Monday, February 25, 2013

Letter to Society6

I'm not one to dwell on something, to pine and to wallow. I am a positive person and I like to move forward and upward from difficult situations. But, I am a completist, I like to finish what I start, and I like to be thorough. I like to help others through my own experience, and to share information that may benefit others. We artists (and friends!)  need to stick together... and speaking of which, I so greatly appreciate all of the support that's been shown to me over the past couple days!

Here is my letter to S6, their response, and my reply to it. If it helps someone, I'm happy.


My email to S6 (email #1)

February 25, 7:27pm

Dear Society 6,

I recently discovered an Instagram "shop" selling my Society 6 art as well as MANY designs from MANY other Society 6 artists. When first I discovered the post (yesterday), it was 22 weeks old. I am 100% certain that the stolen art was art that I specifically designed and prepared exclusively for products in my S6 shop. I just wanted to let you know that those designs have been stolen and are now floating around Indonesia on products I never approved and will never receive any income from. And the "seller" has now disappeared from social media, at least under their former name.

My own case of infringement is not the first that I've heard about from former S6 shopkeepers, and sadly, it probably won't be the last. I don't know how the international illegal art market is obtaining the art— whether you have a hole in your servers, or a bad apple in your bunch. That's for you to know and handle. But, however you deal with it, please deal with it. This IS happening. Ignoring the problem is not going to make it go away. And there will only be more and more people like me that voice our own stories about copyright infringement of the work that we prepared and posted exclusively to our S6 shops. 

When we join S6, we understand and acknowledge that you take no responsibility for copyright infringement. But (and I think I can speak for everyone on S6 here) we go in with a certain expectation that S6 will take, at the very least, reasonable measures to protect our work from getting ripped off. Moreover, S6 is more than just a shopping site. It is also a community. In order to keep your community healthy, thriving and undivided long-term, there has to be a certain level of goodwill coming from you toward the individuals within the community whose art is taken from S6 and infringed. 

A healthy community helps it's members out as best it can within it's own set of guidelines, though limited they may be. There is a humanity and helpfulness there built in the system. After reading comments and stories of other former S6 artists being shut out (and shut off from their accounts) after voicing the international infringement of their intellectual property which they directly connected to their involvement on S6, I see that there is a serious, fundamental problem. If you are part-shop/part-community, you need to step up to the plate a little. Not asking for a lot here. Acknowledgement and some support, in a seemingly small way, would go a long way in the goodwill department. (How about a community forum for users, with this issue as one of the discussion boards where people can share, unite, and call out infringers?)

Anyway, I am a fan of your site, and I truly hope you will make this issue a top priority to fix.

Best Regards,
Kathy Weller

(attached to message: screenshot from Instagram providing infringing sellers' name)


REPLY from S6 (email #2)

February 25, 7:37pm
Hi Kathy,

Thank you for contacting Society6 Support.

We don't know what "shop" you are referring to, but we'd sure like to see it if you can report it?

(Note: the following portion of the email, in grey, is content lifted directly from Society6's Copyright page)
Please allow us to share some very important information regarding your Copyrights.

First, please be aware that when you post your work to the Internet, no matter the size or resolution of your images, no website (and we mean NO website, not a one) can make it impossible to prevent it from being copied.

It is also incredibly important to us that you understand that while we do everything in our power to maintain your trust as an artist, we are not charged with enforcing the laws that we are required to follow. 

Copyright infringement is generally a civil matter, which only the copyright owner can pursue - this means it is your responsibility to make sure that you are upholding your legal interests in your work, we are not authorized to do it for you. We are prohibited from giving specific legal advice on your rights, whether in connection with particular uses of copyrighted works, cases of alleged domestic or foreign copyright infringement, or other matters of a similar nature. You may wish to seek professional legal advice from a copyright attorney and to discuss your legal options.

Please remember, finding your artwork on another site is usually a good thing! In fact we encourage and support the sharing of your artwork as long as it is done correctly and with respect to you as the artist. So if you find your work on another website, please make sure the website is actually unlawfully infringing your copyright and not making "fair use" of your content, or reselling your products (buying them from you and reselling them for a profit). You won't make any friends if you're issuing unwarranted DMCA takedown notices to someone trying to give your work more exposure because they admire it!

