Let’s be honest, most online marketplaces selling direct-to-garment (print-on-demand) t-shirts will at some point list artworks which breach artists’ rights. Some sites are simply worse than others at putting in place systems which reduce the amount of copyright infringing you should expect to see. Yes, let’s not be delusional. There will always be attempts to use original artwork illegally in the pursuit of profit. That said, the volume and nature of what we’re seeing on some sites is unacceptable and out of control!

The Sale of Stolen Tee Art: The Worst Offenders!

@Teespring, @SunFrogShirts and @TeeChipOfficial have all been named as the top three tee sites vying for the biggest theft award.

They have:

  1. terrible upload systems which enable the upload of poor quality files and in turn, the printing of stolen artwork
  2. annoying and time consuming infringement claim forms
  3. repeat offenders
  4. poor customer service.

#BoycottTeespring #BoycottSunFrog #BoycottTeeChip

Until these sites demonstrate an ability & desire to change, IndieMinded will be boycotting the sites and will not promote any work listed on these websites.

Copyright Breaches We Can Expect to Always See

Unfortunately there will always be thieves who have zero talent. They exploit online access to artworks to steal from real talent. Even if, as a community, we manage to get Teespring, SunFrog and TeeChip to show more respect to artists, creators will still need to contend with:

  • Bad reproductions of original works. It’s easy to run an illustration through software to create an “auto-trace” version. In my opinion, the results are crap. But the results are also a high resolution copy which can be loaded for illegal sale.
  • Expressions of ideas and copywriting theft. Ideas are going to get copied and as much as it sucks, ideas are not protected. However, your expression of that idea (layout/composition of work) and any copywriting you create is protected. If you see this type of breach you can issue a take-down notice.
  • Artwork shared online without watermarks, at large sizes. It’s an era of sharing and that modern trait is a double-edged sword.

What We Should Never See…

When there are more online illegal listings than there are legal ones, then Houston, we have a problem.

Other Site Systems Which Cull Copyright Infringing Content

Putting a system in place which rejects low resolution files (which are what thieves are generally using on Teespring, SunFrog and TeeChip) is not science-fiction. It’s 2018 and if sites are not making efforts to cull copyright infringing content, then they will continue to be seen as complicit in the eyes of the community. And who could blame the community.

The following shows the RedBubble system and how it locks products when a file is too small to be reproduced:

System Upload which rejects illegal works
RedBubble is an example site using a resolution detection system.
  • Take it a step further… and add image recognition software!
  • Take it a step further than that… and only accept users on an “invite only” basis. Neatoshop do just that and has created a very trustworthy marketplace of great designs!

UNIVERSAL REGULATIONS & QUALITY CONTROL

Regulations
Regulating online activity is a complex issue. If all websites reproducing art on apparel were to meet some minimum requirements, online would be less frustrating. I’m not a lawyer or regulator, yet I feel that if companies such as our worst offenders Teespring, SunFrog and TeeChip cared a little more, they’d voluntarily want to meet some basic standards!

Quality Control
Rejecting low quality files at the point of upload stops the problem before thieves have any opportunity to profit. Not only that, it’s a simple quality control system! Something that should be important to any business who care (or claim to care) about the quality of their printed products.

Removing Deniability

The Teespring Update
A few days ago we published our first #boycott post and pointed the finger at Teespring. Designers/artists have been struggling with Teespring for a long time now. They’ve had to deal with a terrible IP breach claim system, and with repeated illegal uploads. Not to mention the sting of many stolen works coming up on their site as “Best Sellers”. They deny any responsibility, and from all reports have failed to pay any royalties from profits made illegally.

Their response to the IM post and community outrage was a new Teespring post of their own. In this, it’s interesting to point out how they’re taking a stand that it’s a NEW problem. “In the past several weeks, however, we have seen a surge of sellers who appear to have come to Teespring to copy, rip off, and sell other people’s content.”

Name and shame the worst offenders. A public display of how bad this problem is removes deniability. With deniability removed these worse offenders could be motivated to make some changes. IF THEY DON’T, there will be clear grounds for legal action.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION…

We encourage artists and supporters of indie art to share this post. Get loud people and let these sites know how much they should be ashamed.
Tweet: The Sale of Stolen Tee Art: Meet The Worst Offenders! http://bit.ly/2GKjSlh | @Teespring @SunFrogShirts & @TeeChipOfficial | #BoycottTeespring #BoycottSunFrog #BoycottTeeChip

IDEAL OUTCOMES?

Personally, I’d like these worst offenders to be shutdown ASAP and only after a full audit of their online content should they be allowed to resume operations.

What would you like to see happen? I know plenty would be thrilled to finally have royalty disputes resolved.

ANY LAWYERS OUT THERE? We’d love to hear from you.
We have a list of 50+ artists who have had work illegally sold on Teespring!

Manz
Cat lovin' graphic designer for GritFX T-Shirts.

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