How Low Can You Go?
Pretty low, apparently. Gypsy Sport, an edgy designer label owned by Rio Uribe that prides itself on diversity and inclusiveness, tried with all their might to pin their infringement of my Guinevere fairy wings onto an innocent person - an innocent person who happens to be a struggling art student who is basically homeless in Puerto Rico due to the damage from hurricane Maria.
I found out about the infringement when a follower tagged me in the comments of the image GypsySport posted (above left). I was not credited, nor asked for permission to use this photo.
I asked them via comments to remove the photo, and they commented back that they had found the photo on Tumblr on a Barbie and would credit me if I am the original artist. I replied that I wanted it removed and don't allow my copyright protected images to be used that way, that I sell different digital wing stock for that purpose, and didn't want others to think they could do this too. They eventually messaged me on Instagram, after I asked them to email me and specifically not to message me via IG because nothing can be downloaded from there, with a low resolution screen shot of Tumblr search results, one of which was the photo above in the middle that has my wings poorly edited in. They cropped out any identifying urls, the date, anything else that would prove what they claimed. They refused to email me the original or the screen shot. They told me they received the DMCA notice I emailed them with proof that I owned the copyright, US Copyright registration number and all, but they still would not remove the photo and I was still not being credited. They were also deleting my comments as well as comments from friends asking to remove the image. Thankfully my phone's screen resolution is high enough that I was able to faintly make out the Tumblr account name when I blew it up in Photoshop. I thought it was fake, because it's called ass--farts, haha! It turned out to be a real account with some beautiful illustrations actually, but that badly edited Barbie photo could not be found anywhere in her gallery. I also discovered that the artist, Ivonne, is a student who is struggling to survive in hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico and has been trying to raise funds to help with rebuilding her home. I got in contact with her about this issue and she told me she never posted that image, but she did post her original drawing of the Swan Lake Barbie and it had the SAME CAPTION. Rio of Gypsy Sport (the ethnic slur used in their name is a whole other problem too) appears to have FAKED a screen shot to make it look like Ivonne infringed on my IP first.
Here is the link to her original post - also shown above on the right: http://ass--farts.tumblr.com/post/161679447989/swan-princess-o
For some reason I can only see the full caption and hash tags when I open it in the app on my phone, and it's the very same photo. The exact image can be found when you search for #swan lake on Tumblr. He must have done a search for one of the hash tags, took a screen shot and simply replaced Ivonne's illustration in the screen shot with his own image he put together to fabricate a false story that would take the blame off of him.
To say it's infuriating would be an understatement!
What's more, they also implicated yet another person in this narrative! I had emailed the screen shot details to the main company address (before I heard from Ivonne) just in case it was some irresponsible employee I was talking to on IG since whoever it was wouldn't give me a name. Emily Morales emailed me back and told me "We have been granted permission from M. Repicky of Mattel® to use these images, previously found on tumblr." and indicated it was in fact Rio I'd been talking to on IG.
I wasn't given his full name or contact info, but he was easy to find although hard to contact as he doesn't publish his email anywhere. When they refused to give me the info I asked for, I called Mattel naturally, because if they were telling the truth I needed to get that taken care of right away. I couldn't have an image out there that Mattel was telling people they were free to use when they didn't have the right to my wing image! They wouldn't give me a link to the image so maybe Mattel would. They did finally credit me - after blocking me on IG - for the last hour or so that it was up, and then removed it. That didn't solve the problem of where the original came from if they had been honest with me.
Once I let Emily know that I've left a message with Mattel with all the details, I got an immediate response telling me to leave Mattel out of it, and "They did NOT grant permission to use that specific image, we have a great relationship with Barbie and assumed this was a Barbie photo."
So sounds like I was lied to in order to deflect liability. They were willing to soil Mattel's rep AND the reputation of a struggling art student who is homeless at the moment.
Well done Gypsy Sport. Super inclusive of you, how upstanding of people's civil rights to place blame on someone in Puerto Rico recovering from hurricane damage.
