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About Traditional Art / Artist Core Member Moni3United States Group :icondeviantartshowcase: DeviantARTShowcase
 
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I'm currently in a bizarre situation related to art theft on dA that needs to be discussed by dA's members and staff. I hope this helps spark a discussion among dA members at the least, and at the most, prompts a change in dA's policies or protocols.

A little about me:

I've been a member of deviantArt for more than 10 years. Not all of those years have been annual paid memberships, but I am currently a "CORE" member, which means I pay for the premium membership. Quite a few professional artists use dA to get Internet exposure, and I'm one of them. Since 2013, my network of friends and acquaintances on dA has grown due to my using the chat functions. I was a regular member at a channel called Sharezone, a place for artists to show off their art which is mostly defunct now, and I'm currently a regular at deviantArtShowcase. I have become friendly with a few artists at dA whose artwork, sense of humor, or other aspect of chatting I've come to admire and enjoy.

Sooner or later, in dA chats, the issue of art theft comes up. Users show up with art that is clearly not theirs, or they've taken a good image somewhere and run it through a terrible Photoshop filter that fools no one. I have never reported another dA member for art theft, but others I know through dA chat have. As I understand it, the response from dA staff has been lackluster to nonexistent, so any action that reflects official disapproval comes from individual chat channel moderators, whose stances on art theft vary from person to person, channel to channel. Why is official disapproval of theft important? It sets the tone for this artistic society. Through negative reinforcement or punishment (i.e. criticism or action), it relays the message to art thieves that certain actions are intolerable to this society. When no action is taken, it relays the message that art theft is tolerable and insignificant. 

The provoking incident:

Crabamoustache is one such artist I've come to know through dA chat. He's a fun cartoon artist whose work should be checked out by everyone. His passion is cartoons and comics, and we've had a few discussions about the artistic worth of this kind of art, as well as other forms of art neither of us practice much. I am definitely not a cartoon artist, but I respect the impact cartoons and comics have on art and culture. 

One day in January 2016, Crabamoustache did what most digital artists must do (but dread, I'm sure): reverse googling their own artwork to see if any of their work is being used somewhere on the Internet without their knowledge. Crabamoustache found a lot, unfortunately. His own stylized renderings of the famous cartoon character Felix the Cat (created by Otto Messmer, now deceased) were being used by an Italian soccer club, sold by an American gear shift company, and a t-shirt shop based in the UK. I would provide a link to this Felix deviation here, but I cannot, and the reason why is part of the story.

Well, how does an individual artist proceed from here, when he finds his work being used by others without his knowledge or permission? First, an artist or copyright holder asks him/herself what harm is being done? Am I losing out on money I should get because I did the work? Is this actually bringing me more exposure, benefitting me in the long run? In the case of the Italian soccer club, they are using it as a team logo, not necessarily mass producing it for widespread sale. Although Crabamoustache received no credit or compensation for his artwork, the loss from the soccer club using his Felix rendering is negligible, so he never contacted them. 

However, it became clear that his Felix rendering was being mass produced for sale by the t-shirt company based in the UK, and the American gear shift company. So Crabamoustache took a reasonable step. He found the Facebook page of the t-shirt company in the UK and asked them why they were selling his design in their shop. The shop responded by deleting his comments.

This is where I step in. Crabamoustache wrote on his Facebook timeline about the situation in frustration. Another artist friend and I both contacted the t-shirt shop's Facebook page to say plainly that this design belongs to someone else, you're using it for your own profit, and you need to stop. Crabamoustache's deviation was linked in the comments. The upload date is on every deviation, as it was with Crabamoustache's Felix rendering, which was loaded to deviantArt in 2009. Also telling is the fact that Crabamoustache signed his Felix rendering with his initials, and that signature was part of the t-shirt design! Within the hour, however, all the comments regarding Crabamoustache's design were deleted at this t-shirt shop's Facebook page.

I had the good sense to take screen shots of every step along the way, which is relevant to the story. Here, you can see the comments made by krasblak, including the link back to Crabamoustache's deviation. Crabamoustache's design is on the shirt to the far left. I'll call this Exhibit 1, because it is part of the story:
 Facebook Artjunkie top comments by Moni3
(Imgur mirror image)

Here are my comments to the t-shirt shop's Facebook page:
Artjunkie Facebook lower comments 2 by Moni3
(Imgur mirror image)

Escalation of this incident to harassment:

Within a couple hours of all comments being deleted at the shop's Facebook page, someone under the name styleiocn [sic] appeared at the deviation to accuse, in near gibberish, Crabamoustache of stealing the Felix design from the UK shop:

Artjunkie response to Crabamoustashe on dA under S by Moni3 
(Imgur mirror image. Note the copyright message verified that this image was uploaded in 2009.)

