The Art4Love / Chad Love Lieberman Plagiarism Scandal

Art4Love LogoIf there is one thing that I’ve learned over the past six years of running Plagiarism Today, it’s that deviantArt is one of the most dedicated and united communities when it comes to fighting plagiarism. Few communities have shown the heart and the unity on this issue and none that I’ve seen have been as quick to rally to stop art theft.

Whether it’s the formation of anti-plagiarism groups, of which there are now several, dealing with uncooperative hosts, or tackling commercial infringement of the community’s work, deviantArt has always been there.

However, of all the cases I’ve tracked and even worked with the dA community, the most recent scandal, the Art4Love case, is perhaps the best example of it. deviantArt is a site that does not tolerate artistic plagiarism and is at war with the site’s former owner and artist, Chad Love Lieberman

The story, however, is a bizarre one and a case of an investigation that is still struggling to discover how deep the rabbit hole goes.

About the Art4Love Scandal

Art4Love ImageA week ago, Art4Love was a thriving art site that sold paintings by a previously well-respected artist named Chad Love Lieberman. The site sold a variety of paintings supposedly from the artist in a price range mostly between $199 and $1,000.

However, that began to come crashing down when artists at deviantArt caught wind that much, if not all, of the paintings on the site were ripped off from their community. What started as a trickle of plagiarism reports quickly, through community digging, grew into a torrent, now at a reported 300+ alleged infringements.

The scandal quickly grew to also impact other sites Lieberman was also involved in. This included MarkYourSpot, allegedly a direct copy of Art4Love, OfficeBrokers and LifestYle Brokers, both sites where Lieberman is, or at least was, listed as an associate.

The scandal also began to impact other names associated with Lieberman, this included Craig Pravda, who some believe to be the same person as Lieberman, and was allegedly a business associate helping Lieberman with his sales. (Note 10/11/2012: I received an email from someone claiming to be Craig Pravada and he wanted to make it clear that he and Lieberman are not the same person and he has no ties with Lieberman at this time).

As the scandal quickly grew, it began to draw more and more attention outside of the deviantArt community. At least one news site retracted a previous story about Lieberman, and anther printed a call to deviantArt artists who had been ripped off to have their works features after they published an article promoting Lieberman unaware that much of the work would turn out to be plagiarized.

But even as the art case was gaining publicity, others were looking into Lieberman’s text work and not only finding signs of plagiarism in his two books, but also discovering that many of his articles were also verbatim plagiarisms, mostly from the same source.

On Lieberman’s end, all the sites associated with him directly, as well as his various Facebook pages and other social networking accounts were shut. However, deviantArt members had been diligent in grabbing screenshots of the site and several had formed lengthy side-by-side comparisons of the works on Art4Love and deviantArt.

These images enabled the comparison work to continue despite the closure of the various domains.

One of the artists who had their work used, George Smith, sent an email to an address associated with Craig Pravda and received a response saying, in part:

Apologies for any issue that you may have with Art4Love from whom we licensed the images.

In no way were we aware that they misrepresented their rights to any of the artwork that was used on our site MARK YOUR SPOT.

….

They have stated that they sold their entire collection to a new company and that we will have to continue with our game MARK YOUR SPOT, which only sells BRUNCH CARDS, by acquiring new content or working with our own digital artists.

Finally, another of the artists involved, Alexiuss, claims to be working on and accepting donations for a class action lawsuit against Lieberman.

It seems likely that this case is far from over, though it remains unclear just how strong the prospects for a class action suit are in this case.

My Thoughts on the Matter

Art4Love Sample 2

This is one of those plagiarism cases where you don’t need a plagiarism expert to tell you about the infringement. There’s no need for a complicated analysis nor is there need for any side-by-side comparisons. The images are the same and it’s as simple as that.

On that note, this is definitely one of the most egregious acts of plagiarism I’ve run across in a very long time. Not only due to the scope of the infringement, including hundreds of paintings, content from two books and several articles, but also the nature in how it was being used.

Given that Lieberman has posed for newspapers in front of “his” paintings and repeatedly said in the press that they were “his” creations, there’s no doubt in my mind he can be described as a professional plagiarist. While professional plagiarists are fairly common, to see one to this degree is a very rare thing.

The biggest problem with this kind of plagiarism and especially with one this large and dedicated is separating truth from fiction. Despite the diligent work for the deviantArt community, there’s a lot of uncertainty about this person, how he does business and with whom.

Plagiarists at this level rarely are who they claim to be. Though I’m not saying that any of the information that is available is inaccurate, I’m saying there’s no way to be certain it is or isn’t without an independent verification. (Note: This is why I’m not talking too much about reports he is Senator Joe Lieberman’s nephew.)

In my experience, operations like this one are typically not run like an amateur artist who got desperate and plagiarized a few pieces, but more like a criminal organization started from the ground up for the purpose of plagiarizing and profiting from others’ work. This, likely, plays a role in the quick disappearance of Lieberman and will likely frustrate any attempts to sue him.

Of course, any attempts to sue him will also likely be hindered by U.S. law. Any artists infringed, even if they are abroad, will only be eligible for actual damages (the greater of what he made or the artist lost) and won’t be able to claim the high statutory damages (up to $150,000 per work) or attorney’s fees. Even registering now, after the infringement, won’t help with damages though it will enable U.S-based artists to sue.