Hey Gypsy Sport, we ALL deserve an apology. Not a faux apology filled with more lies, but a sincere apology and compensation. Ivonne has a link on her Deviant Art site with info about her situation and how to support her, so why don't you show us that you actually walk your talk by donating some cash so she can fix her house? Here's her link: https://ko-fi.com/A2201D5B
Infringement is against the law, and infringement of work that has been registered with the US Copyright Office like mine has carries statutory damages up to $150,000 for each work, regardless of whether or not any profit was made directly. What's more, my Copyright Management Info was removed from my photo. That's the copyright statement I have written along the bottom panel of the wings in that photo (below), which anyone with half a brain should know means it's not free for anyone to use when it says 'All Rights Reserved'. The removal of Copyright Management Information, or CMI, is a violation of the DMCA Section 1202, and carries an additional penalty on top of the ordinary statutory damages for infringing on registered work of between $2,500 and $25,000.
Below are more screen shots from my phone of the back & forth between me and Gypsy Sport, if you need any more evidence that their whole story smells like a heap of BS. I didn't realize the images weren't opening up when clicked, I fixed that as of May 14 at 11:04. You may need to turn off popup blockers for this page, as they will open in a new window.
Oh right, but what about her emails? Screen shots of that convo below.
Oh but there's just a little more. They aren't the first ones to have done this, to put blame on an innocent third party (fourth and fifth too) for their infringement.
Ellie Paisly, who now goes by @ellie.paisly on Instagram and used to go by hazypaisley, was the first to do this to me. She used a few of my wing photos in a bunch of her selfies she posted on Instagram and was telling everyone that she drew them. How anyone could believe that she really drew them is beyond me, but for quite a while she was taking full credit for my work. She also had done a promotional photo or two for clothing companies using my content, and meanwhile she's racking up social media followers and exposure for her art business while doing so.
When I found out due to a follower tagging me in her post, I politely asked if she would remove it, and even let her know that I do sell legit digital wings for this purpose. But she blocked me, and I saw that she was taking credit for the wings on other posts and was leaving some up, so she got dragged. She came over to my post to whine about it, and then, she told me that she got the images as public domain from her art school's image bank.
Just in case she was telling the truth - I should have known that liars continue to lie but just to be sure - I emailed her school, Moore College of Art & Design. They then put me in touch with the only two image banks they use, Artstor and Art Museum Image Gallery, and I contacted them about the issue. Eventually they both responded to inform me that they never had my content in their banks, that they only use content from verified sources for educational purposes only. Even if she did get my content from them, she did not have the right to post them on her Instagram account anyway.
She lied about it, putting her school and the 2 image banks in the legal line of fire just because she didn't want to own up to her mistake. That is not okay. It's completely unprofessional, especially for someone trying to sell themselves as a pro artist. She also has an outer facade of being a loving fairy spirit that sympathizes with the underdog just like Gypsy Sport, but she completely disrespected another woman artist, her school and two other companies without seeming to care in the slightest. She's never paid me the invoices I sent her for the penalty rate for unauthorized use and yet I've seen public evidence of her commissioning things costing thousands of dollars. Many of the portraits she paints also look like they were traced from well known photos online, whether she had permission from those photographers I don't know, but I wouldn't bet any money that she has.
Below is a mound of screen shots of the whole mess, and my original Instagram post about it is still up. It still shows up in the top results of Instagram search for the #elliepaisley hashtag. Click on the photos for links to my original wing images or to see an explanation about what's going on in it. Most are self explanatory, and she obviously had always been telling people that she drew the wings, or 'art'd' them. Maybe she didn't learn anything in art school about what drawing is? Or maybe it's lies? Yeah, it was lies.
That's all for now folks. Remember, just because you didn't sell your infringements it's still against the law and you can still get sued for it if whoever owns the copyright can afford to do so, which reminds me to tell you all to ask your government reps to support the CASE act that would allow artists to fight infringement in small claims court.
Feel free to share this. I think it's really important that social media influencers and large designer labels are honest with the public, and when they aren't I think we all need to know so we can make the decision whether or not to support them and their businesses.
Obviously, my vote would be not to. Support honest artists that don't steal other people's work to further their careers. We really don't need anymore corrupt people in any kind of power.
#gypsysport #stopiptheft #arttheft #copyrightinfringement #arttheives #elliepaisley #hazypaisley #elliemiller #copyright #artistrights #fairywings