When Imitation is NOT the Sincerest Form of Flattery

imitation-is-not-flattery

This post has been buzzing around inside my head for quite some time, and now today it’s come down to: 1. to post OR 2. not to post. Ack. Okay…since there is a novel down below you can clearly see that I chose Option 1. Here it goes.

Over the course of my time as a blogger I’ve seen countless cases of artists and makers having their creative talents blatantly copied, and in every case it has been sad to see people who put their heart and passion into something unique, have it taken from them so unceremoniously. Sometimes there are accusations of copying, where the lines get a little bit fuzzier…a style that is similar but not identical, and I suppose this is the gray area that can make copying harder to define. However…in growing frequency I have seen artists have their work taken as-is, with very little or no “modification,” and sold without their permission or compensation. It truly saddens me to say that I am now one of these artists (see the image above).

To say that this upsets me is a big understatement. I am someone who is simply trying (and working very hard) to support myself and my daughter by building a brand around my artistic style. I’ve found that one of the worst things about having your work stolen, is the way that it can stifle your creativity and rob you of a desire to continue sharing your work. Ever since becoming aware of this incident I’ve struggled to feel comfortable to put anything new out.

It hurts that a company with a loyal following throughout South America would find it acceptable to blatantly steal from me, simply because they can. I’m not sure if location had anything to do with their decision to steal my work. Maybe they figured that halfway around the world it would be unlikely that I’d ever find out. Thankfully there are good people all over who are looking out for me and other indie artists, and who aren’t willing to turn a blind eye when they see stuff like this going on.

If I had been contacted by Luigi Bertolli about using my illustration work, I would have been delighted to partner with them in some capacity. But finding out that one of my illustrations has been taken without permission, stuck on a t-shirt, and is helping to fill their pockets with absolutely no compensation or credit back my way is such a disappointment. I have been unable to get in touch with them through their site, and if I were able to, all I would ask is that they immediately pull all of the stolen designs out of their stores. I know that legal action could probably be taken (especially since there is no debating that it is my illustration that they used), and I must admit that the thought has been tempting…but at the end of the day I’d honestly rather put my energy into my work and a path that will take me forward in the positive direction that I want to go.

Before I go, I just want to quickly clarify that my reasoning for this post is not to start an online riot against this company. I’ve tried to keep my words here as non-confrontational as possible. I acknowledge that I could have kept this whole thing to myself, but ultimately decided that it was important for me to speak up, both for myself (talking about this has taken such a weight off my shoulders)…and for any other new artists out there who may be going through similar situations and feeling alone (you’re not).

Since starting on this illustration path last year I have been so inspired by each one of you. The support of our creative community has been invaluable to me. Thank you for giving me a chance to voice my frustrations and get a little housekeeping out of the way here today. Now onto better and brighter things. xo Ez

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143 Comments

  1. adele / / Reply

    Ugh, so sorry this is happening to you EZ. I do hope that somehow you can reach them and have it pulled.

  2. MAYKA / / Reply

    I can’t believe it!!!! I’m really sad. I don’t understand why the people don’t ask before. Sorry, Ez.

  3. Melanie / / Reply

    I hate how common this is. :( I hope you’re able to get in touch and get the item removed. xoxo

  4. Nazia / / Reply

    Hey Ez. I follow your blog everyday & like you, I’m a creative as well ( an illustrator & a graphic designer) I totally feel what you must be going through. It’s happened to me once years back. I’m so sorry, but I hope some action is taken! Good luck!

  5. San / / Reply

    I am so saddened to see this happen to you. I’ve been a loyal reader of your blog and think your design/style is lovely. To be ‘screwed’ over like that is truly horrifying.

    I hope you do get in touch with them and make them pull that t-shirt from their stores.

  6. Vicky / / Reply

    OOOH Ez! it was incredible, there are many people who are not ethical and capitalizes with the work of others! but remember the worst is the social condemnation of being exposed.
    You´re work is wonderful and he´s a poor person!

    I have a new blog http://www.traindevie.com.ar You are invited to follow me!
    Kisses

  7. Michelle P / / Reply

    Oh Ez, how frustrating! I’d recommend drawing up an official request for royalties due. There’s a chance that whoever “sourced” your image for the t-shirt mislead management & they will do the right thing. Even if they were aware they were infringing on copyrights, well – you’d be giving them an opportunity to save face.

    I know how this feels, it can really take the wind out of your creative sails, just try to remember that your artwork brings people joy & see if that can puff the sails back up. :)
    m

  8. Veronica Sobralski / / Reply

    You should talk about it, that’s the power of having a blog. This isn’t a little thing, it should be taken seriously. It is blatant and whether or not intending to be, it is malicious on their part. You should take action because if you don’t why wouldn’t they steal from you again, and it would be a shame to not be able to share your work.

  9. Kristin / / Reply

    Oh Ez, I’m so sorry. I had a photo of my two year old son stolen off my blog (with my watermark cropped off) last year and I felt so violated and angry – totally understand. It SUCKS. Hope you’re able to push past the creative depression, your artwork is wonderful! And hey, maybe an ethical company in the states needs to work with you to start putting it on t-shirts ASAP! Make lemonade out of stolen elephants on bicycles…?

    • Ez
      Ez / / Reply

      Stealing a picture of a child crosses so many lines! I can’t even imagine how maddening that must have been for you. I hope you were able to find a positive resolution to that situation! xo Ez

      • Kristin / /

        Thanks – it was pretty infuriating and awful. One site it was posted on removed the photo immediately and I was very grateful for that; the other had me jump through lots of hoops to get it removed from their site. They finally did, but not until the image had already gone viral. THAT was the most infuriating part of it.

  10. Beatrice / / Reply

    Brutal! Your illustrations are so lovely and you deserve better.

  11. Carrie Rowe / / Reply

    I can’t even believe this. I am so sorry for you!!! Your work is so wonderful and I am so sad this has happened to you.

