Last week brought news of a very disturbing incident. My friend Luc Latulippe and dozens of other illustrators discovered that their work had been printed in a coffee table book that was being sold internationally for $100. The publisher, located in China, had 'scraped' the contents of a blog that features interviews with illustrators accompanied by examples of their artwork. You can read the whole story of this malicious deed on Luc's blog.
Also last week, my friend and fellow classic illustration archivist, Glen Mulally, alerted me that someone on Flickr had appropriated hundreds of images from our collections of classic illustration scans. Worse than the appropriation was the fact that this person was reposting the scans without any of the credit lines, dates or publication information many of us on Flickr have gone to great lengths to include.
This is not the first time we've had to deal with this sort of thing. Some people don't seem to be able to appreciate that others have invested huge amounts of time and money into scanning, organizing and posting this material out of the goodness of their hearts for visitors to enjoy and learn from. We must look like fools to these ignorant, unscrupulous creeps as we go along our merry way, tossing gold nuggets on the road for anybody to pick up.
And there's more: A while ago I discovered a blog where the person had downloaded a batch of my scans, removed all the type elements (even the hand painted artist's signatures) and was offering these doctored images as desktop pictures for others to download. "Stole a bunch of these from Today's Inspiration - help yourself!" was the note he included on the post. Fortunately, once I explained to this person that by redistributing artwork without proper credit attached he was creating Orphaned Works, he apologized and took down the scans. He hadn't really thought about the consequences of what he was doing.
All of this and more has left me in a blue funk about what I began here with the best of intentions. I now wonder if I haven't been overly generous and naive about the ignorance and greed of those opportunistic profiteers that lurk among us. I had hoped to encourage the creation of a community of kindred spirits to celebrate the accomplishments of the talented artists who came before us. Instead I find I may have inadvertently assisted unscrupulous individuals who think nothing of taking advantage of my good will.
If this blog and my illustration archives haven't already been 'scraped' I can only imagine its just a matter of time. With over 600 subscribers to the TI daily scan email list and an average readership of 1,500 visitors a day, I know that the vast majority of you - the overwhelming majority - are here for the same reason I am. You want to learn about this work and the artists who created it. You find enjoyment and inspiration in discovering and studying the forgotten treasures I present here Monday to Friday each week. Unfortunately a tiny minority of visitors who lack a sense of ethical responsibility for what we are fortunate to be able to share here might force me to shut all this down.
It was pointed out to me the other day that Robert McGinnis has shut down his website because of internet abuse and has asked another site that was displaying his work to remove it. I find it very upsetting to think that I might have been partially responsible for that because I have a set of McGinnis scans on Flickr.
So I find myself on the horns of a dilemma. How do I continue Today's Inspiration, something I feel very passionately about, while protecting this material and the artists who created it from the abuses of the conscienceless?
At the moment, because I don't know what else to do, I've removed the option to view my Flickr scans at full size. But I've been reading that its possible to navigate your way around that security measure if you really want to and besides, now all the perfectly nice people with whom I want to share these scans can't study the artwork in greater detail. I'm no tech expert and am feeling extremely frustrated by this situation. If you have any advice or opinions on the subject, I'd love to hear from you.