Thieves at Etsy: SpecialPrints

Picture 2

Jon Shafer is a recent KU illustration grad. He found this cute print on sale on Etsy. It seemed familiar because he drew it over a year ago. Below is Jonathan’s original art as featured on his web page.

Original wedding tree art © Jon Shafer, 2012
Original wedding tree art © Jon Shafer, 2012

Jon wrote to SpecialPrints. I asked him to keep me posted. “She said she found it on google and loved it so much she ‘redrew it by hand.” She also claimed the site she got it from did not have anything about copyright listed. She even asked Jon Shafer to send her his Library of Congress certificate of copyright.

Clearly she is in the wrong.  According to the U.S. Copyright office, “Copyright exists from the moment the work is created.” In fact, SpecialPrints went so far to claim copyright to Jon’s original image:Picture 3

My personal experience with copyright violation ended well. In the 1980’s I lived in Hoboken. I made an illustrated map of the town and included Frank Sinatra’s birthplace. I found my map in a book, The Frank Sinatra Scrapbook, published by St. Martin’s Press. I called the Society of Illustrators to ask for a lawyer referral, they suggested Harry Devlin, son of the illustrator with the same name. I remember Mr. Devlin warning me, “You aren’t going get a house out of this. ” I asked, “Can I get a refrigerator?” He said, “Frost-free!”

 Walking Around Hoboken © Kevin McCloskey
Walking Around Hoboken © Kevin McCloskey 1986

Mr. Devlin got a thousand dollars from the person who infringed on my copyright. In my case, the attorney got one-third of the payment, so I got the diabolical amount of $666. Like Jon Shafer, I had copyright at the moment of creation. If I had gone to the trouble of actually registering the copyright with the Library of Congress, then the offending party would have also been liable for Mr. Devlin’s fees.

To see more of Jon Shafer’s art visit

FYI: Etsy does have rules against this sort of infringement. They say, in part, “Repeat offenders will have all material removed from the system and Etsy will terminate such Members’ access to the service.

Free factual info on copyright from the U.S. Copyright Office is here.

UPDATE  8/23/13: 

Sent by Jon Shafer:  Just to follow up a little. That lady took it down. For now at least. I contacted Behance about how this link is getting to my image. After countless emails. They’ve established it’s going into their image folder and finding it. But on my end if I delete or modify it. The link still goes to it. So you might want to warn your illustrators. To water mark everything or take angled shots of work. Not perfect scans. Even on their websites unfortunately.



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