  12. amy of four corners design / / Reply

    I am so sorry Ez! I have had this happen to me – people stealing photos and eliminating my watermark and then claiming it was their own…it is sad that some people resort to this…and you are so right – if only they had contacted you…because they knew who you were…a proper business arrangement would have been wonderful for all! I’m glad you wrote about it…if only to remind people that just because its on the internet doesn’t mean that its yours for the taking!

  13. Heather / / Reply

    Wow, that really stinks. I’m impressed that you did find out from halfway around the world. I have no idea what kind of repercussions you can have across international borders, but there’s gotta be something – at least filing a formal complaint somehow. I remember reading something last year about Lisa Congdon having her illustrations ripped off by a gift company that sold to West Elm. Once West Elm found out about it, they immediately pulled the product and vowed not to work with that reseller again. I was impressed. You never know what a little noise on the internet can do…

    • Ez
      Ez / / Reply

      Yes! Lisa is a warrior and I’m so inspired by her tenacity and positive spirit. I’m so glad that West Elm did the right thing in that situation.
      I definitely agree that the international angle makes my particular issue tricker to deal with. I wish there was more protection for artists / makers out there who find themselves in similar situations.
      xo

  14. dee / / Reply

    wow, this is truly your design. no doubt about it. i would take action. that’s just not right.

  15. Ez
    Ez / / Reply

    Thank you so much for your encouragement and support friends! It means the world to me! xox Ez

  16. Kay / / Reply

    Hi Ez,you must feel so incensed that someone had stolen your hard work,your imagination and the genius to put it down on paper which all results in some fabulous characters,I am a warrior and I would fight but I know we are all different and you are also fighting a different country,I would be your infantry man if I could because I hate injustice but I know you will do the right thing,hugs and loves.

  17. Mrs. Limestone / / Reply

    Wow! This is one of the most blatant examples of outright theft Ive seen. I know firsthand how incredibly frustrating it can be but I think you are doing the right thing by a)getting the word out and b)not wasting more of your own time by pursing it further. (At least for me, trying to get resolution to these issues is sometimes more upsetting than the original crime!)

    In short, I’m sorry you were the victim of this crime and I hope you don’t let it stifle your creativity or desire to share your work with the masses of people who do appreciate and admire it.

  18. Cara / / Reply

    It is incredible how common this has become. I like to think that those who only profit off the hard work of others are missing out on the joy of standing behind your own work- but it’s difficult to keep that mindset when you so often see artists being stolen from and manipulated. I hate to think how many artists this has happened to and they have never found out, a reminder that we have to stick together and protect our creative community!

  19. Kalliopi Monoyios / / Reply

    Try sending them a fair bill for licensing. I’m serious. Have a lawyer friend help you draft something official and send a bill saying you are flattered they like your design, but they are clearly in violation of copyright law. If they compensate you fairly, or better yet, if you can turn it into an opportunity to illustrate a line of clothing for them (since they like your style!) it’s a win for everyone. See what happens, it’s worth a try! I’ve heard of this working with several colleagues. It’s certainly cheaper for everyone than litigation, but it doesn’t screw you over and gives them a graceful out…

      • melinda ke / /

        I agree. I wish more people would pursue legal advice in situations like this, I think thieves might think twice before stealing if they see the consequences of their actions. I adore your artwork and I hope something good comes of this.

  20. Melissa de la Fuente / / Reply

    Oh, Ez….I’m SO sorry hunnie. Unbelievable.
    I just don’t know how folks sleep at night when they
    do things like that. Please let me know if you need
    Any help fighting back.
    xoxo
    Melis

  21. tback / / Reply

    I have a word for these losers, but it would not be appropriate for your lovely blog. You don’t deserve this. I hope that lawmakers continue to work to find solutions to these issues, though I know that because it is international it is MUCH more complicated to deal with. Wishing you all the best…

  22. Morgan Johnston / / Reply

    If you have a lawyer or lawyer friend that works with intellectual property cases, you should really talk to them. One of my artist friends dealt with this very situation with a HUGE retailer based in Spain. And he ended up settling for about $200K. Protect your piece of mind, yes, but protect your legacy for yourself and your kid too.

    Best wishes with it and email me if you have any questions that I could maybe answer or help you with.

    Morgan Johnston

  23. Laura / / Reply

    Totally unacceptable and you have absolutely every right to speak out. I had heard of this before, but didn’t know it was so rampant. It makes me appreciate the work of original illustrators all the more. Best of luck in finding a suitable resolution.

  24. Jessica Thiessen / / Reply

    I’m so sorry this has happened to you. It is sad and frustrating how common this is. You are beautifully talented so I hope that one ugly person/company doesn’t stop you from making more beautiful things. Don’t let the bastards get you down, right?

  25. Anna / / Reply

    Ez, I’m so sorry to hear it. it’s sad that this is such a common story.
    it’s happened to me, and it gets me down each and every time too. yes you should contact them, and yes you were right to post about it, because what they have done is wrong, and they shouldn’t get away without a word on your side.
    we are small fish though, and it’s hard for us to make much headway. so I like to let myself feel angry and mad and sad for about 24 hours, and after that, let go of those negative feelings and instead use that energy to fire you up to make new work in a kind of ‘take that *insert expletive of choice*’ kind of way.
    I’m not sure what it says about me, maybe i have some anger issues, but usually I get some good work done with this sort of motivation lighting my fires!

  26. Ronit Kfir / / Reply

    Excuse me for asking: why are you not simply suing them??
    There are clear rules about rights, and instead of being “non-confrontational ” and using such an emotional language, I really think your professional reaction, NOT your personal one, must be a strict. clear letter from a lawyer.
    You are the creator of this and if your art was stolen and used for profit – someone should pay for it.
    Perhaps people will look at this differently if smaller buisnesses start suing like bigger ones. Photographers do it all the time, it can be a simple process. I really think you should too.

