AliBaba and the art thieves

Posted by Kim Haskins on

Six years ago I quit my job to become a full-time artist. Obviously, I wasn’t expecting to make a fortune, but it was (and is!) my passion, and I love doing what I do. A lot of my work is painting cats - humorous pictures which make people smile. (I don’t just do cats - I do birds and dogs and chickens and, well, lots of stuff. But the cats are very popular.) It’s commercial art - although it’s not high-falutin, any artist will tell you a little sliver of their soul goes into everything they do. The only way I could grow my business was by promoting my work online, and I’m very grateful for the customers who have stayed loyal to me over the years, many of whom have become good friends.
In Autumn last year, I received a message from a customer, asking me if I was selling cushions with my designs online. I was puzzled by this - I wasn’t selling them. But, it seems, someone was… In the following months, a torrent of goods have gone on sale online featuring my pictures - everything from sewing kits to mobile phone covers, on websites as big as Amazon to charming little uptown boutiques in cities in the USA. I don’t make a lot of money from my work - I have a three-year-old son, and I generally make just about enough to pay bills - I can’t afford to hire a lawyer even for an hour right now. So generally I drop a line to the seller, letting them know that they have inadvertently purchased goods that are using my designs, and which are copyrighted. I know these people are probably small business owners like me - I’m not after compensation from them, but it’s helpful to know who their supplier is, and to try to trace the manufacturer who is unscrupulously stealing my work and plastering it all over their goods. A lot of the time, when they have recovered from their anxiety about being in some kind of trouble, store owners are happy to help. Sometimes they’re not, and either become rude or threatening.
It turns out most of these people are buying goods from sellers on the largest retail website in the world: Ali Baba. Ironic, really, since he was the good guy, the poor woodcutter who exposed the den of thieves who were hiding stolen goods. They have a tortuous system for copyright infringement reporting, which, despite my best intonations of ‘Open Sesame!’ has had no effect whatsoever. So even once I’ve found out the manufacturer, they remain pugnaciously defiant, saying that the burden of proof lies with me, to demonstrate that I am the person who sat down and drew the pictures they’re using, even though a lot of the time, they don’t even bother to erase my signature from the works. Basically, they’re not going to do anything until I get an international copyright lawyer involved - which I just can’t afford to do. And so I am stuck in this distressing situation - helplessly watching other people make money from my honest toil. I know it’s not the most desperate of plights, but every penny counts right now.
So I’m asking if you’d consider buying a poster or two from my website - - if you like my pictures and you feel pursuing these people is a worthwhile cause. I am persevering with the kafkaesque process of reporting this stuff, piece by piece. If you see stuff with my designs on elsewhere, then the chances are they’re being used without my permission (with the exception of some greetings cards which are licensed on my behalf by DDFA for the likes of Noel Tatt). I know I’m not alone in this, and many other artists are having their work ripped off - I do of course watermark everything I put online now, but, well, if you could spread the word, I’d be really grateful. So would my son.
If you're feeling extremely generous I can accept donations towards my legal funds via PayPal:
Also, please bear in mind that new paintings are going on sale in September :)
All the best, Kim

1 comment

  • I love Juniper…will there be more of her?

    ruth prince on

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