In short, as despicable as the plagiarism is, there may be very little that the courts can do in this case as any copyright lawyer is going to be reluctant to touch the case with a lot of up front legal costs.

In the end, the best that one can likely hope for is that the site stays shut down and Lieberman doesn’t make a return.

Bottom Line

What amazed about this case isn’t just that it happened, but that it took so long for it to be found out. It’s not as if Art4Love was a small site hiding in the corner. It was out in the open, seeking and getting media attention all the while selling duplicates of artwork from deviantArt.

Of course, it wasn’t just images. It was also text in books and articles involved. But with so much lifted, it’s amazing that it took as long as it did, at least a few years, for the infringements to be noticed.

But while justice may be slow, it does prove that it does come, especially when you do something so broad and so egregious. There was simply no way that Lieberman would not be caught and, right now, he should be amazed that he had as long of a ride as he did.

After all, each plagiarism is like playing a game of Russian Roulette. You know eventually the odds will turn against you, but you hope it isn’t this time.

Note: Infringement samples taken from this post.

39 comments
Jessica
Jessica

6wseo is where you can find him now.

Jessica
Jessica

Deviants art is the real thief.

Billy
Billy

Andy Warhol and peter max did the same thing.

Sarah
Sarah

Well I never meet chad or heard of art4love but it sounds like all a waste of time. Artist don't put your work online or put a logo on it

Alexandra
Alexandra

I want some free artwork. O ya the whole Internet is free of it . Lol

Peter
Peter

Chad is great. I have ten of his painting and I saw him create three of them. All this drama just increases his value of work.

lucian
lucian

Hes changed his name to Chad Ian Lieberman. SEO expert

Mac
Mac

Chad is a doosh bag. someone should round up all these articles and make a wikipedia page about him so he cant rip anyone else off in the future.

Jason
Jason

chad is not related to the senator, he is a coke head homo

BobbieJeanPentecost
BobbieJeanPentecost

It looks more and more like nothing is going to be done about this. :\

MariaGoncharov
MariaGoncharov

This is not plagiarism - plagiarism is making an artwork that is very similar to another, with suspect of it being copied.

This is purely infringemet. He did not re-draw anything - he took the art as it is and sold it wihout permission.

sainatsukino
sainatsukino

From what I heard he's also going to be sued for fraud

Kai Joshua
Kai Joshua

I understand that there's not much legal recourse that the Deviantart artists can take (especially those not in the USA), but in any case Chad Lieberman was exposed. He may get legal trouble from third parties.

Kai Joshua
Kai Joshua

I understand that there's not much legal recourse that the Deviantart artists can take (especially those not in the USA), but in any case Chad Lieberman was exposed. He may get legal trouble from third parties.

Kai Joshua
Kai Joshua

The CEO himself is a part of big business. But some of the artists may be "a community of artists trying to get by" while others aren't quite so much.
Now "As someone who has studied copyright for 7 years I must say that it is not hard for me to find artwork, even some sold as prints — which deviantART takes a cut of profit from — that are clearly potential copyright and trademark infringement. When you see a ‘slightly’ altered, and yes the ‘deviant even described it as that’ work that you know is protected and it is being sold as a $130 print… well… how is deviantART any different than Art4Love when you get down to the meat of it?"
Care to show any examples?

Kai Joshua
Kai Joshua

The CEO himself is a part of big business. But some of the artists may be "a community of artists trying to get by" while others aren't quite so much. Now "As someone who has studied copyright for 7 years I must say that it is not hard for me to find artwork, even some sold as prints — which deviantART takes a cut of profit from — that are clearly potential copyright and trademark infringement. When you see a ‘slightly’ altered, and yes the ‘deviant even described it as that’ work that you know is protected and it is being sold as a $130 print… well… how is deviantART any different than Art4Love when you get down to the meat of it?" Care to show any examples?

Ryesen Grear
Ryesen Grear

Actually, DeviantArt is actually following copyright law. It sucks that they can't do more, but let's blame our laws for that.
"§ 501 Infringement of copyright
b) The legal or beneficial owner of an exclusive right under a copyright is entitled, subject to the requirements of § 411, to institute an action for any infringement of that particular right committed while he or she is the owner of it. The court may require such owner to serve written notice of the action with a copy of the complaint upon any person shown, by the records of the Copyright Office or otherwise, to have or claim an interest in the copyright, and shall require that such notice be served upon any person whose interest is likely to be affected by a decision in the case. The court may require the joinder, and shall permit the intervention, of any person having or claiming an interest in the copyright."
Pay special attention to that. BECAUSE the website (DA) specifically states in their terms of service that the copyright resides fully with the original artist, and that deviantart doesn't retain any rights to the artist's work, they can't do anything about copyright infringement other than to allow the person to submit a complaint, or ask the person infringing to submit proof that they have permission to put up the work (release form.)
Online world works like the Real world. ONLY the person who owns the copyright may submit an infringement claim, that's there in black and white in copyright law. That's there to protect people from having other people make false claims of owning the work. In addition, I can't personally go into a courtroom and slap a copyright lawsuit on someone for plagiarizing my favorite author's book... it just doesn't work that way. I can draw it to their attention, but the court is going to require that my favorite author fight the battle herself, because in an infringement suit, you have to be able to prove in a court of law that you own the work, or have had the rights transferred to you, either in whole or in part - if you can't do either of those things, then you have no right to submit a report of infringement.
And THAT is why DeviantArt requires that the original artist submit the report. If I personally see it, and I don't own the rights, I can submit a report to DA that the person may be have permission issues, and then they will lock the work down pending a release form from the original artist. But in order to have it removed, the original artist must show ownership themselves. It's U.S. law. If you don't think that DA has a few copyright lawyers on staff, or at least on call for advice, then you're sadly and profoundly mistaken.