    • Ez
      Ez / / Reply

      Hi Ronit! That is a perfectly fair question. I think the answer comes down to one unfortunate factor for me, and that is that a legal battle with an international company would be exceptionally expensive. I am still weighing my options, but for the time being I am hoping to move forward and not let this get me down. I know it is not the same as legal restitution, but talking about it here today has helped me a lot. xo Ez

      • Ronit Kfir / /

        H EZ- I don’t think it should be a legal BATTLE. I do think the right thing to do is to send them a letter from a lawyer – if you do sue them they will lose eventually, but even if you will not sue them- it sounds to me that your tone is still a personal one and this is a professional case: this is not a personal insult -this is a criminal offence. you should treat it like one, and demand what is rightfuly yours in a loud and clear voice. I hope you understand me correctly when I say that cases like these, for me, are feminist issues too: I think we should abandon the passive “victim” discourse of “I am hurt/sad/upset/disappointed” and move on to the active range of “enraged / demanding / insisting/ taking action”. Big companies (usually run by men) know they can do this and get away with it since most freelance female artists will treat their art in a non-buisness way and not sue. So don’t be sad – be mad! and good luck with it. :)

      • Cassie / /

        Keep in mind also that you generally have the option to talk to a lawyer and see what your options are without having to pay before officially contracting their services. It might be wise to just see what your options are!

    • Summer / / Reply

      As a lawyer myself, sometimes a strongly worded demand letter sent from an attorney’s office is enough to stop the activity in question. Even if you’re not ready to go into full litigation mode I’m sure you could find an intellectual property attorney to write and send such a letter.

      I am so sorry you’re going through this. That company clearly stole your darling elephant sketch.

  27. Ivana @ Macarons and Pearls / / Reply

    Ez, I’m so very sorry to read this! I’ve been seeing cases like this all over the blogosphere for the past few months, and it makes me so sad to see that people who work hard and put their creations out there have their talent ripped off and used for unfair profit. I really hope you’ll be able to get over it eventually (although it won’t be easy) and that you’ll continue to inspire and delight us with your amazing creativity!

    xx Ivana
    Macarons and Pearls

  28. Anne Marie / / Reply

    I am so sorry that you had to experience this.

    There is not much I can do to help, but I just made a post in FB saying “Brasilian fashion maker Luigi Bertolli steals from artists and makes a profit out of it” and linked to this post.

    Wish there was an easy way to take legal actions againts this kind of stealing.

  29. Lisa / / Reply

    Hi Ez! I’m reading your blog for a while now and love your designs. I’m very sorry that this has happened to you.. I think it is extremely impressive that you want to focus on the good and positive things, rather than taking legal action. It would probably the best for you, but on the other hand I would hate to see them getting away with it and maybe doing it again. I have all my fingers crossed that you can reach out to them and that you can find an agreement with them!
    Thank you for sharing your wonderful work with us despite of this.

  30. Amy / / Reply

    First off, it’s sad that this happened to you and probably more annoying that what you want to deal with. But I have to agree that you really should try to take some sort of action. If bigger companies think they can stomp all over us “little artists” and take advantage of our time and creativity, but we don’t do anything about it, it’s just going to keep happening. I totally understand not wanting to be confrontational, but I just want to encourage you to stand up for your work and for all of the small business artists just trying to make a living doing what we love. It’s obvious from the comments already posted that you have people who want to support you and back you up!

  31. Jessica (Coco/Mingo) / / Reply

    Oh Ez – I’m completely with you on this whole issue! I hate when I see this happen to talented designers. You’re absolutely correct – they put their heart, soul, creative mind, hard work and time into making beautiful things that other people are so easy to just take as their own. It’s not okay. I really hope you can do something about this – it’s not okay that they stole your print to use for their own product (that they’re probably making a lot of money off of!!!) That makes me so angry! You’re such a talented lady and I hate to see your work being taken advantage of. Thank you for sharing, I’m always on the lookout for people who steal designs/logos from my designer friends! <3

  32. dervla @ the curator / / Reply

    EZ I’m so sorry you’re going through this. As a book editor, we’re constantly handling permissions and always try to be super careful to research the source of everything we publish. I don’t understand how this clothing company (or the tshirt designer) thought it was okay to take without giving credit. I hope this post generates a response that gets you the credit and compensation you deserve.

  33. Elizabeth @ hobbylobbyist / / Reply

    I understand that you don’t want to start an online riot against the company, but if the company hasn’t responded it is perfectly reasonable to use social media to encourage a response. Please keep us updated on this!

  34. Michelle Morin / / Reply

    I’m so sorry to hear this! I just found out they stole one of my images too! Have you decided to do anything about it?

    • Ez
      Ez / / Reply

      Nooo…not you too Michelle! I’m SO sorry. I was hoping that I was the only one. Now I’m starting to think that all of Luigi Bertolli’s “designs” are built off of illegally obtained artwork! I will get in touch if I end up moving forward in a legal direction. Have you shared your situation publicly yet? How did you become aware of the theft? Now that I know it’s not just me, I’m thinking it might be wise to give other artists a heads up to make sure their designs haven’t been stolen as well!
      So so sorry again! xo Ez

      • Michelle Morin / /

        Well, thanks to you for posting this one of your followers spotted my image on their site and contacted me! So thank you for sharing your story. It is clearly happening to many artists… and this isn’t the first time I’ve come across it. I’m going to look into taking legal action. I’ll keep you posted.

    • Shauna / / Reply

      If both of you have been attacked in this way maybe you should both join forces on this legal thing.
      maybe you can find others by making this go a bit viral.

  35. Gwendolyn / / Reply

    I am so sorry about this. That is very blatant and terrible. I think you did this tastefully and it can’t be mistaken for an accident or coincidence in this case. (I don’t know if you heard about Chloe Fleury’s post last week).

    I really hope you are able to get some sort of compensation, or at least an apology. Please keep us updated!

  36. Jantine / / Reply

    So sorry to read this. I stumbled upon this website a few weeks ago:

    http://youthoughtwewouldntnotice.com

    Maybe sharing your story there can help? I can imagine you feel a bit helpless, being just one, single creative soul and they are a massive company with thousands of lawyers and other fancy law-people no artist can afford. Hope they’ll come to terms and compensate your for your work.

  37. Erin / / Reply

    Ugh, how appalling! I’m so sick of companies doing this to small businesses and artists!

