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Advice and Help Needed

So I've found myself in the middle of an unfortunate situation and I'm unsure as to what steps to take next.

There's a similar advice post that went up recently I think, however, I felt it best to ask since I'm seeking some further advice.

Back in June I was approached by a user who wanted to get a couple adult sketch commissions of his character and his girlfriend/pet's character. All went well and they were both completed without much issue.

Everything was fine until earlier this week I receive a comment from a third user on one of the commissions stating the female character (the girlfriend's) was ripped off/stolen from them.

I reached out to the original owner to get a feel for what was going on from their side and identify what their wishes were before I went to the commissioner and asked him for his side and an explanation.

The story seems to be that the girlfriend found the character on E621 and asked "someone" on the site if she could use the art as a reference for her character and they gave permission. She's been apologetic and so far cooperative with the original owner, however, the whole reason they got on the original owner's radar was the girlfriend watched her a while back. So I question as to how she would not have realized she was using the original owner's character as her own and stopped once she realized it...

I can confirm the commissioner/master/boyfriend provided me one of the original owner's commissioned pieces as a reference for the stolen character. He also reacted aggressively toward the owner when she confronted them about it this week, claiming the owner gave the girlfriend permission to use the art and character design?

Now I need help in determining what I do next.

First, I've asked the original owner if she'd like me to remove the first two commissions. She said she felt it a shame to remove the art and suggested maybe removing the commissioner and girlfriend's names in the credits. However, I feel like the best (and right) thing to do would be to request the commissioner and girlfriend remove the art on their end and then take it down on mine too. Any advice or suggestions?

Second, last weekend, just before all of this came to light, I accepted a third sketch commission from this commissioner featuring the same two characters. The same day he was confronted by the owner he did send me a note that briefly said he'd be getting with me on the design for the female character but didn't elaborate on anything else.

Today I sent a note to him simply acknowledging that I had received a comment from the owner, I was aware there was an issue, and asked if he could explain his/their side of the story to me.

He replied back stating that it would take a lot of effort to explain, they were making a couple changes, and that the change in design was mostly all I needed to be concerned about.

I'm not sure how I feel about that response, I feel like he's not being honest with me and some of his behavior is starting to make me leery. I was hoping to offer him an opportunity to be straight with me, explain their side since I've got the original owner's side, but it seems that he's not interested or willing to disclose anything further to me.

I want to do right by the original owner in all of this too. She's really kind and I feel bad that I've contributed to this mess even unknowingly.

Thank you in advance for any advice y'all might have! I appreciate it!

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( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
dirtiran
Sep. 28th, 2015 02:28 am (UTC)
It stinks that you got tangled in a mess that has nothing to do with you definitely!

If it were me, I would probably ask the original characters owner if they want the existing commission removed from my gallery, and do so if that were their request. Then I would politely decline to do further business with the commissioner and refund whatever was paid.

That's just what I would do to avoid unnecessary drama as a hired artist however XD If being involved in this does not bother you. I'd just say push on, and hopefully the new design will be enough to keep the air clear!
stangwolf
Sep. 29th, 2015 12:55 am (UTC)
Thank you for the response!

The original owner did say that perhaps just removing the credit for the commissioner and his girlfriend would suffice. However, it does feel weird having the art up given I know the character reference provided wasn't theirs.

I am thinking I'll revoke the current commission offer. Thankfully I don't have to go through the additional step of refunding since I hadn't sent for payment before this came to light.

Possibly at some point in the future if they still want a commission and the character has been redesigned some I could revisit the commission offer.

For now though I think it might be best to step away, let them sort this out with the owner on their own without me being involved as well.
houndofloki
Sep. 28th, 2015 02:08 pm (UTC)
Ugh, that sucks :(

For the new commission: I would just refund this guy's money, don't do the sketch, and be done with it. He's not being honest with you, and doing any more business with him has the potential to cause you way more stress then a sketch commission is worth.

For the existing commissions, I would follow the original creator's wishes for your own gallery posting (remove the commissioner's names from the description) because it really would be a shame to delete your own work when this isn't your fault. BUT - I'd also ask the commissioner to delete the copy in his gallery.
stangwolf
Sep. 29th, 2015 01:06 am (UTC)
It is a bit of a bummer that's for sure. :(

I have been leaning toward declining the commission as I think on it more. Thankfully I hadn't requested payment so that's one less issue to have to address.

