Hi friends! I had planned on writing a different blog post today, but something has happened recently that I want to share with all of you, so I’m going to write about this instead today.
Last week I received an email from a reader (who will remain anonymous) with a simple line that said “FYI…” and a link to a website. I could tell from the website’s address that it was a “painting party” type of site. You probably know what I mean, there are tons of them as they’ve become quite popular recently. Like a “paint night” or a “sip and paint” type of party where people get together, drink wine, and learn how to paint a painting.
This website was one of those types of businesses (I’m going to keep the specific name of it anonymous) and the link I was given lead me to a specific class advertised for mid-october, where students can sign up for $35 each and learn to paint a painting titled “Love Birds at Dawn”. Here’s what it looked like:
Look familiar? It’s the very first painting we did in our Paint With Me project. I stared at the screen for a minute before I did anything else. Then I scanned the website for their contact info, and found an email address. I emailed them and politely asked for them to remove this project from their program. Here’s a screenshot of my email (click to enlarge):
I didn’t get a reply back from them, but when I checked their website the next day, my painting was gone. So obviously they knew they were in the wrong, and quickly took my painting down. I imagine they were too emabarrased to reply back to me, or are just hoping that they can quickly switch it out and keep everything quiet. Either way, they took my painting down, so I didn’t really care that they didn’t reply to me.
I felt good. It was like a little win. Now no one will be taking that class and paying for something they can do on their own for free. It wasn’t even the fact that they were plagiarizing my work that upset me, it was the fact that it was from a Paint With Me, a painting class I do for free. That some people would be unknowingly paying for something that they otherwise wouldn’t have to. That gave me a knot in my stomach. So I felt really good that my email was a success and the painting was removed. I’m super grateful to the person who let me know this was happening.
But then I thought about the other paintings. They took my painting down and it was immediately replaced with a different painting project, a tree with yellow leaves. It kind of got me thinking. They did this in an instant, meaning that they have a large stock of painting projects ready to go. Now, it’s probably a pretty big company, so they probably have a large amount of paintings.
…but how many of those paintings are copies of other paintings, like mine was? How many of these paintings are from other artists who, like me, had no idea their works were being used in a paint night class? 25% of them? 50% of them? All of them???
And so, I’m turning to you guys. As artists, we have to look out for each other. If you see a work of art that you know belongs to another artist, be sure to tell them about it. It’s so easy to pull a picture from the internet and call it your own. Or take a painting and repaint it so it’s identical to the original, then call it your work. This is plagiarism, and there’s really no way of stopping it other than catching those who do it in the act. And the only way we can do that is if we tell each other about it when we see it. The original artist will be super grateful you did.
Before I published this post, I dug a little deeper into the classes offered by this program. Unfortunately, it looks like my tree painting has already been taught as a class back in June (and again the previous September), so this listing I saw wan’t the first time the painting was offered as a class. I felt really sad looking at the pictures, because the June painting class was done for someone’s birthday.
So I emailed the main franchise. This specific paint night company is quite large, and have franchise owners throughout the USA. I emailed the franchise information email address and let the know about this incident. I kept the specific franchise location anonymous, as I’m not looking to get that owner in trouble, nor do I want the people who participated in that class to know about this, because I feel like it would kind of ruin their memories of that birthday party. This is why I didn’t comment on their Facebook pictures (although the pictures of this party were removed from their Facebook Page, I noticed. But the Google Picasa folder that’s attached to their website sill has the pictures, which is where I found them. The Internet never forgets, people. Remember that, lol)
So I emailed the main franchise information email and explained my situation. I simply asked for them to try to monitor their franchisees more, in order to try to stop this plagiarism from happening as much as possible. I told them that I’m not looking for trouble, nor do I want to get the franchisee in trouble, but I just wanted to let them know that this was happening.
I received a response from someone from their head offices. She told me that they take copyright issues very seriously and will be contacting me this week to investigate. I will keep you guys posted whenever I have news on the issue!
Till then, all we can do is look out for each other and handle each incident as it happens.
A Word on Plagiarism
I want to write an additional little section to this post to clear up some things about plaigarism. Being inspired by another artist or painting and plagiarism are two totally different things. Plagiarism is taking the exact same painting and reproducing it. Just like what happened with my painting and the painting party company. They were selling lessons on how to paint that exact painting, which is plagiarism.
Being inspired by something is totally different. When I wanted to make that painting for our Paint With Me project, I looked at a bunch of whimsical tree paintings on pinterest. It’s great to get inspired. But then I took what I liked and made my own painting. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration. I’m always saving images from there as inspiration.
I’m not trying to bash these painting party companies, in fact, I’m thinking about starting to do something like that in my own city. But I’d make sure the paintings I was teaching were my own original paintings. I also wouldn’t make a class around any of the Paint With Me’s I’ve already done, as I’m not about to charge for something I’m already doing for free.
And just a word about my Paint With Me projects. If you follow along and create your painting with my Paint With Mes, that’s your painting. You can sell it, or do whatever you want with it, that’s no problem. My issue is seeing someone offering to teach how to paint that painting to others as a paid class.
I hope that makes sense. This post rambles on a lot, and it’s basically a giant rant, but I wanted to put it out there that we artists have to watch out for each other. It’s so easy to think of other artists as “the competition” but really, we’re all in this together, and if we don’t watch each other’s backs, no one else will.
So thanks so much for reading if you’ve made it this far, and till next time, keep creating!