome for me.

ArtsyFartsyTim said...

That is amazing (ly aweful). As I was reading I went from "I wonder how similar it is?" to "Holy shit! An exact duplication down to the name of the character?". Yikes. I hope you find the culprit.

Rono64 said...

I hate it when people rip off artwork.
I appreciate your not wanting to make a T-Shirt of a tribute image, your integrity rocks man.

If I personally see anyone wearing one of these shirts, I will rip it right off their backs.

The Rat said...

Definitely sucks. Just this afternoon I scanned in a picture of my parents' wedding taken 60 years ago, and on principle I included the photography studio credit even though they are no longer in business. It's just simple respect. I have had a number of people ask to use my nature photos on-line and my response is always the same - I'm honoured to be asked, thank you very much, and as long as you give credit go right ahead. Respect people, respect. Is it so hard?

Heidi said...

Wow, that's low. I'm sorry somebody did this to you.

Michael Cho said...

Again, my thanks for your support, everyone. I know it might seem a small issue, but it really does bother me.

Artsyfartsytim: Thanks. I should have been clearer in my post - its not a "redraw" or anything - its a straight-up grab of the artwork that I did. I've since edited my post to clarify that. And its not a character, actually -- its a portrait of Jack Kirby: a real person and a major comics creator.

supreme nothing said...

So freakin' lame on the part of the thief. Really lame.

The fact that your signature is removed is disconcerting, because the rip-off artist is clearly aware that he's a rip-off artist. It also suggests that more than one shirt was made for a dubious purpose.

These could show up at other cons too, I'm afraid. Good luck in nipping this in the bud. It's also very possible that getting the word out will scare this person off completely.

On the other hand, your portrait of Jack "King" Kirby is pretty damn cool. Great work!

Tati Viana said...

It happened to me too... Not about tshirts, but steal images. Because of that, I don't post hi-res images and all my artworks are watermarked.

Hugs,
Tati

Attila said...

So Sorry to hear that happened man. Man even deleted your signature. Wow.

bryan said...
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bryan said...
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bryan said...

3rd time's a charm... sheesh, blogger is messing with me today.

A couple thoughts - I understand you not wanting to upset the Kirby's, but your name has been erased. They won't know who to blame. And, if they are familiar enough with your work to recognize it as yours, then that's a compliment (a) and (b) they will know where you stand on the issue.

I think it's pretty rad that Ty recognized your work (another compliment) and was quick-thinking enough to snap a shot and bring it to your attention. That's some good lookin' out.

I know you aren't looking for the compliments, or compensation for the work, I'm just trying to address the 'silver' lining... or was that 'sliver'?

Danny said...

I want to say that I enjoy wearing my official Michael Cho skull "...And you never came back!!" t-shirt! Good quality material!

:-)

Fred said...

do you have any mp3s in your computer you didn't buy? better delete them quick so you don't sound too hypocritical.. i'm guessing you make your living from selling t-shirts with your artwork, huh? oh, you don't? then maybe you should start learning a few things about the way the internet works and enjoy the free publicity.

i'm unsubscribing to your feed now. have a good one.

Danny said...

Is that the free publicity from Michael's own blog or from the t-shirt that bares his art, with no artistic credit?

Anonymous said...

I guess Fred is the guy in the picture with the shirt on.

Michael Cho said...

Fred: I'm confused by your comment and I don't really understand what your point is. If you had read my post, you'd know that I have very specific reasons why I don't want THIS particular image to be used on a shirt and, for the same reason, I have no desire whatsoever for any "free publicity" that comes from this t-shirt.

But since I don't think you actually read the post, its probably a good idea to unsubscribe from the feed. Thank you.

Brad said...

that totally sucks!!

Jason Chalker said...

Wow Mike, that sucks on a lot of levels. I'll be at SDCC and WW Chicago this year, so I'll keep an eye out for you.

Gregor said...

Sorry to read about this, whoever is responsible is really out of line.
Especially seeing that he/she has deliberately taken the time to remove your signature.

Honest question for you, if say the t-shirt was produced solely as a one off so this guy could wear something neat to a comics convention and he had approached you first explaining that he only wished to do it in order to pay tribute to Jack Kirby would you have allowed him to?