I was wondering if it was just me feeling like he wasn't being honest too, if maybe I was taking his response too personal or something?

He doesn't seem interested in providing any insight from their end though, and saying it'd be too much effort to explain and telling me I should only be concerned about the change in hair style doesn't sit right with me.

I was wondering if it'd be wrong to remove their names from the art in my gallery, if only because the male character does appear to be his. I'm up in the air as to whether I want to remove the art from my gallery, it would kinda suck, but at the same time the art feels tarnished in a way now.

I will be asking that they remove the art from their galleries though, I know the original owner has requested they remove the art and apparently they agreed. Or the girlfriend agreed to.

Thanks for your input! I do appreciate it!
notgarystu
Sep. 28th, 2015 04:03 pm (UTC)
That really sucks, getting tangled up in the middle of something like that. Would it be possible, instead of taking down the art, to alter the girlfriend/pet character design in the original commission? That way, the character design is no longer infringing on the original owner's, and you get to keep the work up in your gallery.

As for the current sketch commission, I would personally refund whatever money was paid and not go forward with it. Dealing with a client who hadn't been honest with you and then goes on to act like this is a shitty place to be.
stangwolf
Sep. 29th, 2015 01:15 am (UTC)
Hmm that was an option I hadn't considered. Granted, at this point, especially given his behavior I'm not sure I'd even desire to put in the further time on it. However, it is something to think over! Thanks for that suggestion. :)

As for the pending offer out now, I am thinking it best to revoke it and walk away. Thankfully this came to light before I'd send a payment request so I lucked out there I suppose.

I think in the end that's been my biggest issue, I don't feel he's been honest with me and it's made me skittish about dealing with him.

It may not have even been so bad if he'd have just been straight about their side of the story too, but he didn't even attempt to explain what was going on from their end. Which is his choice. I'm not going to pry anything out of him if he doesn't want to disclose anything to me, but it's not winning him any trust points with me.
teekchan
Sep. 28th, 2015 06:23 pm (UTC)
I would refund for the newest sketch commission if you havent done it yet. Tell them they can rebuy the slot once they have a non stoel design. (Someone can probably help you on proper phrasing if you need it! )

If it were me, I would remove the art done, and if the actual owner wants it removed from the buyers gallery, they can file a TT.

Or, if allowed, modify it. I have done this for private commissions before where the buyer sait it was okay. (Siwtching colors, removing hair, or other minor edits)
stangwolf
Sep. 29th, 2015 01:25 am (UTC)
Definitely! I do think that might be an option to consider for sure. Thankfully I hadn't requested payment yet so one less item to worry about.

Maybe giving them the option to come to me next time I'm open with their new character design would work.

I may considering modifying the art too. You're the second to suggest that and I hadn't thought of it at first.

On the other hand, I have been leaning more on removing it all together. I feel kinda odd with it in my gallery now sadly. However, I'll definitely think those options over before making a final decision.

Trying to approach this whole thing without jumping the gun lol.

I will be requesting they remove the art, I know the original owner has requested they remove it from at least their galleries. So hopefully they'll honor that on their own but if not I'll do what I can.

Thank you for your suggestions I do appreciate your time!
lunar_orchids
Sep. 28th, 2015 08:09 pm (UTC)
Tbh i stumbled onto the argument earlier on the shouts on one of these peoples pages. You cant copyright a hair color, style or color pallete sorry. The entire fluffy tail tip thing boggles my mind as well. Plus the sketches you did are black and white so the argument of rosette color is making me scratch my head.

I can see being miffed someone used their characters ref but when you pick a generic character with a down style of hair in a normal human hair shade what do people expect to happen?

The original common species character thefts make me so glad i dont draw. Only honest fault here to me is the use of someone elses ref but in a black and white sketch it just looks like a common ocelot and if one wants to get real picky the "original" character in all this really reminds me of Oces character -.-
stangwolf
Sep. 29th, 2015 01:49 am (UTC)
Well right, I understand that too. It's the risk you run when you select relatively generic designs. On the other hand, I think I can understand the concern about the fluffy tail tip and stripe design on the tail. They aren't exactly natural to the species, even if it is all together a minor detail.

