Once upon a time, Josh made a cute little computer ninja illustration and put it on his blog. Last year, a college student contacted him to see if it would be okay to use the little ninja on some shirts they were printing for the school. He said yes, and they sent him a shirt.
By chance, Josh saw a new student wearing a shirt that also featured this same ninja, albeit altered to be holding a baseball glove and from an area high school. Nobody asked that time. How many people have used that little drawing without his permission?
At least it was for a simple T-shirt design — chances are no one made any money off of it.
I am familiar with the feeling of seeing your work used for a purpose you did not intend it for. It’s a “Hey, waittaminute!”, with a flush of anger accompanied by a sour, sick sensation in your stomach. It is not a nice feeling.
It makes me think hard about 52ills.com, one of my ongoing illustration projects. I’m basically putting artwork out there for anyone to steal. Please do not mistake me: I’m not under any delusions of grandeur here. There are not a lot of uses out there for an illustration of a fish on a leash or zombie pigeons. But it is a concern. I put a little signature on each of these images, but I’m not going to obnoxiously watermark them. I keep the quality at a level where one could print it out and hang it in a cubicle or locker if they wished, but would need to contact me if they wanted a print of any quality. I think that’s fair.
It doesn’t do much to soothe the mind, but there you go. Support your local artists… because someone out there could be ripping them off.