Copyright Infringement Update


I know that several readers were very interested and concerned with my copyright infringement situation and so I thought I would give an update.  As most of you can imagine the past few weeks have been bizarre.  Most of my time has been spent talking with lawyers, talking with retailers and distributors, and talking with many people who have been reporting the copies of my work.  There were actually six images of mine that were copied as you can see in the visual (my originals are on the left, knock offs on the right).  And believe it or not, there are even knock offs of the original knock offs.

I have discovered the main source.  They have come from a factory in China that specializes in reproducing artwork for mass distribution- much of which is hand painted which I won’t even comment on at this point.  For a short while I was naively optimistic that I would be able to put an end to it as several emails were exchanged between myself and the factory producing the work, but that hope has pretty much faded.  The fact is that these factories in China are under no obligation to respect the copyright ownership that our western laws protect- even though their actions place any retailer or distributor selling their products at risk.

And so what will happen next is what I’m trying to work through.   I have been fortunate and much to my surprise, received a great deal of free legal help and I’ve learned more than what I ever thought I would need to know about intellectual property theft.  Some people have asked why this isn’t a criminal investigation- myself included, and it likely can be turned into one if the copies continue to be made and continue to appear in the western market.

So why are they appearing in North American stores (not to mention UK/Europe and Australia) especially when everyone involved- from the manufacturer to the distributor to the retailer are actually liable.  Why are they taking the risk?  I would expect that the little independent shops are simply unaware of where the products are made and what lurks behind it all, but the bigger chain stores who know the manufacturers, for them it likely comes down to volume and profit.   You simply can’t buy 300 large hand painted images for a $35 a pop in North America these days.

I was very grateful for all of the emails and helpful suggestions as well as legal advice.   But I should mention that not everyone was sympathetic to my problem.   These comments were not published on my blog.  One person told me to drop it because it’s a part of the job.  Just like how a police person could get shot on the job, I should expect to be copied.  Which is true, but does that mean I shouldn’t investigate it and try to stop it?   Another, much more disturbing and more personal sounding comment came through within a few hours of my first post about the infringement.  This person told me to just ‘Let It Happen’ (a phrase that my husband and I have adopted as a sort of perverse mantra) and that I was just angry because someone else was making money off my art and I wasn’t- followed by a few other ugly remarks.  Yes, well- of course I’m upset about that.  It’s illegal.  Also,  I do sell reproductions of my work and license my images and it’s insane to think that I’m competing with cheaper versions of my own work.  It’s damaging to my business and I’m a very small business- almost a micro business.   However, we managed to find out that the comment was sent through a phony hotmail address, but was delivered from a mobile account that just happened to be registered in the same name as one of the directors heading up one of the companies that had been publishing and distributing the knock offs overseas.

And so as you can imagine, I can’t ‘drop it’.   If I did,  I would expect that the copies will simply multiply and more images will be stolen.   I am still in the stage of locating the various retail establishments where these items are being sold.  If you happen to spot one of them, please send me an email (anonymous if you wish) and a snapshot of the item in the store is very helpful too.  My only real recourse is through the retail stores and distributors that are selling the items.   If they stop buying them, the manufacturer will stop making them.







30 Responses to “Copyright Infringement Update”

  1. Good for you, Janet. I commend your stick-to-it-tiveness! and it’s important to let the Universe know that you stand up for your rights, your Art, and your integrity. I believe your efforts will pay off. Retailers need to get behind Artists and Artisans that are the creators that make beautiful works to be sold by them in a fair market.
    More power to you!

  2. Katharine Nelson

    You GO Miss Janet! I am so upset by others suggesting that this is the cost of doing business – that you should expect your images to be copied AND be okay with that. Horrendous. Your work is amazing and you have every right to protect the offspring of your creativity. I’m glad you have an outpouring of community support and hope it continues until you have the resolution you’re seeking. Continued good luck with this ~

  3. Katie Rowland

    I love your work so much and would be really upset in your position. Keep strong and focused. Will keep an eye out in the UK. I am a massive fan of your work. KR

  4. Dear Janet, the idea that you should expect and ‘just allow’ infringement as part and parcel of being an artist is beyond insulting. Clearly some folks have no scruples. You, on the other hand, have more class and integrity in your little finger than all those folks and opportunistic companies put together. You are amazingly talented, you create some of the most beautiful work I have ever seen, and you absolutely deserve SOLE recognition and compensation…and don’t ever let anyone tell you differently! So, you just dig in your heels girl and keep on standing up for what you know is right. And one more thing, those reproductions above…not even close. You just can’t copy the heart or the energy of an authentic Janet Hill painting.
    Hugs and admiration,

  5. Hey Janet, this coming from your rebellious little cousin, but have you thought about commenting on the reviews section of Dunelm Mill to let people know that these are knockoffs of your paintings? With enough one-star reviews and even links back here, you could at least let the customers know where to get the real thing. Not sure if that would complicate things legally or get anyone in trouble, but it could at least be a nice personal protest 🙂

    • Hi Mia- yes I have thought of that….and a lot of other vindictive things, but I’m trying to behave myself and only state the facts. The fact is that they are selling one of the knock offs and have not responded to my request to remove it.