Ryesen Grear
Ryesen Grear

Actually, DeviantArt is actually following copyright law. It sucks that they can't do more, but let's blame our laws for that. "§ 501 Infringement of copyright b) The legal or beneficial owner of an exclusive right under a copyright is entitled, subject to the requirements of § 411, to institute an action for any infringement of that particular right committed while he or she is the owner of it. The court may require such owner to serve written notice of the action with a copy of the complaint upon any person shown, by the records of the Copyright Office or otherwise, to have or claim an interest in the copyright, and shall require that such notice be served upon any person whose interest is likely to be affected by a decision in the case. The court may require the joinder, and shall permit the intervention, of any person having or claiming an interest in the copyright." Pay special attention to that. BECAUSE the website (DA) specifically states in their terms of service that the copyright resides fully with the original artist, and that deviantart doesn't retain any rights to the artist's work, they can't do anything about copyright infringement other than to allow the person to submit a complaint, or ask the person infringing to submit proof that they have permission to put up the work (release form.) Online world works like the Real world. ONLY the person who owns the copyright may submit an infringement claim, that's there in black and white in copyright law. That's there to protect people from having other people make false claims of owning the work. In addition, I can't personally go into a courtroom and slap a copyright lawsuit on someone for plagiarizing my favorite author's book... it just doesn't work that way. I can draw it to their attention, but the court is going to require that my favorite author fight the battle herself, because in an infringement suit, you have to be able to prove in a court of law that you own the work, or have had the rights transferred to you, either in whole or in part - if you can't do either of those things, then you have no right to submit a report of infringement. And THAT is why DeviantArt requires that the original artist submit the report. If I personally see it, and I don't own the rights, I can submit a report to DA that the person may be have permission issues, and then they will lock the work down pending a release form from the original artist. But in order to have it removed, the original artist must show ownership themselves. It's U.S. law. If you don't think that DA has a few copyright lawyers on staff, or at least on call for advice, then you're sadly and profoundly mistaken.

BobbieJeanPentecost
BobbieJeanPentecost

I am very glad this is starting to be taken seriously and finally getting some attention.

BrianSherwin
BrianSherwin

"tackling commercial infringement of the community’s work, deviantArt has always been there." ---- OK, but where is deviantART when members of "the community" infringe on artists and others outside of the deviantART community. As someone who has studied copyright for 7 years I must say that it is not hard for me to find artwork, even some sold as prints -- which deviantART takes a cut of profit from -- that are clearly potential copyright and trademark infringement. When you see a 'slightly' altered, and yes the 'deviant even described it as that' work that you know is protected and it is being sold as a $130 print... well... how is deviantART any different than Art4Love when you get down to the meat of it?

Let us not forget that deviantART is not some underground network of artists. It is a highly promoted, multimillion dollar corporation -- with a CEO that is worth over $80 million dollars. Just saying that because when I mention criticism of deviantART people always hit me with the "We are just a community of artists trying to get by.". No... you are on a website that is worth millions. Nothing wrong with that -- but the whole 'its just a community getting by' is no excuse for the rampant copyright infringement that goes on.

Art4Love should get nailed in court. That said, I think it is time for other commercial art sites to be placed under the scope as well in the name of copyright and the protection that all artists -- if they are savvy enough -- should want to protect for others as well as themselves.

Nick
Nick

Here is Chad Liberman's cell phone information 917 363 6400.

plagiarismtoday
plagiarismtoday moderator

@BrianSherwin I'm not really sure what I can add to this debate but I wanted to throw in two cents worth.

First, I've worked with dA multiple times over infringement of my work. Many of my poems ended up there plagiarized and, every time, they took it down quickly after notification. No issues. One of the best to work with of the hundreds of hosts I've dealt with.

It sounds to me, from your conversation, that they do more than most do for certain, including trying to verify prints before selling them, etc. That puts them leaps and bounds ahead of PHotoBucket and Flickr, for example.

http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2008/01/15/artists-express-concern-over-photobucket/

Is there room for dA to improve? Absolutely. I agree any site can improve. But there's a vast difference between what dA does, act as a mere conduit for others to post their works, and what Lieberman did, actively claim work as his own and attempt to sell it. The law agrees under the DMCA.

Sure, I agree that this is an excellent chance for dA, and all sites, to evaluate what they are doing in this area, but it seems to me to be a stretch to outright attack dA. I can think of a dozen hosts that are easily more worthy of admonishment...