Michael Cho said...

Hey Gregor: that's a very good question. To be honest, I really don't know. My gut feeling would be to say no, for the same reasons I've stated before. If someone did contact me asking to use the image, I'd probably try to explain my reasons and offer to let them use any of the other drawings of Kirby characters I've done. Or something else. I really don't know -- it's something I'd really have to think about.

Anonymous said...

I gotta say that you sound like kind of a crybaby. I could understand you not wanting somebody to print the shirt up and sell it using your artwork, but the whole thing about how "even if it's just one shirt that some guy made for himself"... It just makes you sound really uptight. Once you put it out there then it's out there. As an artist you should be glad that people give a shit. Get over it and get over yourself.

Michael Cho said...

Comments like that always come from "anonymous". Why don't you just stand behind your words if you feel that way?

Anyway, as I've said a few times now, its because of THAT specific image that I'm bothered by this shirt. I've written the reasons why in the post, and in the comments here.

Gregor said...

I agree, it appears that there are alot of people that take great care and deliberation to appear provocative and confrontational and at the same time post as an "anonymous".

Kind of cowardly it seems.

ArtsyFartsyTim said...

Wow - what's with some of the crazy ass anonymous comments you are getting? When did people who don't understand the law get the idea that if something is published on the web that intellectual property rights no longer apply?

Anonymous said...

what about crediting the photographer who took the picture of kirby that you used to create your artwork? should he not also be offended ass well??

Danny said...
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Danny said...

@Anonymous: Just grasping at straws aren't you?!?

Anonymous said...

I don't think that it's grasping at straws at all (I'm a different anonymous than the one who said that, by the way). The same thing is happening right now with Shepard Fairey's Obama poster and the Associated Press. "Intellectual property" is obviously a bullshit concept, so I'm sorry that you've got nothing. Why don't you credit the photographer who took the original picture of Kirby? Unless, of course, what's good for the goose *isn't* good for the gander? It makes you seem not only uptight, but also hypocritical. Do you support Shepard or the Associated Press? I'm curious to know. Keep crying to the handful of kiss-asses on your blog who'll support you no matter what stupid things you say. I guess it's all that you can do. Also, welcome to the real world... you self-important whiner.

Robert Ullman said...
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Robert Ullman said...

"Anonymous", you're not only a coward, you're completely wrong.

This isn't remotely the same situation.

Mike created the Kirby piece and posted it on his blog. There was never any intent (to my knowledge, anyway) to create stickers, t-shirts, or a presidential campaign identity using the image. It was simply a fun exercise to create a tribute to one of his heroes.

If the jagoff who printed the shirt printed only the one copy, well... it's true, there's probably no real damage done. It was an extra douchey step to remove Mike's name from his own art, but that's the way it goes sometime.

If he has created more than one, Mike needs to slam him down as hard as he can. I was at Heroes last weekend, but I didn't see this bozo. Wish I had, I would've done my best to embarrass him.

Cameron Stewart said...

Anonymous: even leaving aside everything Mike has said about creating the image completely for his own personal pleasure and having no intent to market or sell it whatsoever, Mike using a photograph as the basis of the drawing (reinterpreting it in his own unique drawing style and therefore separating the drawing from the source image and creating no confusion in the marketplace, as per the conventions of "fair use") is entirely different than someone reproducing Mike's artwork exactly (and removing his name from it).

I do also think that if it's just one guy who made the shirt for his own use, that it's sadly probably something Mike's just got to let go, as much as it irks him to do so. But calling him names and saying he's whining about publicity and recognition is ridiculous.

Colin said...

Cameron: You're right when you say that it's something that he's "just got to let go, as much as it irks him." Your method is saying it by coming to his defense and my method was saying it by criticizing him.

Owen Williams said...

Hey Michael, I found one of my drawings on a routine google search a few years back. Turns out someone liked my drawing of a stylised old man from my old website and decided to blow it up and sell it to a company, which they then used as their logo. I'm from the UK and the company was in the US, and when I contacted them they ignored me. It was a sick feeling...I'm over it now, but it was very frustrating :)

Cameron Stewart said...

Colin - okay, sure. But one of us looks like a dick.

Kyle T. Webster said...