    Send them a bill! I would. :)

  38. Jen / / Reply

    I absolutely agree with the comment above that you should absolutely take legal action here. The reason that this is so common and happening so much is that people are not pursuing legal action against companies, and they figure: why not just keep stealing it, no one is stopping us.

    I’m an attorney and I’ve seen the bills that can be sent out and I know without a doubt that it is expensive. Are you part of some sort of artist’s organization? Maybe try and get in touch with a local art organization? I’m not sure where you are located, but look for Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. I know this organization existed in NYC and I believe there was one in Boston as well. This was an organization that connected artists with attorneys who were willing to do pro bono work for them. Otherwise, meet with an attorney and sit through your payment options — maybe they will be willing to refer you to someone who can do some pro bono work, even if they can’t. Or maybe they will be willing to work out a bargain for your artwork for their office! You never know!

    People aren’t going to stop stealing if they never get caught! And it’s totally unacceptable!

    I wish you lots of luck :)

    PS – I’ve never commented before, but have enjoyed your site for years. I felt the need to vocalize because you have been wronged and should stand up for yourself!!

  39. KJ / / Reply

    *sigh*

    There is not much I can say, except I hope you feel better, your spirit finds joy and inspiration soon, and that I hope you keep posting because I enjoy seeing your work.

  40. Susan / / Reply

    I also left a comment via the above FB link ( but I’m sure they’ll delete this one too). I know it is very daunting but here is another voice of encouragement to bring legal action. It’s such a clear cut case. Perhaps they, like West Elm, were unaware of this and can help you stop the vendor? Thinking of you and glad you posted on this very important issue.

  41. Angel Y. / / Reply

    Ez, I’m so sorry to hear about this! I can’t imagine how expensive it would be to begin the legal processing to get this company to remove your copyrighted artwork. Hopefully you can find a way to resolve it and they remove the stolen products from their stores.

  42. Deby / / Reply

    Ez — they’ve done it once, what’s stopping them from doing it again? For all we know, they could have another one “in the works”. Please DO contact a lawyer, at least for a free consultation. If you would email the layer the evidence (which is blatant — no grey area here) prior to the consult, you may find he/she would take your case as it’s so clear cut as opposed to something which would drag/become protracted. They’ve not just grabbed a photo of yours and put it on a blog, they have manufactured an item which for them will generate *revenue*. Said revenue which should be in *your* pocket. I know how hard you work to support yourself and your daughter and this company has no right to swipe your whimsical character for financial gain.

    Go for it, Ez! Keep us posted, please, as your readership is in your corner.

  43. Debbie / / Reply

    Oh, man…I’m so sorry Ez. There is no doubt this is your work. I’m really sorry that you have to go through this ugly mess. As an illustrator myself, this just pisses me off. I don’t understand how these companies feel no guilt about shamelessly stealing artists work. I mean, as artists, we don’t ask much…maybe a few dollars and giving credit where it is due.

    Maybe making this thing go viral, might help change the thinking at Luigi Bertolli?

    Good luck!

  44. Shauna / / Reply

    This is also one of my greatest fears.
    And it is not just you and not just your illustration. I saw a photo of a family event I had seen on a blog and a shop had stolen the photo to use on their website without the bloggers permission purely because their product was in the background.
    I’m glad you wrote this post and I think more people should do this because by keeping it quiet we are letting it happen.
    by letting the little (this is not little – this is a lot of work for you) things go we are letting the general manners of people get worse.
    I’m glad you are standing up for your rights. I make sure if I see a stolen or even miss credited item I try to notify people.
    Good luck getting them to take the product off their virtual shelves.

  45. haley / / Reply

    ez, since you have a stated copyright at the bottom of your website, and have had that since you posted the image that was used by the art stealers, there should be some kind of legal action you can pursue.

  46. Lauren P / / Reply

    I just wanted to leave a comment echoing others of my sadness at this theft and support of your beautiful work. I especially love those fancy elephants! Whatever step you choose to take, I hope you find your creative heart happy again.

  47. Deb / / Reply

    That stinks! I love your blog and art. Keep moving forward.

  48. Cath @mybeardedpigeon / / Reply

    I am so sorry this has happened to you. I have had a design of my repeatedly ripped off by big companies and it has been ripped off so many times I can’t even looks anymore. I have successfully taken legal action and settled out of court. The first example cost me a bit but I learnt SO much and I felt like I was able to negotiate the second incident, which meantime got several thousand dollars and I didn’t have to pay a lawyer. Often, and you probably know this, the designs are submitted to the company by a third party, so it may not be the company per se, however this is no excuse, the reason I was able to settle so well was because if you just google the design pictures of mine are everywhere, (I don’t want to advertise it here) so they had no excuse. I wish you we’ll and wish you luck and I know that horrible feeling very well, good luck with your pursuit, I know a great IP lawyer if you need help. Cath x

  49. Annie / / Reply

    “…at the end of the day I’d honestly rather put my energy into my work and a path that will take me forward in the positive direction that I want to go.”

    That’s a very healthy and forgiving attitude, but I do hope this company has to pay for such absurd and unprofessional behavior. This is a heinous way to devalue artists. I’m sorry you had to see your work taken like this.

  50. April / / Reply

    Hi Ez,

    I’m soooooooooo incredibly sorry that you have to deal with this. It’s obvious that it’s your design. I remember when you first posted it and I thought, “When I have a baby, this is a MUST!” I love your blog posts. They always add a little joy to my day.

    And, I don’t believe anyone here should be telling you what to do. You’ve already been wronged and whatever decision you make should be respected and supported.

    I hope more than anything that this doesn’t hold you back from sharing your lovely work. I’m constantly checking in to see if you’ve added anymore illustrations, because I think they’re super cute.

    Thank you for everything that you do! You’re truly an inspiration to me.

  51. Cortney Nichols / / Reply

    I’m glad you decided to go ahead and post this. I can understand why you might not but I think you did the right thing. This is an issue that I know happens and I know is out there but it is never really addressed. I am so sorry this happened to you and I must say I am VERY impressed by the way you are handling the situation and the entire post remains respectful. Your illustrations are beautiful too.