DeirdreDavisReynolds
DeirdreDavisReynolds

@BrianSherwin The other day you left a comment on a link that I left on the Stop Chad Love Lieberman from stealing people's artwork facebook page.

http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=207437715977953&id=246927625342014&notif_t=share_comment

I didn't feel that bringing an attack on deviantArt was conducive to my efforts to try and help the artists who have been ripped off by Lieberman and I don't feel that it is any more appropriate here. You are diverting focus away from the issue at hand. If you have a problem with deviantArt, you can always start your own facebook page or write your own articles. But as I am sure you are going to point out, you have a right to state your opinion. With that in mind I would like to respond.

I am not really into fan art, so I have never researched the legal complexities of it concerning copyright infringement and whether or not companies like Disney or DC comics actually approve of it. That was the reason I refused to comment on that and I will not enter a debate on a subject that I am not educated on.

What I do know is that fan art is rampant on several other art sites as well, such as RedBubble, Blue Canvas, and Fine Art America. I have a membership with all 4 art sites so I am familiar with their submission processes and their policies. All of these site have a strict policy against copyright infringement but none of these sites have a review process upon submission. This means that whatever an artist chooses to upload is automatically available for viewing and printing if they choose to sell it. The amount of manpower it would take to review all the submissions that come in daily would be staggering. Therefore, unless an image is reported to the admin, it is highly unlikely to be removed. This is the downside to having such a large art community. It has nothing to do with being "underground" or marketing to younger artists, it happens on many art websites.

I also know that there are several groups and individual members at deviantArt who are working hard to try and stop copyright infringement on dA. When they find instances of infringement, they report the image and it is removed. If the artist is a repeat offender, they are banned. I have seen it happen several times.

The only other option would be for art sites to put a review process in place at the time of submission. As an artist, I am firmly against any kind of policy like this and I would immediately leave any art site that would not allow me the freedom to post my art without having go before a censor. A review process to look for copyright infringement would just open the door for other types of limitations to be placed on what can or can not be submitted for print.

Perhaps the question of you should be asking isn't "Why isn't deviantArt doing more to stop copyright infringement?" but rather, "Why isn't the ART COMMUNITY doing more to stop copyright infringement?" We should all be bearing the responsibility of reporting infringement when we see it. Unfortunately, many of us are too complacent when it comes to things that don't involve us directly. If we, as artists, are not willing to take a stand ourselves for what we find to be morally or legal objectionable, why should we expect other to?

danteakuma
danteakuma

@BrianSherwin You are kind of proving you know nothing about the website. "Let us not forget that deviantART is not some underground network of artists. It is a highly promoted, multimillion dollar corporation" I am on the website and yes it really is an underground network of artists. The website itself CAN'T control everything that is posted the second it's posted it's physically impossible. They rely on the community to report the images that cause infringments then deal with them. The prints of copyrighted images are usually banned from sale the moment they are discovered but once again it is impossible to know that it's copyrighted the moment it's put up for sale as you can instantly try to sell prints when you submit an image. The fact you claim deviantART & art4love are the same proves your ignorance as well. You make it seem like we are all a group of plagerists with no regard to other people. That is FALSE. The images you claim to have found are most likely drawn by the people who post them and considered fan-art. No company cares about fan-art in fact some find it flatering that these people love their characters enough to want to draw them. If they cared wouldn't deviantART have been sued or even shut down years ago? Take a look and you'll find Disney fan-art all over the place and we all know how Disney feels about copyright infringment (shutting down pre-schools and taking every penny from people breaking copyright) but even they haven't done anything. Perhaps next time you try to slander a web community you will take time to research said community and see the inner working before you think of writing anything about them. The fact alone that you think deviantART plays a hand in breaking copyrights proves my point that you slander without relevent research.

"well... how is deviantART any different than Art4Love when you get down to the meat of it?"

Simple. Chad Love-Lieberman KNEW what he was doing when he stole images and sold them while the CEO of deviantART you insist on bashing doesn't post the images himself the community does. Like I have said the images are removed once reports are made but fan-art will never be removed until the company owning those characters says they don't want any of it there. There are also artists on there that work for the companies you claim are constant victims of copyright infringment and none of them care. I have spoken to many of these artists and they have spoken to the people hiring them before posting. None of these people care and have given full permission for their characters and works to be posted by the artist they hired and anyone willing to do fan-art providing they don't try to sell them. Once they try to sell them deviantART removes them. Simple as that really. Art4love knew they were stealing and refused to take them down so there is your difference. Art4love is run by a conman a rip off artist and overall scum of the Earth while deviantART is run by a man who wants to bring the art community together. Maybe once you have researched the site fully you'll see fit to publically apologise for comparing art4love to them.

BrianSherwin
BrianSherwin

Don't confuse criticism with being an "outright attack". An "outright attack" would be if I told everyone to pull their art from deviantART. I'm not saying that-- I just want to see commercial art sites, and in this case deviantART is a part of the story, to do more for copyright in general. I think we can all agree on that.

BrianSherwin
BrianSherwin

@DeirdreDavisReynolds You said, "You are diverting focus away from the issue at hand.". And what is the issue at hand in your opinion? For me it is commercial art sites, in general, profiting illegally off copyright owners. Art4Love should be called out.. but it is not the only commercial art site that needs called out. I'm pointing out glaring hypocrisy.

Also, I know from talking to members of the tech community that it would be easier than you might think to increase safeguards for copyright owners. For example, when potential infringement is caught that image can be used to filter out images that 'match' that image in the future. There are many things that can be done -- and deviantART has the resources to set the standard.