The owner acknowledged she wasn't concerned with the color on my art since they are sketches. So that wasn't a concern in regards to the art I did at least.

What bother's me most in all of this is that he handed me one of the owner's commissioned pieces as a reference to use. Maybe if he had coupled that with something like "we like this character design but could you change this and this" it would have still been bizarre but maybe not so bad.

All on it's own the design isn't quite as big a deal. I have a problem feeling like he wasn't honest with me. He didn't seem too concerned with explaining their end either. I felt maybe that would have helped me decide what I wanted to do, but I can't force him to tell me anything so I've just got to go with what he provided me and decide from there.

I'm starting to agree that perhaps the best thing to do would be to cancel the standing offer this time and maybe consider working with them again when they've sorted everything out with this other user. Just to be on the safe side so I don't get scooped up in anything else between them.

Either way I appreciate your time and insight. It's helping to get a number of different suggestions and view points. I didn't want to jump the gun on anything or act rashly so this has been really helpful!
jessibean
Sep. 29th, 2015 12:26 pm (UTC)
While you can't claim ownership on hair color, style, etc... it is appalling to use someone else's character and their art ref as a ref for your own character and call it your original OC. I feel like that's been really downplayed in your comment. In the end, that part is blatant theft.

I would refuse to do future work with this commissioner again, because you'll never know for sure if the reference is theirs or not. The boyfriend clearly knew what was going on, since he's being so resistant about it, and then you have to wonder if his OC is really his own reference, too. This is just a mess all around - but i think you definitely need to refuse all future commissions and back out of the current pending one.
stangwolf
Sep. 29th, 2015 11:36 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the feedback! It really does help.

After some more thought, thinking over the responses here some more, reading these new ones, and talking with a couple close friends, I agree. It would indeed be in my best interest to cancel the current offer and not work with this commissioner again.

You're right on the trust issue as well. I'll never be able to trust him enough to work with him again. Even if they fix the issue with the character design and get squared away with the original owner.
karthegrax
Sep. 29th, 2015 12:42 pm (UTC)
I get your point that it's a generic species but blaming the original artist for having a "simple" character is ridiculous. The commissioner/(their S.O) literally provided a reference that was artwork of another person's character. They don't just have similar characters, the features are the same because the characters are the same. Whilst not illegal, we should (and do) frown upon this as a community. The artist is not mad about the existence of another ocelot OC.

OP it's up to you. The fact that the commissioner/S.O has removed artwork which the original artist said proves the character is stolen is a huge worry. Personally I'd prefer not to have the art or associated drama in my gallery and I definitely wouldn't be doing any more art with the specified character until it's resolved. I really wouldn't want to condone any sort of art theft (even if they genuinely thought they had permission).
stangwolf
Sep. 29th, 2015 11:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you for your input! I really do appreciate the time y'all have taken to respond to this!

That's the way I've been leaning, I'm not liking that my art has been tied up in this mess at all.

The original owner linked me a piece in another artist's gallery that I could tell this second artist was provided the same reference picture I was. Not only did the character have the same design but she was in the same clothing as the reference piece. The owner said that was the final straw for her, seeing that piece.

All in all it's a big mess and I think I'm about ready to wipe my hands of it all and be done with it.

Thankfully the feedback here has been wonderful and helped me devise a good game plan. ^^
teekchan
Sep. 29th, 2015 04:57 pm (UTC)
The person used a ref of the original character, aka stolen. It's 100% proven it was character theft.

There's a huge difference between say... Draw this fox with an earring' and here's a link to a ref with a fox with an earring, but clearly says character belongs to X.

Accidental character theft happens all the time, but this was clearly not a case like that.
stangwolf
Sep. 30th, 2015 12:45 am (UTC)
Thank you everyone for your advice! This is exactly what I was looking for and it helped a ton. I do truly appreciate everyone's time and input.

I just sent a note to the commissioner informing him that I would be cancelling the current commission offer, no payment was made so no refund is due. I also let him know of my desire to back the owner's request to remove the commissions from his and his pet/girlfriend's galleries. I will likely do the same to the commissions in my gallery as well once I know they have removed them.

Hopefully he will be reasonable and understand why I have made this decision. I did my best to be firm in my request but not aggressive toward him.