Are any of the 'anonymous' posters here fairly well known artists or creators of another kind? In my years working in this field, I have yet to meet a fellow artist who does not support Michael's point of view, so I am curious to know the answer to this question.

Kyu Shim said...

Mike,
Hope this is all resolved in an amicable manner.
You' know you've got my support.
VOTE CHO!!!

Colin said...

Cameron--...and one of us looks like he has Michael Cho's shit on his nose.

Anonymous said...

"My gut feeling would be to say no, for the same reasons I've stated before. If someone did contact me asking to use the image, I'd probably try to explain my reasons and offer to let them use any of the other drawings of Kirby characters I've done. Or something else. I really don't know -- it's something I'd really have to think about."

I really like your work but I'm a little troubled about this. If the guy that's wearing your image, liked it so much he made a shirt for himself -that you have a prob with? You have to bum this guy out because of some fear about the Kirby estate you basically made up? You couldn't just tell somebody making inquiries that you're not responsible for it as a licenced item? If it's not about money couldn't an argument be made that the Kirby estate would have the right to tell you to take down your illustration of him because they didn't give you permission to do a drawing of him? If it's just a question of etiquette and not making money off of someone else's intellectual property aren't the two above things the same?
Couldn't an argument be made that in some sense you're using your drawing of a well know figure like Jack Kirby on this blog as a self promotion tool?
What about all the superheroes you draw all the time, are they your property????

Anonymous said...

My point is-either there is or is not money involved here, and that makes a HUGE difference. If there is, everyone is with you and there are steps you can take.
If not, you're just bumming people out.
Asking that guy to take off the shirt -I don't feel good about your work right now, to be honest. If it were me and I had just made the shirt for myself, and you told me to take it off, I would and I'd burn it.

Anonymous said...

If someone had a tatoo of that done, would you tell them to cut it off?

Anonymous said...

Both your use of Kirby's image and, hypothetically, the use of your drawing on someone's shirt not for profit are legal under the first amendment as "editorial comment". You could take that as a compliment, but since you can't and you have no choice, you should just deal with it and move on.

Your approach here is all wrong. If you were really concerned about someone making pirate t-shirts with your work, you should have made discreet inquiries to actually find out. Now you just upset people who made the mistake of liking your work too much, and if there was anyone making pirate merchandise you've undoubtedly driven them undercover. All in all, awkwardly dealt with on your part.
Bad form, Mr Cho.

Anonymous said...

Since Jack Kirby is not truly a celebrity, it would have been necessary for someone posting a image drawn or otherwise of him, to obtain a model release from his estate. Otherwise an argument of "invasion of privacy" could be made. So the fault here, if anyone's, is entirely Mr Cho's.

Anonymous said...

"Firstly, I don't like people ripping off my artwork to put on t-shirts. Even if they print only one, for themselves. My work is clearly copyrighted by, and owned by me. If its just an individual doing one for themselves, I'm not pissed but still offended."

Establishing ground rules for the little people, eh? How about this:
stick your work. I wont buy it, I will not come here anymore. Maybe I'll inform the Kirby estate that you are using Jack's image as self promotion without permission.

Michael Cho said...

You know, I've learned over the years not to feed trolls, because that just encourages them. There's just a segment of the internet that just loves to disrupt people's blogs with ill-formed arguments and comments, just to cause a reaction. And almost always, these people aren't brave enough to stand by the insults they hurl, so they take the "anonymous" label. They also often end their comments by saying things like "I'm through with your blog" or "I will not come here anymore". Yet, further proving how little their words mean, they often do return, just to see if they've caused enough of a bother to justify whatever small meaning they have in their meager lives.

So, while I have many rebuttals to the "anonymous" comments here, and can fully argue any and all of the points raised by the past few posts...I won't. I have better things to do than engage in debate with someone who thinks so little of his or her own words to hide behind anonymity. Nor will I get into a shouting match with a hit-and-run commenter. There's no reason to waste my time in attempting civil discussion with people who fling dirt from the shadows.

That said, and because trolls rarely listen, further comments on this post are closed. If anyone wants to discuss or debate the content of this post with me, I'd be happy to do so via email. Otherwise, we'll all get back on topic and on to other posts.