Not long ago, on my birthday (June 2004) I came home after a pleasant day in the city to find a message from R—- on my telephone answering machine. He said that he was a fan of my paintings and he had just seen some of my paintings for sale on ebay, under another artist’s name! I had never been on ebay before, but I wasted no time checking it out. What I found was that eBay Inc. seller “MikeK30” is selling work by “Outsider” artist Geraldine Klemmer, and it is labeled as “original art”. But it is not original art, it is reproduced from copyrighted images belonging to many other artists, including me. (Ms. Klemmer’s promotional materials mention that she is talented in “many styles.”)

The work was advertised as original paintings, acrylic on canvas. The brushwork and colors are a messy and incompetent echo of the original paintings, but the underlying structure of the image is an exact duplicate, at 50% scale. My guess: she downloaded a copy of the image from the web, printed it on canvas, and did a quick paint-by-numbers kind of thing over the surface.

Some people have asked me why, since I have long since sold the originals, it matters if some yokel in Texas is copying my paintings.

Painting is an art of innovation and creation. But this is just a business for some people. They start stealing the paintings of other painters and sell them to the clients. The clients are getting only disappointment. Because original is always original. Duplicates will one day show its character. Earning money should be a goal for everyone but it should be very loyal and should not affect others life and future. Likewise, Trading is a business for many people to earn profits by sitting at home comfortably and doing work. But, there are some broker softwares which are scam. So, the users should be very careful and conscious while choosing a trading software. There is a software named “Bitcoin Trader” which is so simple and easy to use and it is purely a legit software.

I make my living as an artist, and my reputation as an honest businessperson is as important as my reputation for high quality work. When my clients see work that looks almost identical (at least to them) to paintings they have purchased from me, paintings they thought were one of a kind, and those copy-cat paintings are selling for a fraction of the price they paid me, those clients feel cheated. This impugns my reputation, lowers the value of my work, and makes it difficult for me to make future sales. Which adversely affects my already faint income.

And then there’s the issue of stealing. It just burns me up to think of all the time and effort I took to come up with those images. I walked all over town, took lots of photos, revisited sites so that I could be there when the light was just right, collaged and edited multiple photos to compose the images in such a way that they were pleasing to the eye, as well as descriptive of my city. THEN I started the painting. All the con-artist did was steal that beautiful image and copy it. Not use it as inspiration, not interpret it – copy it, as exactly as her feeble skills could manage.

From what I could tell, based on the public records on eBay, this con-artist has sold at least 483 works, at $40 to $80 each, for approximately $19,000 to $38,000 worth of plagiarized art. Some of the buyers of this plagiarized art have purchased up to 55 pieces, and it’s my guess that this work is being resold around the country in little boutique gift store galleries as “original art by Texas painter, Geraldine Klemmer.”

I attempted to remedy this situation by contacting ebay, but so far I have not been successful at getting through to them. When I posted messages to their forums (Community Help boards, Member Violations, Fraudulent Activity, Customer Support) I received quick admonishments from the forum moderators that informed me that I was using the forum inappropriately. But no one from ebay has answered my requests for help in dealing the fact that one of their members is violating my (and other artists) copyrights as well as defrauding ebay customers who think they have purchased original art. They do not have a listed phone number, and calling 411 is no help. It has been three days now, and still they do not address this issue at all. Meanwhile, this person is free to sell more fake art.

Luckily, I do have other avenues for pursuing this problem, and I’m doing just that.
So far, we have identified the work of five artists (multiple works per artist) and are actively searching for the others who have been ripped off. This particular scammer tends to rip off realist art, particularly cityscapes, landscapes, and still life (almost no figurative work.) You can email me if you want me to check your site for work that matches the scammer’s catalog.

July 1, 2004 – I found out about eBay’s VeRO program and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (aka the DMCA) from a lawyer. I should have been able to easily access this information from eBay, but I guess they don’t want to encourage people like me from doing anything that will slow their sales. This is what the lawyer had to say about it:

“In the VeRO program, you can report eBay auctions where you believe your IP is being infringed. I have done so many times (for my clients), and eBay has been very responsive in taking down these auctions. You can ask eBay to do the same for your copyrighted image which is being infringed.

Also, eBay has a DMCA Registered Agent. eBay is an online service provider, and is required to have an DMCA agent, who is required to take down infringing materials eBay is aware of.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (aka the DMCA) says that eBay needs to have this process in place in order to be immune from prosecution for copyright infringement when third party posters put infringing stuff on eBay. Through the VeRO program, which is eBay’s DMCA compliance program, you send eBay a notice certifying that you’re the copyright owner of works that are being infringed, and they take the material down and send a notice to the person posting the work.”

I also got some new links to useful (copyright protection) websites for artists – I put them up at right.

July 3, 2004
I received some helpful tips for the people who keep wondering how to restrict access to copyrighted images (see box at right) from Miyoji Productions.

The investigation is still progressing, but I’m sorry I can’t share any more news right now. I will have more to post here after July 6th.