That is why the "underground" statement annoyed me. It is a multimillion dollar commercial art website. True, it may be a 'community' for many... but it is a commercial art website at heart -- that is the business model. They have the sources to do more than what they are already doing to protect copyright and to cultivate an attitude -- even further-- among its user base that infringement will not be tolerated.

BrianSherwin
BrianSherwin

@DeirdreDavisReynolds If I understood Angelo correctly on Twitter -- he and I had a back and forth -- images that infringe on copyright are only removed if the copyright owner contacts deviantART based on specific standards. Other sources have stated that the only time deviantART, the company, removes copyright infringement outright is if someone tries to buy a print that involves an image that is deemed potential infringement by deviantArt quality control. I'm simply saying.. why can't they remove potential infringement from print listings BEFORE someone tries to buy the print?

And no -- I'm not saying that deviantART is the only commercial art site with problems like this. BUT it is wrapped up in this Art4Love story... and happens to be one of the largest commercial art sites existing today. Why should deviantART not face criticism? Sites like Facebook are criticized all the time for these matters.... why is that so many get up in arms if someone calls deviantART out? Answer that.

My prediction is that at some point an individual or company is going to get fed up... not worry about public image... and hit deviantART with a massive lawsuit. The Bob Marley estate has already did that to a company -- and it did not hurt Marley's image with the public. There is a lot of fear among famous musicians and artists to go after these kinds of infringement. At some point though... someone will.... then others will follow. It will happen in time. That is what I predict.

Fair use, the legal defense against copyright infringement, is good to have. But I stand by what I say, from what I've seen of the deviantART community many of these images would fail in court to be seen as 'social commentary' or 'parody'. I'm not saying that ALL images on deviantART are infringing on copyright. I'm saying that I can find example after example of prints listed for sell that are clearly photoshop alterations of copyright protected album covers, book covers, scenes from movies and so on.

Those respected owners, be it an individual or company, deserve the right to protect their commercial interest -- and deviantART, the company, as well as many other commercial art sites... should be helping out as much as they can -- even if that means pissing site users off by deleting potential infringement without warning on a regular basis. Not just when it is reported by a copyright owner.

BrianSherwin
BrianSherwin

Lets take a look at what I said instead of what people trying to say I said.

“"tackling commercial infringement of the community’s work, deviantArt has always been there." ---- OK, but where is deviantART when members of "the community" infringe on artists and others outside of the deviantART community. “

I realize there are deviantART user created groups that help to fight against infringement. What I’m saying is… why should that responsibility fall on the “community”? When it comes to print sells my understanding is that deviantART has quality control implemented in the sense that they stop potential copyright infringement from being sold. That is great -- but why not remove potential infringement when it is listed as a print for sell in the first place?

The fact remains that we have thousands of prints, based on searches I’ve made and screenshots I’ve take, of what appears to be clear cases of copyright infringement listed as prints for sell on deviantART. This is misleading to the public as deviantART takes a commission on prints sold. In that sense, I can see how the public may confuse the commercial connection that the artists and deviantART may have with the actual copyright/trademark owner.

We are criticizing Art4Love for having infringed works listed as prints for sell. Yet deviantART has thousands of prints that appear to be infringing on the copyright and trademarks of other individuals and companies listed for as much as $130 a pop. True, the owners of deviantART are not listing those works themselves -- I never said that was the case -- but… I would think that a multimillion dollar website like deviantART could hire staff to remove potential infringement instead of waiting for copyright owners to contact deviantART. Keep in mind that deviantART is a commercial art site at heart.

I said, “Art4Love should get nailed in court. That said, I think it is time for other commercial art sites to be placed under the scope as well in the name of copyright and the protection that all artists -- if they are savvy enough -- should want to protect for others as well as themselves.”

Obviously I’m thinking beyond just deviantART. However, I see contradictions, hypocrisy, and irony in regard to deviantART due to the criticism of Art4Love. Both sites harm copyright in their own way. That is my opinion. Why is acceptable to talk about the infringing nature of Art4Love… but not the infringing nature of the deviantART community?

BrianSherwin
BrianSherwin

@danteakuma

So if I'm wrong why are so many Deviants agreeing with me? Why are Deviants saying, "Yes, something should be done about this". Tell me that. If they have quality control at the point prints are purchased they should be able to have it before hand. The fact that obvious infringement is listed for sell would not be tolerated on a site like Walmart, for example, so why should it be tolerated on a commercial art site like deviantART -- or any other for that matter?

As for your statement about companies being OK with fan art -- I'll give you an example, having interviewed Sean Yseult, Geoff Tate, and a number of other musicians... and having had contact with agents from various labels over the years.... I can tell you that most don't like the rampant infringement that takes place on art communities like deviantART. The only problem is that they often are worried that they will look like the 'bad guy' if they go after the artist and site. Even if that just involves a cease-and-desist letter.

If it were not for that fact deviantART -- and other sites like it -- would have probably been hammered in court long ago. After all, deviantART takes a cut of print sells.... and regardless of what the TOS agreement says I think it would be easy for a copyright owner to hammer both the artist and deviantART since basically deviantART is a business partner with the artist no matter what the TOS agreement says. Most agree that will happen at some point... so time will tell my friend.

