POD = Print on demand. A service that prints art and designs on products on an individual basis rather than batch printing in greater quantities.
Check out my 'Art theft and stealing images online' post if you've not done so already. I'm trying to make people aware of the fact that all of the artwork floating around on the web is property of the person who created it unless a license or rights transfer has taken place. Unless this is the case or permission has been given by the owner, such work should not be used for monetary gain by third parties.
However it does get used and I suspect more art is profited from illegally than legally and that's not something to be ignored! The internet as it stands is never going to be stopped. Perhaps in decades to come a block-chain style attachment to all digital content including images will come in to place whereby digital data can be traced to it's origins while leaving behind records of every time that data has changed hands, been bought/sold and so on? Such a system would at least prove ownership in disputes. And personally I don't have a problem with people printing off an image for their bedroom wall, using it in an online avatar or generally small-time, non-profit, personal or private use.
It's directly profiting from another person's efforts which I find so repulsive. It's something that these unscrupulous individuals or companies should not be allowed to get away with. Artists can take steps to help safeguard themselves by being aware of the issue and making sure to reduce the resolution of their files online or watermarking. The art they display might not look as pretty but it's an option.
Unfortunately I also know some artists who have a much more relaxed attitude this, and allow the occasional small-scale rip-off to take place, passing it off as an inevitable reality of sharing content on the internet. A top-tier professional, with an endless supply of high-paying assignments or commissions may be able to get away with looking the other way, or not feel triggered into doing anything about art theft, but the art game is tough and the last thing artists should want is to compete against their own stolen artwork and living in a world where this kind of thing is allowed to happen.
To quote Snazzygaz - a designer on DesignbyHumans (an online POD t-shirt store.):
"I’m not exaggerating when I say I believe almost every single listing on DBH and Redbubble has been scraped by what I believe to be an automated chinese operation and being applied to products there for sale on Aliexpress and the like and as a consequence listed against official listings on Amazon, as well as Spreadshirt and potentially more PODs.
These people are not only stealing straight from the artists but also the legitimate PODs like DBH by offering the “same” product much cheaper and with inferior quality on what looks to the average person like an official outlet via Amazon and the like, they’re taking money out of your hands by DIRECT sale and pushing inferior quality work which severely dampens the average public opinion about what the company offers.This is like the most criminal shit I’ve seen relating to copyright theft and counterfeiting and it’s absolutely insane."
There's a few of us that are aware of this issue, but unfortunately not enough and I feel both artists and authorized retailers of their art and designs do not take this issue at all seriously enough.
I contacted Society6 to see if there was anything to be done about my stolen artwork being used by online retailers-
"Hi there, I've found my artwork which I had submitted to Society6 having been taken without permission and sold by Chinese retailers via Aliexpress.com. Would you be able to assist in getting these products removed from Aliexpress?
Artwork in question: https://society6.com/product/goku-tattoo_print
Instances of it being used without permission by sellers outside of Society6:
It's also been stolen by Hoodietime: [https://hoodietime.com/collections/dragon-ball-z-3d-hoodies/products/dragon-ball-super-z-super-saiyan-blue-tattoo-goku-hoodie-pullover-3d-hoodie].
I have contacted Hoodie time asking to remove it and still awaiting response.
I have submitted a report on each of the Aliexpress items, but was told there is not enough evidence that I created the work. I hoped that S6 would be taken more seriously than a single artist like myself.
"Hi Ben, Thank you for contacting Society6 Support. Unfortunately, Society6 has no legal standing in this matter. So we are unable to contact the websites in question.
As the copyright owner, it is your responsibility to contact the infringing party. We are unable to provide legal advice and recommend you seek counsel if this matter persists.
We are sorry we are unable to help any further. Thank you for your continued support.
S6 Legal Team"
I didn't expect help with this, but thought it was worth a shot and would at least make S6 aware of yet another instance that this practice is still taking place. The trouble with S6 for example is that they require high-resolution files for their products and don't protect the artwork used on these items (as of 2017). The art uploaded by artists and designers to POD sites should be automatically scaled down and watermarked making it harder to steal and make use of while keeping the original submitted clean, larger images stored offline and completely inaccessible to scrapers (people or systems which extract content from the net to then make use of). If POD sites aren't doing this then they should have a responsibility to help resolves these cases.
If I effectively licence a design to S6 and the design is stolen from S6, I would argue that theft was due to negligence on their part. And after-all, if for example 1000 S6 or DBH designs get scraped and added to shirts and sold elsewhere, S6 and DBH lose out too. More so, since they often take a larger cut then the designers.