Friday, June 5, 2009

This is not easy

Update, Sunday, June 7: Heard from the folks at Ravelry that they have removed all of the ads. They can't, obviously, police her account, but if I spot any that are this similar again to let them know. Looks like this info. wasn't entirely accurate.

Something's happened to me that happens all of the time to creative people: someone has picked up something I created and used with without my permission. In the grand scheme of things, it's hardly the end of the world. It's just a squiggly line. But my response to that is, "yes, it is, just a squiggly line, so why can't you make your own?"

In mid-May, I was contacted by a Ravelry user about the possibility of doing some advertising. Until today, I had in my profile a link to a "roll call" thread, displaying some samples of my work, and an offer to exchange ads for cash or yarn. I'm not terribly busy with it, but I have gotten a few skeins of yarn out of it, and met some nice people. As reasonable as my rates were (about half of what some designers* charge), after they hear my rates, more than half of the people I hear from don't get back in touch. This person did, and we ended up speaking on the phone.

I was told that there had been another designer on the job; she'd been paid, but the work wasn't exactly what my new client wanted. Could I base an ad on what had been done, but create the artistic elements of it myself (the remaining elements were straight gray lines and her own logo, plus a typed tag line)?

Disclaimer: I didn't know right off the bat who this first designer was, but I honestly saw nothing wrong with her version of the ad. In fact, I still feel that it was superior to mine. And, I must say that I felt really uncomfortable with this, but against my better judgment, went ahead with it, because sometimes, people just can't work together. Later, I discerned that the cause did not belong on designer #1's doorstep.

I created an ad to her specifications -- mostly tweaks of the original, plus a wavy line that I created. I sent it, like I always do with new clients, as a .JPG file with "DRAFT" embedded into the image. Soon after, when the client didn't like many things about the ad, I decided that it just wasn't worth it, and told her I couldn't help her. I did not bill her, because I didn't finish, nor did I deliver a usable product (because of the DRAFT portion).

Imagine my surprise when, a few days ago, I'm reading a thread in Ravelry, and I see an ad pop up. One that looks very similar to mine. As in, pretty much identical. In this image, the one I found on Ravelry is on top, and on the bottom is the one I sent back in mid-May:

At first glance, they look identical, except for the absence of the DRAFT portion. I immediately contacted my ex-client and gave her 24 hours to remove the ad. On closer inspection there are a couple of tiny differences. Since most of it, except for the placement of the items and the wavy line, were the work of the first designer, I sent another message to the client, stating that all I was concerned about was the wavy line; she couldn't use it in any way, but I didn't care about the rest of it.

It was at this time that I got in touch with the first designer. I didn't find her earlier because I'd mis-heard her name. But I took another look at the designers in that thread on Rav, realized who it was, and sent an email, apologizing for my part in the whole debacle. She was gracious and sweet, did not blame me for any of it, and offered to go to "the powers that be" (TPTB) on Rav and support my story.

I won't bore you with the back & forth conversation I had with my ex-client. She offered to pay me for the ad, but by now it had become about the principle of the thing, so I declined. Eventually, she sent an email stating "Hi Mel, The ad you worked on has been pulled." (Emphasis mine.) In the meantime, I'd located another ad, using the same line, just recolored and a bit lopped off the end. I asked her to remove this. She stated that she had to wait to hear back from her designer, to see if she had created the line. So, I sent this (my Photoshop layers, in red, nudged up a little higher so you can see them both - I made the top line red instead of the original green):

I finally had to get TPTB at Rav involved. They removed the above ad, as well as a group badge and banner I hadn't even seen. That was yesterday.

A breakdown of how the line in question was created, so you can see how minuscule the odds are that someone would create the same line:

Today, I discover that not only was there a third ad, but the first two are back, with subtle changes. (However, the group banner & badge have been replaced with completely new art. Interesting priorities there.) Basically, her designer just squished the line:
If you can't make out the text above the red line, it gives the height & width changes (~95% of the width & ~117% of the height, give or take) that were made to the line. Just squishing the line isn't replacing it. (The little dip was cut off for the first iteration of the second ad, the long one with the knitted fabric.)

Ravelry has since stated that they can't control what their advertisers do ("advertisers have control over their accounts...we can not and will not arbitrate these types of disputes.") Which does confuse me, because if someone had a dispute regarding images on another site, that content would be removed pending investigation. Not the case on Ravelry. I'm waiting to hear back from my lawyer, but I'm thinking I won't be able to afford taking legal action. So, here I am. As of this writing, almost 48 hours after the first deadline passed, the ads containing my work are still present.

As a result, I'm no longer creating ads, except for one long-term client and a few past clients. It's not worth the hassle (plus, people steal bigger stuff all the time, and I'm just not going to open myself up for that in an environment where I have no recourse). I left the design group where I've been modding for over a year, for which I created dozens of group badges and banners (for free). I'm not leaving Rav, because I have found a fabulous group of friends, and the notebook and pattern-finding features are out of this world. I do plan on scaling back my participation in other ways.

Really, who does this kind of thing? And on the same site where she found me? Lame doesn't begin to cover it.

*I'm not a graphic artist. I think people that can apply that title to themselves accurately deserve more money.


ZantiMissKnit said...

Lame. That's so lame! I hope you get it sorted out. I got your back on this one.

Karen said...

Yes you do have to wonder what kind of idiot does this don't you Mel. If you are going to be a sneaky dog at least don't go and sh*t in your neighbours back yard while they and all their friends are sitting in the back yard watching!

That silly behavior just lost them a shedload of potential customers for sure.....

Ms. Feasance said...

I would be completely furious. It's been a while since I've been in the serious ad game, but damn.

Amy said...

Someone has a lot of nerve. I actually don't know what else to day to that. :(

Linnifred said...

With all the copywank, you'd think people would at least get the basics.

pigbook1 said...

I am disappointed in a lot of people in that story. Not you, not the original designer, but pretty much everyone else. I'm sorry it happened and I'm sorry you chose to take this sort of action, but I completely understand and I honestly would have done the same thing if I was in that situation :-(
With that said I hope you know... you still rock!

Randy said...

I know where I won't be shopping.

Anonymous said...

Oh! That's awful! I'm so sorry that you have to deal with this!

Eryn said...

One more yarn dyer off my shopping list...

This shit sucks.

KnitchPearls said...

Wrong. Wrong, just wrong. And am I alone in thinking Ravelry powers dropped the ball here?
This has no bearing on what's happened to you, aimply because of the nature of your work. I designed and sold custom jewelry pieces for 15 years. In that time, I steadfastly refused to post my work online. If someone wanted to see it, they made an appt. Theft and fraud were the exact reasons I never would. Sure, it held me back a little bit, but not so I noticed it much. How anyone, and especially someone involved in a creative field, can steal another's work is beyond me. I know how it would make me feel, and why would I want to inflict that on a fellow artisan? Gah. The internet has made thieves out of people you'd never suspect.
I hope you get this sorted to your satisfaction. I also hope Ravelry realizes what a valuable, giving, wonderful person they lost. It is a loss to all that you no longer wish to make banners and such.
Much, much love to you!
Pam - Knitch

somebunnysloveDOTcom said...

Holy smokes! I am so sorry about this whole mess. :(

ZantiMissKnit said...

YAY! I'm glad you got it straightened out.

elli (happysnapper) said...

That's really messed up, Mel. Like the others, I know where I will not be spending my yarn dollars. Like, seriously, people, make your own damn squiggly line!

CeliaAnne said...

Aww, Mel! Srsly. They are on my don't buy list.

Jenny said...


The nerve some people have never fails to amaze me.