And those doing the accusing of harassment:

Styleiocn Artjunkie comment on Felix deviation by Moni3 Artjunkie comments on dA 2 by Moni3 Artjunkie comments on dA 3 by Moni3 Artjunkie comments on dA 4 by Moni3 Artjunkie comments on dA 5 by Moni3
(Imgur mirror images 12345)

All of these comments are available to read at the deviation, which is available to dA staff.

styleiocn's account was created that day. The account loaded no art. I also loaded, as evidence, a screenshot of this UK shop's further theft of the Anheuser Busch logo, the most popular beer manufacturer in the U.S., which the shop put on a t-shirt and advertised on their Twitter feed as being for sale. For a point in this story, I'll label this image Exhibit 2:

Artjunkie Anheuser Busch logo design Twitter by Moni3
(Imgur mirror image)

Here's Anheuser Busch's website, where you can see their logo. After seeing that styleiocn accused Crabamoustache of stealing the Felix rendering, I then wrote to Anheuser Busch to let them know that their logo was being used without their permission. You'll also notice Crabamoustache's design is used as Artjunkie's avatar on Twitter.

I inserted the thumb image showing the Anheuser Busch design t-shirt into one of the comments in that exchange with styleiocn, hoping to provide proof to deviantArt staff, should it come to it, that styleiocn is taking the designs of major corporations as well as individual artists. 

You can see the exchange between styleiocn and other accounts went back and forth for a while. This occurred on Saturday, January 16, 2016. The holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday fell on the following Monday, so as expected, deviantArt staff was unavailable to respond until Tuesday. styleiocn threatened to file DMCA complaints against me and Crabamoustache. I did not take these threats seriously because they were delivered in the same near-gibberish, and there's simply zero reason for dA to delete a screenshot of an image being used on Twitter as an advertisement for a product that the complainant clearly did not design! In my sta.sh!

deviantArt's response:

But on Tuesday, January 19, 2016, dA staff performed the following actions:
1. Deleted Crabamoustache's rendering of Felix the Cat per styleiocn's DMCA complaint, which should be located here, but is "404 unfound" as of this writing on January 25, 2016.
2. Deleted my screenshot of the Facebook comments seen in what I titled "Exhibit 1" from my sta.sh. I reloaded this image knowing the complaint was bogus. The screenshot of my comments to Facebook was not deleted, probably because I never posted it in any discussion and styleiocn did not have the link to claim it was his design. 
3. Deleted my screenshot of the Twitter posting of the t-shirt featuring Anheuser Busch's logo, which I labeled "Exhibit 2" from my sta.sh. I reloaded this image knowing the complaint was bogus. A screenshot of the upper portion of the tweet, showing the full text of Artjunkie's discount offering, was not deleted from my sta.sh, probably because I never posted it in any discussion and styleiocn did not have the link to claim it was his design. 

On Sunday, January 17, 2016, I learned through helpful Google, that styleiocn/Artjunkie Boutique is run by a man named Anthony Knight, who has been sued at least twice before for using designs without the original artist's permission or knowledge. You can see in these links:

a. June 2, 2009: Summary of the lawsuit brought against Knight by designer Vivienne Westwood. 
b. March 26, 2012: 
Knight is threatened with jail time for not complying with court orders to return domain names and clothing with designs owned by Vivienne Westwood.

By this point, it's clear that Knight/Artjunkie/styleiocn has no ethics whatsoever and has abused the DMCA complaint process at deviantArt on top of profiting from other designers' work.

It's also clear that deviantArt staff has done no critical thinking, and the default action in any DMCA complaint is to delete any and all images that receive a complaint without verifying any part of anyone's claim of original work. For Crabamoustache's Felix rendering, let's say that's a "better safe than sorry" reaction on dA's part. I have some of my own fan art in my dA gallery. However, Felix is owned by Dreamworks (proof here) so there's no way styleiocn/Artjunkie/Knight can claim ownership of the original character. Nor, apparently, can he prove he created the stylized Felix "fan art" design in question, as we pressed him to do so repeatedly. Crabamoustache's gallery has a dozen or so Felix renderings, all loaded in 2009. Fan art is pervasive on dA, and the finer points of what makes fan art vs. what makes original art should be discussed in another journal entry.

For my sta.sh screenshots, dA's approach simply makes no sense. Files/images in sta.sh are not public and can only be accessed with a direct link by non-dA staff. I keep a lot of progress shots and original reference photos in my sta.sh. No one can see the images but me, unless I presume, they are dA staff, or I give them the links. I provided thumbnail images (that I labeled herein as Exhibit 1 and Exhibit 2) in the discussion under Crabamoustache's now-deleted deviation, which is how styleiocn/Artjunkie/Knight came to find the links. Furthermore, styleiocn/Artjunkie/Knight cannot claim that a screenshot showing a window in Google Chrome, Facebook's layout and comments function, comments made by another person, and the "Artjunkie" designs within the layout are entirely his. He did not create Google Chrome, Facebook's layout, nor the comments written to him. The screenshots include the entirety of the image, not simply the t-shirt designs, assuming he actually designed any of them which by this point is quite a cognitive leap. This should be apparent to dA staff. What should be more apparent is the screenshot of Artjunkie's Twitter feed. Similarly, styleiocn/Artjunkie/Knight cannot claim that he designed the window as seen in Google Chrome, or Twitter's layout, or Anheuser Busch's logo on a t-shirt. 