  52. Debra / / Reply

    Ugh so sorry to hear of this (yet again). It does make you think twice about sharing our creations. It’s amazing how companies (big and sometimes small) feel they can take ownership of original work.

  53. Engracia / / Reply

    Hi Ez, I’ve just posted the link to this post on their Facebook page, hopefully they won’t delete it, if they do I’ll repost. You should send a “cease & desist” letter.

  54. Elizabeth / / Reply

    Yikes!! It sounds like (from what other bloggers are saying) until some professional/legal action is placed they are going to keep doing this to other artists. I do hope you get this figured out and taken care of. Best of luck!! :)

  55. Yvonne Yam / / Reply

    So sorry that this happened to you. I LOVE that particular illustration of yours a lot and would have bought that shirt thinking that you licensed your designs! I agree with the majority of the commenters…you need to find some way to let the company know that the design is yours.

  56. Caylie / / Reply

    Aww that’s upsetting, I’m so sorry to hear it. I understand that you don’t want to go down the legal path, it’s probably more upsetting than resolving in the end. Thank-you for sharing, your post wasn’t nasty at all, just the truth and the fact is WE here in blog land support you and your creativity, I hope this never happens to you again. Please don’t let this creative storm cloud linger too long, the majority of your readers really enjoy your work and would never cross a line regarding copyright. You have our support, keep up the good work and thanks for sharing.

  57. Janice / / Reply

    That stinks. I live in Germany so I don’t know what repercussions are feasible anymore in the USA, but filing a formal complaint with the Better Business Bureau (if they still exist) seems like a good step without the suing aspect: you are both businesses and they have no right to encroach upon (steal) anyone else’s designs. This happens time and again. Good luck and WELL SAID! You SHOULD speak up about such blatant thievery.

  58. Susse / / Reply

    I don’t usually comment on blogs. I am sad to hear about your story.I hope out of this negative thing only positive things will happen for you and other companies recognise the value of your brand. Also how your designs translate well into other products. I hope that you receive the commissions and recognition that your lovely design deserve.

  59. zhi / / Reply

    Dear Ez, I’m so sorry this happened to you. I love your artwork and it makes me angry that a corporation is stealing your work not compensating you for it. I do understand what you mean about not wanting to get into a legal fight as it’s exhausting, but to protect yourself and also from future copying by other people/companies, it is worth getting some legal advice on how to proceed with this case. Perhaps get some recommendations from friends who may know of a good lawyer who should be able to help you without causing you too much extra pain. Good luck and sending you my best thoughts! x.

  60. Jana Davis Pearl / / Reply

    I am so sorry to see this happen, when I read South American, I had a feeling I would recognize the company and that it had a good chance of being Brazilian. I do hope you consider taking action because I think its important to make a stand. I live in Sao Paulo and this is a pretty big store here and I find that Brazilians do this ALL the time (as I am sure others around the world do to and I don’t mean to pick on them specifically). But its incredible frustrating and they honestly believe they will get away with it because they think, how would anyone know down here?! Companies plaster american family photos stolen off photography websites for real estate highway advertisement boards (true story, and when the guys who’s family it was found out, he tried to take action and the company was no longer in business who made the poster but someone who worked there admitted how they find their poster photos) and the interior design firm I worked for briefly exactly copied everyone else’s designs and ideas because it was easier and more time efficient than coming up with a unique one of their own. While I realize its a drop in the bucket to make a stand against something that will continue forever, I think its important you find a way to get their attention and let them know this is wrong! If I can help in anyway, let me know! Best to you…

  61. Amanda / / Reply

    Awww! That’s a bunch of shenanigans!! Here in Tanzania we would say, “pole sana” (poh-lay sah-nuh) it’s a way of saying, “I sympathize with you.”
    That is such a huge bummer, and an unfortunate truth that art is being stolen all the time. So frustrating.
    I find your choice to move forward positively a refreshing one that speaks endlessly to the type of person (and artist) you are, so major kudos to you.

  62. eef / / Reply

    OMG this really sucks. Really good of you to speak up about it. You and your works rocks! thanks for your inspiration :-)

  63. Karen / / Reply

    You should really take legal action – if not solely for your own case, to help send the message that this type of theft is unacceptable.

  64. Catherine A / / Reply

    Keep your spirits and keep doing what you are doing! Your art and creativity inspire many of us daily and I firmly believe that this situation will get sorted in a way that will help you along your creative journey. It’s good that you posted this for us not only to be aware but for everyone as a reminder to be cautious. Maybe this will help you to push further and create a brand for Creature Comforts. Good Luck, Ez… we are all rooting for you!

  65. Lollepolle / / Reply

    Unbelieveable!!! You should sue them! That´s such lame behaviour! I assume they have lot`s of designers payed so they don`t have to steal them from anyone!
    That`s just unfair and I think you should get all the credit for it and also all the money they earned with it – because YOU EARNED IT!!!
    I cross my fingers for you and I think it`s right that you postet it! They did it wrong and I guess they knew…

  66. Annette / / Reply

    Like a reader above, I just posted a link to this article on their Facebook page, too. You may feel helpless, but you’re not. There is nothing wrong with calling a company out for their unethical decisions, especially if they do not respond to your correspondence. Lisa Congdon was right in trying to protect her art. If there are no consequences to bad behavior then it continues. And yes, the message was deleted but you have many readers who can repost on your behalf.

  67. nicola lynde / / Reply

    This is so unfortunate. Hopefully this was an error in judgement in one person, and not a cumulative effort involving management. Hopefully when contacted their response will merit at least a bit of redemption. Best of luck.

