Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I've been robbed. Call Batman!!!

Writing and publishing are part-time gigs for me. My main business is selling a wide range of telecommunications equipment -- everything from office phone systems, to fun phones, and installation supplies and tools. Our customers range from the White House to everyman.

Since 1995 I've created about 80 websites. Some stay online for years. Some fail to achieve their goals or simply become unnecessary, and are deleted from cyberspace. At any particular time, about 30 of my sites are online.

Over the years, about 100 competitors (that I know of) have copied my designs, words and photographs. One thief, Hindustan Telecom, was so stupid that it even copied my list of customers. The Indian idiots are still displaying words I wrote and graphics I devised more than 10 years ago!

Usually the thieves will remove the purloined intellectual property after I send them an email, without involving the law or lawyers. My standard message includes this line: "It takes big balls to steal unique intellectual property. It takes a small brain to display the stolen property where everyone can see it." The owner of the company or operator of the website usually apologises and blames an employee or other third party.

Last night I discovered a new kind of theft.

A few years ago I designed a Batphone for sale by my company. They're made for us and we are the only source.

This is a photo I personally took of the phone, with my own camera, mounted on my own tripod, in my own office, for use on my company's websites and in press releases.

(above) I found this "pop art" print for sale on a website called Bonanzle.com. It doesn't require a forensics expert to determine that my photo was the source material. The listed artist/criminal is Suzanne Maestri-Walters, and she stupidly put a 2010 copyright notice on the work. The stupid Indians still show a 2001 copyright date on MY work.

Sorry, Suzy, it doesn't work that way. You committed a crime. I am the creator and copyright-holder of the original work, and I control the right to produce derivative work from it. You are not allowed to copyright something derived from my creation.

You did not ask for permission, receive permission, or pay for the right to use MY intellectual property. You do not deserve to make a profit based on MY work. Burn in hell, Suzie!

Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to FIVE YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON and a $250,000 fine. Go to jail, Suzie!

It's absurd for an artist who is presumably proud of her own creations, to steal the work of other creative people.

If Suzie had asked permission to use my photo, I probably would have given her permission. But because she took without asking, I want her to pay me and be humiliated. I seldom forgive, I seldom forget, and I don't like thieves.
Suzie has also "created" art based on photographs taken by other people. Something tells me that she did not get permission for those derivations, either.

This situation is similar to the case where artist Shepard Fairey created his famous "Hope" poster based on a photograph of Barack Obama taken by Associated Press photographer Mannie Garcia -- without permission from the AP or Garcia.

The Associated Press was justifiably pissed off about an AP photo being used without permission and tried to make a deal with Fairey. According to Wikipedia, Fairey filed a federal lawsuit against the Associated Press, seeking a declaratory judgment that his use of the AP photo was protected by the fair use doctrine and so did not infringe their copyright. Fairey admitted that he had based the poster on the AP photo and had fabricated and destroyed evidence to hide the fact. Photographer Garcia contended that he retained copyright to the photo according to his AP contract. He said that he did not "condone people taking things, just because they can, off the Internet."

It will be interesting to see what defense Suzie comes up with.

She's not the only one who ripped off my Batphone design. A company in China bought a phone from us, and has been selling knock-offs in England.

It's important that all creative people be vigilant about theft of their work. It's very easy to copy eBooks or anything on the web. Periodically use Google to search for unique phrases that you wrote, and look for your photographs and drawings, too.

(Photo at top is from ABC Television. I thank them.)

UPDATE (WEDNESDAY): Yesterday I sent an email to the thieving Suzie. She removed "my" artwork from her website, Facebook page and the site that sells her work. She has not responded to me, or removed artwork derived from other photos that she may not have permission to use.



  1. The Arabs are right. Suzie's hands should be chopped off.

  2. This is complete bullshit. I am working on a "Cease and Desist" right now, as a matter of fact.

    I have a competitor using a truncated version of my website address to funnel traffic away from my own website. I already contacted my attorney. We'll see how it goes.

    Sick 'em!

  3. Did you get permission from the Batman franchise for use of the Batphone design and the Batman references? Not to defend the image appropriator, but, I'm just sayin'...

  4. To BD Test:

    Absolutely not. I designed the phone myself, and it is not identical to the one on the TV show. As for the use of the term "Batphone" -- it's a common part of culture, and I'm willing to take a chance.