If you're still not comfortable with your work showing-up on another site, always start by simply asking the website owner to remove the infringing content. Our experience shows that a polite email to the website admin requesting the image be removed is usually all it takes to resolve the situation.

In cases where your works appear for sale or where someone is claiming the work as their own, contact the individual asking that the works be removed immediately. The next step is to contact the company hosting the site containing the infringing work and ask them to disable the content or the account. When Society6 members have contacted sites like Etsy or Facebook in the past, these companies have typically responded in a reasonable time frame and suspended the content or the user. Please remember that most sites have systems, or specific processes (i.e. DMCA requirements) in place that you must follow in order to handle these matters.

If your desire is to sell your products, please know that we take every action to both protect your images, but also make them compelling for customers to purchase as products, and easy to promote thru social media, blogs, and other websites on the Internet.

Society6 secures your hi-resolution files and only ever provides a low resolution preview of your work on our site. Our product previews are presented at 600px, even though a larger 800px image is now the industry acceptable standard for product previews. It has been determined that at this size (and at screen resolution) there is no way to reproduce a printed product fit for sale. 

We do not enable watermarks over your images as research shows it deters people from purchasing your products. There is no other successful online retailer that uses watermarking technology. You may find another site that offers watermarks, but you will quickly discover that all you’ll end up with is watermarked images and dismal sales.

We enable right clicks because this is a great way to allow members and other people to link to your work and give you additional exposure. We believe that disabling right clicks is not a true protection and does more harm than good - anyone that is stealing images understands how you can still copy right click disabled images. Furthermore, even if you disable the click, you can always take a screenshot.

We recommend that you research the relevant copyright laws and their application to your work on the Internet (links below), or consult legal counsel if you are unsure about copyright law.

We recommend that you research the relevant copyright laws and their application to your work on the Internet (links below), or consult legal counsel if you are unsure about copyright law.

We also suggest that you review Society6's Terms of Service with respect to our Content & Copyright Policy to ensure that you are in compliance at all times.

We really appreciate your understanding and appreciate your continued support.


(Name of S6 support person)


My Reply (email #3)

February 25, 7:52pm
Hi (Name of S6 support person),

Thanks for the reply. The shop that infringed S6 artists' work, including mine, has disappeared (I mentioned that in the 1st paragraph of my previous email). 

It was really not a shop at all, but an Indonesian seller who has a bunch of S6 stolen art for sale on iphones via Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. They sold under the name Beaumont Stuffs.

The seller left all three social media sites after being exposed by the online community. (Though I'm sure they will pop back up with another name.)

I attached a screenshot in my original message to you of the Instagram post where I first discovered my work on their phones. I put it in my original message to you, but here is it again.

Thanks for the rest of the copyright info in the email.  I already read it on your site.

Good luck and I hope you can fix what is broken over there.

I'm going to go remove my account now. 



Anonymous said...

Society 6 is just the WORST! I follow another artist on Facebook (Christopher Uminga) who just had the same issue with another seller stealing his (and plenty of other artists') work.
Although I readily support artists' ability to sell their work in an easy format, I can no longer support or recommend the purchase of Society 6 products because I simply can't be sure that I'm rewarding the proper artist whose work I admire.
Society 6 needs to tighten the ranks and make it a little more difficult to sell just any old thing. If a seller has more than two wildly different styles it's a sure bet that the art in question isn't theirs.

Kathy Weller said...

Hi Anon, Thank you for your support and for chiming in! I greatly appreciate you adding new info to the conversation. It's difficult for me to understand how S6 prioritizes the importance or severity of infringement. There is the type you mentioned -artists on S6 stealing other artists' work (something I was not aware of til now on S6). There is my issue of infringement by other parties (mine overseas) selling products which, it is crystal clear to me, were created using designs I specifically templated for my S6 products and they were the only other servers besides my own that had access to those art files. Then there is the infringement of artists on S6 using trademarks and trademarked characters in their work. This is rampant on S6 and has been for a long time. I am not sure what steps they take to address that type of infringement but whatever they do, it does not seem to be working. There is this perception that it is ok to rip off a larger, more popular intellectual property like Batman, Barbie or Hello Kitty. In my book IP is IP and IP crime is IP crime no matter how big or indie your property is. And it amazes me how rampant this one is because I don't understand where some of these peope draw the line at creative integrity and originality. I guess there is parody of public figures and that can fall under Fair Use but who writes that script? Eek... I apologize for getting off track here from the original subject. It's just that there are several IP issues. Such a slippery slope.

