Last night I was looking for illustrations of eagles.

I went to istockphoto and recognized a logo that our own logo designer, Von Glitschka, had created (this one FYI: Eagle illustration by Von Glitschka ) but it was in someone else’s istock profile (SlipFloat) who had various works with very different styles.

I sent a tweet to @Vonster asking him to check it out.

Unbelievably, The infringer had uploaded that file in 2009 and sold the artwork with istock’s blessing over 100 times for 15$ before anyone notified Von.

Vonster sent a DMCA notice and today I see that the pirated work has been removed from istock.

This brings 3 serious Questions to mind

- What happened to the revenue istock made by selling illegal content?

- What happens to those who bought it in good faith and are unsuspectedly spreading a copyright infringement? (I would have gladly paid to buy it had I not recognized Von’s unique illustrative style)

- Why is the perpetrator’s account not banned from istock? (UPDATE: The perpetrator’s portfolio has now, it seems, been removed from istock – so that’s 1 question answered!.)

As Vonster’s tweets suggest, besides the fact that someone is making a few hundred dollars off a work you created, it is crucial to act upon notification that your work is being redistributed illegally, or it could become an orphan and you will lose ownership.

With great talent comes great responsibility.

Let’s be honest, no one will steal your work if you have no talent. That’s clearly not the case with Von who is constantly having to fight copyright thieves.

Last week, he exposed Logogarden’s LogoGate in a fascinating and well documented article which I urge you to check out. You won’t believe how audacious some online businesses are, shamelessly ripping hundreds, or thousands, of Original Works.

To quote Von himself:

“The biggest hassle in dealing with a copyright infringement is dealing with a copyright infringement.

The problem with copyright law is that unless you legally copyright each piece of artwork (every graphic you post within your online portfolio) you have no legal recourse to seek punitive damages no matter what evidence you have. This in my opinion is highly unrealistic for designers like myself. I create hundreds of images a year and I can’t afford to drop $50 on every single one I create? Who can realistically do that other than large multi-national corporations?

(…)

All I can do is send off a DMCA letter that requires the infringer to remove my art from their site and cease and desist using it. They have to act on the letter but as long as they remove the art there is no recourse for seeking any type of usage fees or collecting money on anything they sold using your work.

So design ass holes like John Williams fully understand this and exploit the loop hole as long as they can get away with it.“.

My personal closing thoughts about copyright law at large

Something is really wrong when corporate logo thieves get away with a slap on the wrist after making small fortunes from stealing creatives’ hard work and I believe it’s time for change

Why should the concrete threat of our OWs going orphan waste hours out of our busy freelance schedules? Should the cash-cow USCO registration fee still be a requirement to seek punitive damages? Shouldn’t websites like istock have better measures in place to prevent the redistribution of stolen artwork? What do you think?