Just to give an alternative perspective, I personally, along
with John Howe and Ted Nasmith, had my works appear on Zazzle
items for sale with no mention of who owned the copyrights, and,
of course, no mention of who had created the works, no requests
for my approval, etc.
This is basically theft. And it is theft whether I am
the victim or whether the Tolkien Estate is the victim. The
size and wealth of the owner of the copyrights does not matter.
This sort of looting has been going on for years now, not only
with Zazzle, but with other sites. Like the hydra, as soon as you
slay one of these sellers of stolen goods, another springs up.
And, although I will confess to being flattered by being in
the same company as John and Ted, I expect that that novelty
will wear off pretty quickly...
No, this suit by the Tolkien Estate is not about a single
button. It is about Zazzle not policing (or even screening, from
what I've seen) the folks that offer items for sale to make sure
that said items have the approval of the copyright holders. Alongside
of my work, John's and Ted's, there were buttons and other items that featured the original JRRT-created cover image artwork from "The
Hobbit". Again, all of these were unacknowledged and unlicensed;
someone basically snagged an image off the internet, slapped it on
a mug, and started making (or trying to make) money off of it.
Although it's not a popular topic, it serves all of us as
a community to make known and observe copyright laws regarding
mythopoeic and other materials. Many of us are writers, authors,
and creative folk of every stripe. When any of us is robbed by
folks like some of the merchants on Zazzle, we are all robbed.
Artists are a struggle breed, and there's little enough remuneration
for a lot of what we do without having looters abscond with the
results of our efforts. The end result of this, left unchecked,
is that none of us will be able to legitimately support ourselves
through our own creative efforts, as the market will be flooded
with illegitimate products faster than we can create new ones....
I know I'm largely preaching to the choir, here. But, I do
think it's mighty easy to demonize the Tolkien Estate primarily
because they are aggressive in defending their rights. Unfortunately,
many of us smaller artists have not the resources to protect ourselves
in similar fashion...so even if all that results from the TE's
lawsuits is that folks think twice before looting other artists,
I can't help but think this is a good thing.
Nai i-Valar tiralyë
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