Susan said...

Wow, their response is completely unacceptable and looks as if your note was disregarded. I was lead to your site by a large art group on FB, many contemplating selling on S6. After your experience and S6's truly disheartening lack of caring about their artist community I don't think any of them will be using their site. Plus many who were there will be shutting own their shops. Thanks for your open communication. All of us do need to stick together to make sure this stops.

Cat Athena Louise said...

Seconding Susan's comment above... Totally unacceptable response from Society 6. Dismissive and even a little condescending when you have supplied them all the details already.

I'm so sorry you had to go through this.
You can be sure word of this will spread around like wildfire.

I wish you the best of luck with legal correspondence to the offending party {vultures, as you called them - wonderful description for these thieves who can't or won't make their own art}

I think we've all learnt something from this. I certainly have.

Best wishes,

NicoleTamarin said...

Jeez, Kathy- That is scary! I've had my artwork on Society 6 for less than a year and this definitely makes me question my decision to upload product there. I guess I always had a nagging doubt with these sites as they pretty much admit they can't protect our art any way. Thank you for sharing and good luck!


Kathy Weller said...

Susan, Thanks for chiming in. Yes I agree, my massage was blatantly disregarded. It's perplexing to me, the S6 model of part shop/part community with really a hands-off, ignorant, hear no evil/see no evil/speak no evil approach to situations like this. It's completely backwards to treat individual cases like this as so unimportant as to not even warrant a complete reading of my message, when their community consists completely of individual artists coming together under their roof. It's very scary, the more scary the more I think about it. And when I think about the research I did (or tried to do) before joining... I did email back and forth with them trying to get a handle on their process, looking for more transparency. I never got it. but I went ahead with my shop anyway. I learned a really important lesson there. Just another case of my gut fully knowing what my intellect didn't have the words to communicate, at the time. My gut comes FIRST these days.Just sometimes, it's hard to tell. But the more I listen, the better I get at hearing it.

Kathy Weller said...

Nicole / Joe - Thanks for chiming in! I am so glad to have a blog where I can share great, awesome positive stuff but also stuff that affects ALL of us and may not be so pretty such as this infringement issue. The more I read and learn, the more I'm seeing a scarlet letter G for Guilty on Society6.

Lance Klass said...

Hi Kathy - excellent post! I had posted a query on two LinkedIn boards about Society6, and one of the respondents provided the link to this posting on your blog. After reading it, I response at some length on the LinkedIn board regarding one specific point that Society6 raises in its response to your letter, and mention you by name. Here's the link to my comment -

To make it simpler, if the link doesn't go through for whatever reason, check The Art of Licensing group to see what I've written.

Kathy Weller said...

Thanks Lance! I appreciate you letting me know about the thread. I agree with your comments about "finding your art on other's sites is usually a GOOD thing". WHAT???? There really are no words for that. I agree.

Lana Gordon Rast said...

Thank you for posting this info. I am sorry for your bad experience but so happy you shared it. I asked them a question once and thought they sounded dismissive, that should have told me something there. I am going to cancell my account too. Thank you, Lana

Anonymous said...

Aah that is terrible. They seemed condescending to me too when I sent them a message to help me verify my account. I just joined S6 yesterday in the hopes of selling some prints. I just don't know where else to post my stuff. Any ideas?
Thanks for letting us know!

Cathie Joy Young said...

Ugh. yup. just found my stuff and a bunch of other S6 artists stuff lifted and put onto a rip off site. S6 has not replied to my complaint and i doubt they will. I recently opened a RedBubble site. Wondering about their track record? Think I will shut down my s6 site too. Here is the link :