"I am on the website and yes it really is an underground network of artists."... um... because it has been marketed as that kiddo. They were brilliant for doing it. Calling one of the highest ranking websites in the world "underground" is rather silly, don't you think? Again, it is a multimillion dollar commercial art website with an extremely wealthy CEO at the head. But then, we can't forget Yellow Alien either, can we? By the way, Jark agreed with me recently that deviantART has a problem with copyright infringement and that more should be done.

Apology? Not going to happen. In fact, I think it makes more sense for deviantART to say, "Hey, we know we have a huge problem with potential infringement on the site and we are going to do more to protect the copyright of our artists and artists who are not a part of the community". Again, if I'm wrong why have Deviants replied to my opinions stating that they know a problem exists and that they wish more were done about it? Why is that?

A few have even mentioned that they feel deviantART is being cheap -- that they have enough money hire people to remove obvious copyright infringement. After all, deviantART, the company, can remove content for any reason it wants -- so they could, if they wanted to, really make a stand for copyright by removing content that they know is blatant copyright infringement. But then... ouch, they might upset members if they started doing that. Thus, it looks like they wait for the owner to report the infringement (which is common online-- but should change in my opinion)-- knowing that most won't bother out of ... ouch.. you guessed it, looking bad to the public. In addition to that, if my opinion is out of line why did one of the founders of deviantART agree with my views?

Also, you need to learn the difference between slander and opinion. If deviantART wants to take me on they can have at it -- if the big "underground" art site wants to try and silence this art writer -- go ahead and try. Rebel, rebel and all that jazz. I would LOVE to offer my opinions of the site to a judge and why I think it harms the commercial value and quality of many artists (and I include musicians when I say that). I would also be more than happy to share with the judge some of the opinions that have been expressed to me from agents and others who have expressed concern -- but are wary to make a fuss over -- and what some of your fellow Deviants have said about the community as well in regard to infringement and that they see why I'm critical of the site.

Obviously I'm not the only person with opinions like this. Is that slander? Or is that a real issue that thousands, perhaps millions, of artists want to see resolved. We see artists angry over Art4Love -- these artists support copyright -- ownership.... why is it so wrong for artists to be angry at deviantART for the same reason? Because deviantART is a "cool" site? Because it is "underground"? Because it is "the only community some of us have"? I've heard those excuses before.

I support strong copyright. I want to see ALL art sites take further responsibility in regard to copyright. deviantART happens to have a lot of influence among younger artists -- if they fail to teach the value, by example, of copyright... well, that cultivates a community of artists who view infringement as acceptable. That is a theory of mine -- which is another right that I have. "Its OK to do this because this is just fan art" turns into "It is OK to sell prints of this because it is just fan art and is not hurting anyone", turns into "I can remake this artists work because it is not hurting him/her".... and so on.

In fact, based on what I've seen over the years on deviantART I'd say that there is a generation of Chad Love Lieberman's on the horizon. Sure, I've seen it manifest on other art sites... but none so much as deviantART. That is why I'm critical.. I don't feel deviantART is doing enough -- and I think they could go way beyond what is expected of them. By the way, I have the right to be critical.

BrianSherwin
BrianSherwin

How many times do I have to say this? I offered critical opinions of deviantART because deviantART is involved in this situation. I read articles that make deviantART, the company, look innocent when it comes to alleged copyright infringement -- and based on current listings of prints for sell I simply don't think that is true. That is my opinion.

I observed hypocrisy, contradictions, and irony -- and I commented on it. I have criticized other commercial art sites in the past -- including one that I used to work for. I have championed copyright for 7 years online. I'll note that I've never received threats of harm when criticizing those companies. Why anyone would think I should have my head "bashed in" just for being critical of a specific commercial art site is beyond me -- yet I've received a handful of email threats like that from individuals who make their support of deviantART clear.

I'll also note that said threats were sent by individuals who apparently read on a deviantART group that I'm in connection with Chad -- which is absurd. And no -- I don't feel threatened.... I know people are emotional over this whole issue. However, I'll also add that the response I've received from certain elements of the deviantART community only provokes me further to examine deviantART, the company. I'm not some random art blogger -- I'm a career writer with 7 years of experience to back my efforts.

Since some members of the deviantART community are obviously angry with me -- well, allow me to put deviantART, the company, on the spot. Lets say that none of the 300+ artists on deviantART had their work registered before Art4Love 'stole' it. . Lets say that none of them, because of that, can afford legal help. If that is the case hopefully deviantART, the company, will step up to the plate and pay for their legal fees in order to set an example OR at least sue Art4Love -- one company vs. another company -- if it can be proven that the images were 'ripped' from deviantART.

Thoughts?

daughter.of.the.furies
daughter.of.the.furies

If you were concerned with the commercial art community in general, then why do you seem to focus on deviantArt in particular? Does that not constitute an attack if your negative commentations do not actually apply to the entire commercial art world as you have claimed? There is a distinct difference between using something as an example and tearing it to pieces on an ill-conceived conceptual basis of some wrongdoing or offense that they alone did not commit.

BrianSherwin
BrianSherwin

@DeirdreDavisReynolds And I'm saying... what better time than now to discuss these issues as whole. Anyway, it is clear that we will have to agree to disagree. Keep doing what you are doing -- and hopefully Art4Love will get what is coming to it in court.

