Artists will typically have their artwork used without their permission at least once in their career. It’s just a fact of Internet life, and sometimes, you can’t do anything about it.
But for at least one artist, it paid to be part of an Internet community.
When Berkeley student, gamer, and anime enthusiast Melissa Yabumoto discovered her work was being used without her permission, she turned to social news site Reddit for help. It turned out, she’s not the only one to have her artwork stolen and sold on Amazon.
Tekbuz.com, an affiliated seller on Amazon, is currently selling mousepads that allegedly use unauthorized images—for the price of 6.99 plus shipping and handling. Images being used without permission include artwork from the Microsoft-owned video game series Halo, the baseball team the Boston Red Socks, and, Yabumoto’s art.
“I did not expect to see my art as the actual design of the mousepad,” wrote Yabumoto in a Reddit thread, explaining the design was the contest winner for Riot Games. “There's nothing I can really do about it, but I did want to warn the other artists to be careful about others redistributing your works!”
Redditors, like MaTTcom, quickly came forward to reveal their artwork was also being used without their permission by Tekbuz.com on mousepads.
Much like last year’s pepper-spray protest, redditors proceeded to leave angry reviews on Tekbuz.com’s products. Of the 50 comments, all giving the Amazon ranking of one star, most echoed the words, “thief” “stolen artwork,” and “don’t buy.”
One reviewer, Delete Teemo, got creative in his mousepad review, titled “This mousepad gave me cancer:”
“I was using it as toilet paper and the hazardous material sliced up my anus and it got infected. I got colon cancer now and the worst part is that it's stolen art.”
Yabumoto, who went on to report the seller on Amazon, told the Daily Dot in a private message she’s not planning on suing or taking the matter to court:
“Many suggested I do so, but I don't really want to make a big deal out of it.”
Amazon is recognizing the instance as “an intellectual property issue, so they're asking me for more information regarding trademarks,” Yabumoto continued. Unfortunately, the rights to that particular piece of work belongs to Riot Games.
Riot Games, Tekbuz.com, and Amazon were unavailable for comment.
It remains to be seen what will happen to Tekbuz.com and how profitable his or her mousepad business actually will be. But the reviews don’t look promising.
Photo via @TheSadeee/Twitter