  68. Jessica / / Reply

    This is the dark side of Etsy and the larger indie economy to which it belongs: Artists have the tools, now, to reach a global audience, but putting their work online makes them vulnerable to theft. It’s a major bummer, especially since these artists generally lack the resources to mount a legal battle to protect their rights. This is why I have adopted a pretty strenuous personal code of ethics when it comes to independent artists. I do a lot of collage in my own work, but I don’t use attributable images by living artists who offer that work for sale. I don’t even look at stuff on Etsy and say, “I could do that” anymore, because I figure that the original idea itself has value.*

  69. sue / / Reply

    Oh no… how awful! I would take legal action, they might not be aware that the design/illustration has been stolen but even so, I am sorry this is happening to you, you are a very talented and a hard worker lady, I hope this gets resolved and you are compensated.

  70. Amy of while wearing heels / / Reply

    Wow. This is terrible. You have chosen a very graceful and positive way to move forward. I am so sorry your adorable illustration was stolen and that someone else is financially benefiting giving you no compensation or credit. It is truly appalling. Your whimsical image looks amazing in tee shirt form, though. I wish it had been done with your consent. I hope they do the right thing and stop.

  71. Aspen @ little green orchids / / Reply

    Oh this makes my heart hurt for you… I have hung two of your prints over my daughter’s bed, and they bring us both so much joy. I’m such a fan of your work and hate the thought of anything like this having to weigh on you, stifling your creativity. :( I pray this all gets resolved in a way that you feel good about. In the meantime, just know that so many of us appreciate you and the hard work it takes to produce your beautiful art!

  72. Sara / / Reply

    Ugh! I’ve enjoyed your blog for a long time, and rarely comment, but I just felt I had to write and say I’m so sorry this is happening to you. I’m glad you shared, and you must know you have a lot of support and cheerleaders out here in internet-land. I agree with many of the comments above that you should take some sort of action, even if it’s as simple as invoicing them for the use of your art. But I also understand not wanting to spend huge amounts of energy and time and attention on something as stressful as a potential lawsuit. As a fellow creative person, I know that even the thought of doing that can be an energy-suck, draining the energy that you do have to do the things you love that are positive in your life (like more art!). Take care and know you’ve got a lot of people out here pulling for you!

  73. María / / Reply

    I´m so sorry. I was in the same situation when I was an erasmus student in England and I sent a print to a “friend” in my town(Spain). I went back home to find that she sold some t-shirts with my design. So disappointing!

  74. Mallory / / Reply

    This is so sad! I live in Sao Paulo and Luigi Bertolli is one of my favorite clothing stores! They’re good quality and everything is pretty damn cute. But now i know WHY everything is so cute–because they’re thieves :( I haven’t been shopping in a few months so I haven’t seen the elephant print, but now I wonder if some of the clothes I already own from them are also plagiarized. I think they just lost my business. If you need help/someone to call them speaking Portuguese let me know–if you do take legal action it might need to be done through the Brazilian legal system. If i see any of these shirts on the racks at the store i will ask the manager to take them down.

  75. Julia Soplop / / Reply

    Unbelievable. I am so sorry to hear that your work was stolen. If it helps at all (in a very small way), I purchased the elephant print from you and gave it to my toddler daughter for Christmas. It now hangs in her nursery and she LOVES it and says goodnight to the elephant and the bike every night. We appreciate your art and tell all our visitors who made it!

  76. Nicole / / Reply

    I too feel for you. This is so very wrong. You didn’t want to start an online war, but I wanted to show support. I would hope if enough people show that this is not acceptable, [not paying the artist] then maybe the company will come good and give you some sort of dollar amount and recognition, to which you are entitled to. Best of luck,

  77. Sarah / / Reply

    This is really terrible and I know people are getting their comments on this deleted from Facebook so I would urge you to tweet about it to them- @LuigiBertolli.

    They can’t delete our tweets!!

  78. Maria / / Reply

    Wow, that’s just awful, so sorry you have go through this. I really hope you take legal action and protect what’s clearly yours. As many have already said here, send them a legal document and continue talking about it. Just by posting this you’ve already uncovered another artist whose work was stolen by same business. Time to band together and send them a loud and clear message. Taking others hard work, stealing, etc is just plain criminal and they should pay. Good luck!!

  79. Amy Nalette / / Reply

    I can’t even imagine how frustrating and awful this must be for you. I wish you all the best of luck with the final outcome.

  80. Nicole / / Reply

    I did go to the Luigi FB page and made my very same simple statement [as I stated above] that this is a shameful theft and that the true artist should well be paid for that design. Then a very quick flash popped up to notify me just now, that they will contact the artist. I hope this is true, but yes the comment has been deleted from the FB timeline. I have my fingers crossed that with many people writing to them, they will indeed do the right thing one way or another.

  81. Nicole / / Reply

    Oh here is the reply I recieved.
    “Hi Nicole,
    We will get in touch with the artist who did the illustration to solve that misunderstanding, we took the picture from the internet and we had no intention of using the drawing improperly.
    Thank you for your contact;”

    • Johanna / / Reply

      They didn’t intended to use the “drawing improperly.” I have some bridge to sell you. Give me a break! Sue them. Find a good copyright attorney. It shouldn’t cost you very much for a consult. Depending on the case, the attorney might take it on contingency. Sounds like there might be a class action suit, which would make it easier for you. These businesses will NEVER stop doing this until it costs them money. I’m with Ronit, this is a feminist issue. We say “move on,” “it’s healthier to let it go, ” etc. With this attitude we will continue to be walked all over. Best of luck. Be brave!

  82. Jana Davis Pearl / / Reply

    Ez I really do hope they contact you, it looks like this was solved in the most peaceful way, grassroots complaints can go a long way! Follow up with all of us if you can… I just really hope they learned a lesson!

  83. Sharon @ Discovering Blog / / Reply

    I just posted on their fb page also, asking why they stole this design from you. I’m sure it will be deleted, but wanted to add whatever I could to help you. Here’s hoping for the best outcome – stay strong and be proud of your amazing work.

  84. Sharon @ Discovering Blog / / Reply

    They responded with the same as above:
    “Hi,
    We will get in touch with the artist who did the illustration to solve that misunderstanding, we took the picture from the internet and we had no intention of using the drawing improperly.
    Thank you for your contact;”

    • Sara / / Reply

      I did the same :) Let us know if they do, in fact, get in touch with you, Ez. We are pulling for you!