I do not appreciate being handed art to reference of a character that did not belong either him or his significant other, nor do I appreciate feeling like he has not been up front with me in regards to this situation once it came to light.

As a result I simply do not feel I could trust him enough to work with him anymore so it likely is best we all just part ways.
stangwolf
Sep. 30th, 2015 02:57 am (UTC)
Well I spoke too soon in hoping for understanding and cooperation from him.

He's refused my request to remove the art from his gallery. Stated that the rights I granted him as a commissioner to repost the watermarked version give him the right to keep the art up. Which the term I have is the general blanket courtesy term a lot of artists extend to commissioners, however, I didn't think this would trump my right to request a take down as the artist should I desire it (as in this case).

He also does not believe that providing art of the original creator's character as a reference meant that I drew her character. He seems to feel he provided it as inspiration for his significant other's character, not as a design to be copied.

I just went back and looked at his first email request with all the commission info and he repeatedly refers to the art as his significant other's character. The file he provided that's the commissioned art of the original creator's character is titled with his significant other's character's name as well.

I'm way done with this.

I've submitted a TT to FA admins with a request to remove the art from both of their galleries. I'll just let it be and hopefully they'll take care of it since he's refused to cooperate with mine or the original creator's request. Goodness...
lackoflollies
Sep. 30th, 2015 03:35 am (UTC)
You made the right decision.

Hopefully the admins will respond in a timely manner, but if they won't i'd leave a shot on Chase, Sciggles, AsiaNeko or Dragoneer's profiles, eventually one of them will do their job.

I'd also point out that according to FA ToS, as well as artist copyright, -you- own the work, not him because he did not explicitly purchase rights from you.

I'd add something preventing this to your ToS [I assume you have one] in the future. I outline it in my ToS that I reserve the right to revoke permission for my commissioner to use/host that artwork in their gallery t any time, and at my sole discretion and I will take whatever avenues necessary to accomplish this.

Edited at 2015-09-30 03:37 am (UTC)
stangwolf
Sep. 30th, 2015 04:13 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm hoping I don't have to poke anyone directly about it but if need be I'll give it a shot. Not gonna lie, that is a concern of mine given all the stories I've heard of TT's going ages without response. I've only ever had to submit one and it was answered within 24 hours but that was in 2011 too...

That's what I thought, but it still felt weird having my term shoved back in my face like that.

That's really good advice! I appreciate the suggestion. I've been trying to think of a good way to make an addition to my TOS for the future to hopefully at least better prevent this type of situation. I think there'll be at least a couple revisions after this. You live and you learn I guess.

I've had to tell myself to just stop responding to him at this point and walk away before I get even more tangled up in this mess (or frustrated). It's simply not worth it anymore, and there is no reasoning with him at all.
ducttapeninja
Sep. 30th, 2015 08:13 pm (UTC)
Honest advice: You should post a full beware on this guy. Stealing other peoples characters/references/artwork, lying about it, and then being rude and disrespectful to everyone involved when caught on it? Definitely beware-worthy. It'd probably save some artists from a lot of drama in the future if it turns out he's going to keep doing things like this.
lackoflollies
Oct. 1st, 2015 01:16 am (UTC)
I agree.

I'd love to know who this user is so I can avoid doing business with him entirely.

Edited at 2015-10-01 01:16 am (UTC)
kaiiju
Oct. 1st, 2015 10:24 am (UTC)
This.
stangwolf
Oct. 1st, 2015 11:12 pm (UTC)
I have been tossing the idea back and forth since Tuesday when I sent my final decision to him and his reaction. I just wasn't sure if the situation had escalated enough to warrant a full beware or not.

The last message he sent back to me the other night did bother me though. He told me he wouldn't need to use the original creator's art to provide as references anymore since he now has art like mine to use.

I really had to stop myself from continuing to try reasoning with him, I was starting to repeat myself. Despite preparing for his reaction as a possibility it still surprised me that he'd really go so far as to outright refuse my request to remove the art. I figured complain about it, play the victim, something, but not flat out refuse.

This weekend I'll gather up what info I have and see about submitting a beware. I know the moderators here do a good job reviewing them to make sure they're actually legitimate bewares so I'll get my evidence together and let them be the final judge.

Thank you for your input!
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )

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