Latest developments:

As I write this on January 25, 2016, it has been nearly a week since my two images and Crabamoustache's rendering of Felix have been deleted. styleiocn/Artjunkie/Knight's Facebook page has been deleted. I don't know who is responsible for this action. Anheuser Busch responded to my notification with email confirmation that they were unaware their logo was being used by styleiocn/Artjunkie/Knight. I am happy to forward this to dA.

I sent emails to dA's Help Desk and violations@deviantart.com explaining how brazenly styleiocn/Artjunkie/Knight is stealing art from dA and abusing the DMCA complaint process, including the links and images that I embedded in this journal entry, on January 19. Crabamoustache filed a DMCA counter claim the next day. Neither of us have received any correspondence from dA, other than a receipt of acknowledgment for our emails. I do not know what is taking so long to figure out what is an obvious case of theft and DMCA abuse.

DeviantArt has further deleted another of Crabamoustache's designs that should be located here but shows as "404 not found". That specific design is another Felix rendering that, coincidentally, was the one being used by the American gearshift company. I left a note on their Facebook page as well, but it has gone unanswered. I can only speculate that styleiocn/Artjunkie/Knight is somehow involved with the American gearshift company. Whatever the connection, the DMCA complaint is false and obviously an abuse of deviantArt's protocols. 

For future discussion, dA seems to have a "three strikes rule" where your account may be deleted after three DMCA complaints. If this is accurate, it means any deviant's account may be summarily deleted regardless of the veracity of the complaints. I could, in theory, file 4 bogus DMCA complaints against any random deviant and that account will be summarily deleted. The finer points of this policy is for a future journal entry, however.

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deviantID

Moni3

Artist | Traditional Art
United States
* I'm self-taught,
* I work in oil paints, pen & ink, and pencils,
* I was active on Wikipedia for more than 6 years. You can see what I wrote, listed here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Mon…
* I'm working on an enormous video project discussing the trends in 20th century popular music by featuring music from each artist inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Check it out: www.youtube.com/channel/UCzPub…

I did an interview (here: traditionalists.deviantart.com… ) with a group here on dA that concentrates on traditional art--aptly called Traditionalists. Somehow this makes me a Traditionalist. Microwaves: how do they work?

I'm taking commissions. Here's some info about that: fav.me/d6sxduh
Please contact me if you're interested. (psmor at earthlink dot net)

I requested SnazzyDoodle pep my artist bio up a little. She complied with grace and aplomb:

"Pamel Moni, US based artist of many states within united states of america, is a US based artist aged of 59 who specializes in drawing and renderizing. Often complimentary of her own work, she is known around local museums and shops of Kansas city for sporting a tight pair of shorts with her own named scraped upon the back in iron on letters purchased from a Joanne Frabic franchise owned by her aunt Shelly. Some of her non-art hobbies include practicing junior magician sets with her wife Tracy and attending children's fashion boutique events. Her favorite subjects to portray in her work are large cats and gestation in praying mantises. To contact this artist please send a fax to Tracy and wait 30-40 days for a reply with a heartwarming touch."

Ask Snazzy to write your artist bio today!
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Comments


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:iconstyleiocn:
Styleiocn Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2016  New Deviant
this woman is cyber bully stay clear
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:iconmoni3:
Moni3 Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2016   Traditional Artist
Please explain how.

The tens of people who hit my profile need to know.
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:iconmoni3:
Moni3 Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2016   Traditional Artist
Yes, you go away you, or you'll get more of the same!
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(1 Reply)
:iconedibledoorknob:
EdibleDoorKnob Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2015  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks for the fave!
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:iconeokoi:
Eokoi Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I clicked the random devaint button and it took me to your profile, so I'm just here to say Hello! :heart:
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:iconmoni3:
Moni3 Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2015   Traditional Artist
I AM a random deviant! What a useful tool.

Hello.
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:iconlemontea:
lemontea Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2015
:llama:
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:iconmoni3:
Moni3 Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2015   Traditional Artist
llama cancan llama cancan llama cancan llama cancan llama cancan llama cancan llama cancan llama cancan

 chasing llama again 
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:iconslackbun:
slackbun Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I truly appreciate the favourite, thank you so much! :hug:
If you find my artwork to be interesting I hope you will stick around for more! ^^ maybe, perhaps.. idunno, but thank you anyways :>
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