  85. Ana Fernandez / / Reply

    Hi! I’m from venezuela and just posted on the fb page about how wrong is what they did. Just wanted to let you know that people from around the world with you!

  86. Kristin / / Reply

    I’m so sorry to hear that such a horrible thing happened to your artwork! I am very fond of your work, and I find your hard work inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope you find some resolve…

  87. Charissa - The Gifted Blog / / Reply

    Glad to see such an outpouring of support here! Ez, just wanted to commend you for the very level tone you’ve kept in communicating this unjust situation. It’s really hard to do when it hits so close to home, and I can tell you’ve worked really hard to be transparent AND calm. I hope somehow justice is brought to you and your work!

  88. Heather / / Reply

    Thank you for sharing! It’s always best to communicate and educate. This is what you’ve accomplished, and so much more :)

  89. Elizabeth Ann / / Reply

    I also posted on the facebook page and got this reply:

    Luigi Bertolli Hi,
    We will get in touch with the artist who did the illustration to solve that misunderstanding, we took the picture from the internet and we had no intention of using the drawing improperly.
    Thank you for your contact;
    4 hours ago · Like

    I sincerely hope that you get some sort of resolution.

  90. Mo / / Reply

    My heart aches for you – look on line and find a cease and desist template and send it certified mail. If they dont stop SUE there butt off. By not standing up for yourself you are letting them do this and they will do it to others. TAKE A STAND AND STOP THE STEALING!

  91. Kathleenmcs / / Reply

    What a clear violation of the law and of ethics. I’m so sorry this has happened to you
    and hope you do have a lawyer friend who will write a letter for you, as described more than once above. I hate that this happens to well-meaning, honest entrepreneurs! You clearly have a great spirit; I support you in taking whatever action against this company that will bring you some peace.

  92. anastasia / / Reply

    oh that is SO wrong – makes me mad!
    You should post about it – name and shame…its the only way, they blatantly use the illustration and make money out of it so why should you feel bad about posting about it?

  93. Pedro Rocha / / Reply

    have you tried to post at their Facebook page? it gets more visibility and it usually has someone in charge of dealing with people in general…

  94. gina / / Reply

    oh gosh. not u, 2.

    2 say this sux, is an understatement. I understand ur not wanting 2 pursue corrective legal action and just move forward….but, since ur not the first, and sadly, won’t be the last artist/illustrator 2 have their artwork stolen, I do urge u 2 move forward w/ baby legal steps ( cease & desist, anyone? look online 4 a simple one & have it delivered w/ sig. required, etc.;look 4 legal advice 4 free/reduced based on income; artist guild resources, etc….).

    If we, artists (licensed or not), continue 2 not stand up 4 ourselves, or our comrades—these terrible injustices will continue. Is it a David vs. Goliath thing that artist’s don’t want 2 be ensnared in? I’m afraid every artist will not just be prey, but the vultures will (continue? begin?) 2 think it is all right 4 them 2 steal online artwork w/ some cock-eyed view and no repercussions;

    these recent instances (involving large retailers, likely-shady wholesalers and fabulous artists/illustrators) are why the United States of America has a Copyright Office and Copyright laws. Maybe u can contact another fellow artist who has recently gone thru the same for some moral support?

    Stand up 4 urself and ur daughter—(please.)
    i’ll be wishing u the best in the meantime~

  95. Rebecca / / Reply

    I am a long-time follower of your site and was so sorry to hear this. I have read many of the comments but not all – so please forgive me if someone has already said this – but I wonder if someone like the Today Show/Dateline (etc.) would be interested in picking this up and running with this story if you find yourself not getting the answers you need. So many people buy/sell art over the Internet nowadays that this seems like it would be a story that would appeal to many, many people. See this link: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/40220716

  96. I.O.K. / / Reply

    After reading your post, like many of the other commenters here, I checked out the Luigi Bertolli website with the intention of leaving a comment on their Facebook. When I opened the home page the first thing that jumped out at me was that the whales on shirt the male model is wearing on the beach have been taken from one of my favorite Etsy artist’s designs: 4/seven-whales-stacked-archival-print?ref=shop_home_active_38. I’ve written to this artist to bring this to her attention, but it seems like Luigi Bertolli is a repeat offender.

  97. megan / / Reply

    so…I was talking with my 9 year old daughter last night and she was telling me about a friend that seems to copy everything she does. having recently read this post, I told her your story and showed her your beautiful illustration. well…she loves your drawing. and now she wants a tshirt but not from that awful company, but from you! would you consider printing some for sale?

  98. Clementine / / Reply

    Hi Ez,

    I am very saddened to hear your tale.

    You have probably heard of her (you may even be friends with her), but Lisa Tisle of ‘The Red Thread’ has also faced a similar battle in Brazil.

    Her blog post named ‘Copying or coincidence… you be the judge’ could be a good place to start reading should you want to take further action and I am sure if you dropped Lisa an email she would be more than helpful in this department.

    Good luck xx

  99. Catherine / / Reply

    Reading this makes me so sad (and frustrated) – I’m so sorry that this happened to you, Ez (and that it happens at all).

    Hopefully someone from the company will reach out to make some sort of amends.

  100. Delphine Doreau / / Reply

    Hi! Delphine here! I am an illustrator too and Igot stolen so much times it’s freaky. There was even an “artist” who explained on her blog how to transform my illustrations so one can legally use them ( lovely). I am totally with you here,sending you cheers and support.

    I never give up. I always fight. I never had to go full length with the law. Most of the time , big companies are buying from artists and they don’t know where the art came from. The big thing is to reach them but with a bit of buzz it works. Then, I politely contact the so called artist who stole my art. Usually at this point the first answer is an email with insults. I even had a person who created a fake contract with a date anterior to my work and wanted to attack me for copyrights infringements ( yeah, stealing twice!) I fought back asking to show more similar designs…because I had my website full similar designs! Then, I send an email suggesting we go with the full extent of the law, reminding the price of a lawyer and that the thief will have to pay for my lawyer in the end too…and I kindly suggest the thief to send all the money she made from my work to UNICEF.