DeirdreDavisReynolds
DeirdreDavisReynolds

@BrianSherwin Brian, you seem to be missing my point. It doesn't matter whether or not your point was valid. If was counterproductive to what I was trying to achieve with that post. I was not trying to draw out a discussion on copyright infringement on deviantArt. I was merely requesting help identifying artwork. You made your point several other places within that facebook page, it was not necessary to do so on my post.

I recognize the efforts you have made to help. We have linked to your article on copyright infringement on our website. I understand what you are saying about the coverage of this story and how deviantArt is being made to look like a victim. The fact is though, despite the fact deviantArt is a commercial website, it is a community of artists too. It is the art community that is being portrayed as victimized, not deviantArt the corporation. Nobody gives a hoot how this has effected the CEO of DA, but the art community as a whole at DA has been effected.

I have never said copyright infringement is a non-issue on DA. I said that I do not have the knowledge to discuss fan art. I discussed the submission and reporting processes. I discussed why I do not believe the options you have discussed would work. The fact of the matter is deviantArt probably could control what members upload, at considerable cost to the company, which would then be passed on to members. But what I have tried to impress upon you is that a free submission process is necessary or the door is opened up for censorship and the filtering technology you mentioned before is not advanced enough to handle the task. Neither of these options are acceptable to me as an artist and I am sure that I am not alone.

I do not expect you to stop expressing your opinions, I only wish that you would regard the forums that you choose to express them in as they are not always the most appropriate place. If you can't understand why I would be frustrated over your hi-jacking of my facebook post, then I don't know how to explain it to you further.

BrianSherwin
BrianSherwin

@DeirdreDavisReynolds Also, do you not agree that rampant copyright infringement on sites like deviantART, and commercial art sites in general, is cultivating another generation of Chad Love Lieberman's? Because what I'm seeing are companies that say, "We can't control our own community" when I -- and others -- mention this problem. I find that alarming. Perhaps you don't. The whole 'it is the way it is' type of responses are fine -- but change should, and can, happen.

You'd be surprised how many Deviants are agreeing with me elsewhere. And yes, one of the original founders of deviantART, Scott Jarkoff, agreed with me -- which I will likely share more info on in an upcoming article.

BrianSherwin
BrianSherwin

Deidre, I made what I felt was a valid point. Also, do keep in mind that I’ve been following this situation closely -- have pointed to your blog and others -- and have offered information that no other source has offered. Trust me, I want to see Art4Love pay as much as the next person. So don’t make me out to look like the ‘bad guy’ just because I mentioned criticism I have for deviantARt, the company.

You said, “The issue at hand, as far as I am concerned, is making sure these artists are aware of what has happened with their work. Whether or not they have registered copyright of their work or are able to pursue legal action against Lieberman, they need to be notified of what has happened. They need to gather the evidence. If they have legal recourse, they need to pursue it, if not they need to educate themselves on how to protect their artwork in the future.”

And in my own way I have helped with that. Still -- there are other issues to debate. Deidre, you are taking a lot of what I’ve said out of context. deviantART has said that it will help, provide information -- and so on. That is not the hypocrisy I’m talking about. I’m talking about how so many covering this story are making deviantART, the company, out to look like a victim -- when, in my opinion, deviantART, the company, deserves just as much criticism, if not more so, as Art4Love, the company, over potential/alleged copyright infringement.

I’m not saying that the practice is the same -- BUT widespread infringement DOES exist on deviantART no matter how many people try to say it is a non-issue. If we are angry at Art4Love, the company, for listing 300+ allegedly infringing images shouldn’t we be angry with deviantART, the company, for listing thousands, if not millions of prints that involve what is likely copyright infringement or trademark violation?

Now I know you will say, “But deviantART can’t control what their members upload” -- that is where responsibility comes into play. To suggest that Art4Love, the company, is horrible because of what they have done -- well what about what has been done by the deviantART community for years?

I understand that you are frustrated with my opinions. However, I’m not going to pat deviantART, the community or the company, on the head and act as if there is not copyright problems on deviantART.

DeirdreDavisReynolds
DeirdreDavisReynolds

The facebook post that you left your comment on calling out DA was a request for help from people to try and match up missing screenshots for the list of stolen art from from the Art4Love website. I have been working very hard the past week to try and help the artists victimized by Lieberman by working towards getting all these art works identified and the artists notified. You decided to use that post as a platform for your agenda to discuss what you feel is wrong with DA. It was diverting focus from what I was trying to accomplish with the post.

The issue at hand, as far as I am concerned, is making sure these artists are aware of what has happened with their work. Whether or not they have registered copyright of their work or are able to pursue legal action against Lieberman, they need to be notified of what has happened. They need to gather the evidence. If they have legal recourse, they need to pursue it, if not they need to educate themselves on how to protect their artwork in the future.

As far as commercial art sites profiting illegally off copyright owners, as I said before, I am not educated enough on the subject of fan art to discuss the legality of it. But DA has never claimed any victimization as you have suggested on facebook, so where is the hypocrisy? The only real statement they have made on the matter is that they never gave permission to art4love to sell the stolen works, they don't know how they got the images, and that they would cooperate fully with any government agencies and fraud investigations. There has not been any talk by DA to bring any action against Lieberman. Again I ask, where is the hypocrisy?