    This, usually, hits the spot. People are much more eager to send stolen money to a charity then to send it back to its legit owner. It happened to me 8 times, we had arrangements over 4, and the 4 others sent the money to UNICEF, with proof.

    Knowing that in the end I will help saving lives keeps me going in those depressing copyrights problems. And knowing I am fighting helped me finding jobs and getting respect from my publishers. So do go! Find the person who sold your design, and bug them until you get the money back!

  101. ning fathia / / Reply

    As an illustrator, a designer, and a blogger, on which I happen to share free printables I design myself, this all sounds too familiar to me. But like you said in one of your reply to a comment, I can’t afford the lawsuit as well, I can’t even afford a lawyer for a legal consultation. I also happen to live in Indonesia, where law can be easily bought, and of course, the giant usually wins. So, if you please, can you update your story on this? do you take any legal action? I am so intrigued to know what comes after this!

    ps. you’re so lucky to know about this, most of the time all stolen images just slipped through our radar, and no one bothers to tell us.

  102. Júlia / / Reply

    That’s awful – but you should know that this is not unusual here in Brazil. Sadly.

    Your illustration did remind me a lot Jean de Brunhoff’s L’Histoire de Babar, though. Are you aware of this similarity?

    Congrats on the good work.

  103. Anna Barbara / / Reply

    I am so sorry about what happened! Your hard work and diligence to take care of your daughter is so inspiring. I commend you for your bravery in posting so openly about the situation. It is helpful for me to read posts like this as a nubie blogger to be careful and watch what I post on my blog. Thank you for speaking out against blogger plagiarism! I pray peace and comfort for you and your family and I hope this sparks new creativity within you!

  104. Martie / / Reply

    I´m really sorry that happened to you EZ and I understand that you don´t want to get through that legal hurdle BUT I believe if you don´t claim your rights here this company won´t stop. What should stop them to start stealing some of your other cute prints? Also they do make money and you don´t see anything from that. Doesn´t that bother you in a way?!

    Again, I do understand that you don´t want to get worked up about this but then again, I think THIS particular situation is kinda serious and deserves attention.

    Good luck!

  105. Camila / / Reply

    Dear Ez,

    I used to be a customer from this brand when I lived in Brazil. I´m an expat, living in Germany for 7 years now and was really, really disappointed to see what they have done.
    Three days ago I´ve posted on their Facebook page about it, with a link to this specific post and just got an answer, where they promised to get in contact with you. I´m hoping for the best!
    Love,
    Camila

  106. Ellen E / / Reply

    Have you been in touch with ACID (Anti Copying In Design) or one of their international affiliates? Perhaps they can help you with next steps. Good luck!
    http://www.acid.uk.com/

  107. Candy / / Reply

    I know it’s awful when you find someone using your images. It happened to me and I asked the person to stop. I let it go at that because it was a local individual. However, I decided not to follow up with anything because of the energy it would have taken away from my art. For me, at that time, it was more important for me to create new art. I think each person has to make the decision for themselves as to what is the best course to take. I wish you the best, whatever you decide to do.

  108. Johanna / / Reply

    Another comment. They stole from you. If someone broke into your house and stole everything, you would press charges. Why don’t you want to press charges with the theft of your art work? Sending you lots of good energy to go after the thieves.

  109. Saulo Sobrosa / / Reply

    I am really sorry, and mad to hear about this. But I would expect nothing more than this from this company, which is involved in several labor issues in Brazil, including slavery.

    I am a Lawyer here in Brazil, and I would like to help you, but I am too busy to take this case now (I work for a major oil company, busy busy busy), but let me know if it is of your interest to start a claim against them, and I may look among my friends if someone would be willing to take it.

  110. Nicolas / / Reply

    Geez, I liked this brand so much… I have a lot of clothes by them, but mostly social ones…
    I’ve also heard they had problems with slavery work past year too, that they were buying clothes from suppliers who had ppl working in slaved-kind conditions…

    Were I you, I’d get a lawyer and go after your rights… besides part of the profit money, you should get a compensation for the moral damage…

  111. Nannie / / Reply

    Hi EZ,
    I’m so sorry about it..
    I translated your post to Portuguese to be able to disclose what happened, here in Brasil.
    If you need anything I can help, let me know.
    I know an excelent lawyer who can help you here, if you need, see his site:
    http://ypadv.com.br/socios.htm

    Good luck!

  112. Ali / / Reply

    I want to thank you for sharing your experience with us. I am so disappointed to hear this happened, it’s a real bummer and I hope you can take action in whatever capacity you can. Best of luck to you & good vibes from me! Ali

  113. Melissa / / Reply

    I am so sorry you are having to deal with this difficult issue. You are being wonderful in the way you are dealing with this though. All the best to you in the future.

  114. Amy / / Reply

    Sorry to see this has happened to you!

    As a designer myself I always find it shocking to see blatant copying or designs stolen. I have had this happen to me time and time again, even when I have worked for some large international companies (so it happens to everyone!) I now work freelance as well as running my own small business and I totally understand when it feels like you are being ripped off and not paid for the design. There is a rule in copyright that there has to be so many changes to the original, but in your case it is exactly the same.
    It is hard to know what to do as I have had similar legal wranglings myself and given up halfway finding it too much and eventually too costly. I guess on the positive side they like your design enough to use it and it is obviously commercial!

    Don’t let them get you down. They cannot stand there feeling proud of the design they didn’t create. They are obviously lacking in creativity and their own ideas, which you have in abundance!

  115. Eva / / Reply

    Dear Ez,
    I am so sorry to hear about this. : (
    I totally know how you feel since the same thing happened to me with another company. I read your post and then I have decided to write about my situation on my blog too. I hope that if every artist who have experienced a similar situation talks about it on web, we could make a difference and stop this illegal practice.

    Here is a link to my post:
    http://www.blog.evajuliet.com/2014/02/my-art-has-been-stolen.html

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