These filters you speak of..I assume they work on the same principle as reverse image searches like Google image and TinEye. Have you ever used these? They are strangely inaccurate, often missing images that match and picking up others that match only by color or shape. Excuse me, but I do not want that kind of technology filtering my print submissions. If they are more advanced than that, please tell your friends to send their technology to Google and TinEye because I would sure appreciate it.

DeirdreDavisReynolds
DeirdreDavisReynolds

@BrianSherwin You would have to be a member of deviantArt in order to report copyright infringement, otherwise you would have to be the copyright holder. However most websites require the actual copyright holder to contact them to remove images.

Brian, I have seen it argued that many companies approve of and encourage fan art and even don't mind the sale of it. I have also seen it argued that it is not encouraged, but companies just don't pursue it. This is where I have to leave off on this debate. As I have told you over and over again, I have not researched and educated myself on the legalities of the issue and I feel like you are trying to draw me into a debate that you know I am severely disadvantaged in. Quoting me a paragraph from Wikipedia does not bring me up to speed on the subject and you know it, so stop trying to bait me into arguing a subject I am not knowledgeable on.

As far as copyright infringement of other types, how do you suggest they stop it at the starting point? You keep saying that they have the resources, but what are they, or do you just mean they have plenty of money to throw at the problem? I really can't think of any way DA would be able to find infringements against small time artists except to go through a vetting process.

Yes, more should be done to stop copyright infringement, but what you fail to see is that there is a difference between DA and Lieberman. Lieberman stole images from artists with the willful intent to infringe on their copyrights and defraud his customers. While there is copyright infringement on deviantArt, it is against DA's policy and is removed when brought to their attention. Their failure to stop this infringement is not willful intent nor fraudulent, but negligent at best.

BrianSherwin
BrianSherwin

@DeirdreDavisReynolds Well, I'm going by what the CEO of deviantART said. He said, "owners of copyright are required to submit reports.,". Perhaps he failed to be clear.

You are saying that anyone can report and that work can be removed without the actual owner being involved. So... can the public report alleged infringement easily? Or does one have to join deviantART or go through a hassle in order to report it?

And anyway -- deviantART has the resources to set a standard in regard to acknowledging copyright online. Instead of waiting for a public response -- why can't they do more to stomp out potential infringement? These are valid questions.

I'm not just talking about fan art... that was just an example.

From WIkipedia because I don't have time to pull something from elsewhere, "Generally, the right to reproduce and display pieces of artwork is controlled by the original author or artist under 17 U.S.C. § 106. However, fan art using settings and characters from a previously created work could be considered a derivative work, which would place control of the copyright with the owner of that original work. Display and distribution of fan art that would be considered a derivative work would be unlawful."

If the 'fan artist' has prints listed on deviantART I'd say that is beyond mere 'fan art'... that is a "willful" desire to profit off of others or distribute information that is misleading to potential buyers. Which is the same argument we have against Art4Love. Since deviantART, the company, takes commission from sold prints... I feel they should have some responsibility in improving quality control of prints listed for sell in regard to copyright.

You said, "But while I agree with you that all owners deserve the right to protect their commercial interests, I know that companies like Marvel, DC Comics and Disney have far more resources and money to find their images and request their removal than I as an individual artist have. This may sound selfish of me, but I would far rather see art sites use their resources to stop copyright infringement of their own artists' works within the site than protecting the interest of corporate America."

Are you missing my argument? deviantART IS a corporation. A corporation that indirectly harms the commercial appeal of who knows how many copyright owners. And the fact that you address site users as 'their artists' shows just how misleading prints involving potential infringement on deviantART can be from a legal standpoint. Also, if corporations lose out on copyright we ALL lose out on copyright. This is something many artists don't understand. Copyright looks out for both the big guys and the little guys.

DeirdreDavisReynolds
DeirdreDavisReynolds

@BrianSherwin I don't know about your discussion on twitter, but the copyright owner does not have to contact DA based on specific standards. Any artists on DA can report a deviation for Permission issues stating it may be copyrighted. An brief explanation of why there is a permission issue is requested along with a URL if the image appears elsewhere online. Additional information can be added if needed. It doesn't matter if the image is for sale or not, if it is reported, it is investigated by the help desk and if the report is valid, the deviation is deleted. Once the deviation is deleted, the print is no longer available.

The problem is, there seems to be an debate over the legality of fan art. I have not read up on the matter, so I can not discuss that issue. It's not a genre of art that appeals to me and I don't understand the popularity of it. Unless it is something that is really outside of the box like this http://tinyurl.com/3ooq9ol, I find it boring. But as long as there is a question mark over the legality of fan art and it remains popular, it is going to be hard to get artists to report these images as they do not see them as illegal.

But while I agree with you that all owners deserve the right to protect their commercial interests, I know that companies like Marvel, DC Comics and Disney have far more resources and money to find their images and request their removal than I as an individual artist have. This may sound selfish of me, but I would far rather see art sites use their resources to stop copyright infringement of their own artists' works within the site than protecting the interest of corporate America. When they can stop Little Miss Teeny Bopper from taking someone else's work, recoloring and posting it as their own, then I will worry about how they can protect Disney. I am far more concerned with protecting the interests of the small independent artist who can not afford a team of lawyers and web researchers.

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