  6. Good for you Janet! I sent a strongly worded feedback to Dunelm Mill (basically, who can feel safe doing business with a company trading in stolen images?) And then I sent a similar message on Twitter, for all of their followers to read. I know it’s not much, but hopefully if enough people complain out in the open at them they will realize this can’t really be done in the Internet age without a negative view of their services.

    Good luck, this whole thing is terrible, and you’re 100% in the right for pursuing it. You created these images. Stealing is no more “part of the job” than having your home broken into is “part of owning a home.” If it were–we wouldn’t have laws against such things! It’s eye opening and worrisome that companies overseas do not have to adhere to these laws, but I think trying to stop the retailers who do is a good course of action. I’m so sorry you’re going through any of this.

  7. Your work is beautiful! Really and truly. These copies do not even compare to what you produced. The sad piece I think is that anyone naive enough to believe that you are merely outraged by lost profits. It is pathetic. You worked very hard and provide prints at a reasonable price. These companies could have contacted you for legal licensing rights. Continue to share what happens and fight back! You and your art deserve respect. It is unfortunate that we live in a mass produced culture with the international trading ability to crank out sub par copies of your work so readily.

  8. Hi Janet,

    So glad to read the update and know that you are standing firm in your resolve to fight this gross infringement. It’s just so sad when things come down to money, rather than doing what’s right. The companies that are selling the knock off’s of your work should be stopped and should have to pay for knowingly selling knock offs.

    Your work is wonderful and I hope that you will continue to find joy in it, despite all the stress and hassles. Hang in there….

    Wishing you a wonderful holiday season….and hope someday soon to have one of your originals in my collection!

    Kind regards,

  9. Hello,

    we have huge problems with Chinese copyright infringement in Germany as well. They are copying German quality products and even have the guts to travel with their copied products to Germany and sell them at the same fair where the original German products as sold by German companies. One doesn´t know whether to laugh or to cry about so much unscrupulousness (and stupidity at the same time). These people have absolutely no morals. A relict from the Chinese cultural revelution I´m afraid. It is very difficult task but these people have to be fought at all costs. I do not buy products “Made in China” because they look cheap and have a lack of quality and the most important thing: I don´t support thieves.

    Cheers from Germany

  10. Good for you Janet,
    I would do the same. The world may be full of thugs but it’s got a lot of lovely honest people in it too. By going after your rights you help tip the scale to the side of the honest folks.
    That was VERY interseting about the fake hotmail address and nasty message. It is clear they know they are violaters, they are even invading your blog to try to brain wash you… there are no limits to the corruption from the ” we all know who, country”.
    Etsy is a great way to keep the world supplied with goods made with integrity and love. They can’t take that away.
    Best of luck with this and thanks for the update. We all learn from eachothers experiences!!

  11. Thanks for the update, because I love your work – and the knock offs are really bad. I hope you can get this resolved so you can get back to what we all enjoy looking at, the real Janet Hill paintings.

  12. Thanks for the update. I love your work and if you stop the fight it’ll just let them think they can do what they want. It’s illegal to pirate a movie and download and sell it. There are laws in place and large fines. The movie industry is up in arms about it. Why doesn’t that apply to artists like yourself as well.

    Chin up and I can’t wait to buy more of your prints in the near future. I may many saved under my favorites on Etsy until I can afford to buy them.


  13. I’m so sorry. Naughty, naughty them. When I have the finances one of YOUR prints will hang in my home. Keep your chin up.

  14. Wow, moral and legal issues aside, they’ve taken your beautiful work and totally cheesed it up. Kudos to you for all you’ve done. 🙂

  15. You GO, girl!!!
    And besides, NO ONE can accurately duplicate your astonishing, creamy rich color palette. Those knock-offs look so anemic.
    This whole thing is horrendous. I am SO sorry. Keep on fighting these slime…these bottom-feeders…these weasels. You are a force to be reckoned with!
    And when you need to take a break from the whole thing, have yourself a nice cocktail..or a frosted doughnut with sprinkles (depending on the time of day)… then walk right into one your fabulous paintings, sink down onto a comfy sofa, hob nob with the ladies, and be utterly divine!

  16. I’m so sorry that you have to go through this to claim what’s rightfully yours! I just can’t believe there isn’t anything to be done about it, and it makes me
    furious that a disaster like this wouldn’t be taken seriously!!
    I’m an artist and I understand the industry in how it can be very difficult sometimes to make a living. My blood truly boils for you!! It so sad how tacky and pathetic these people are.
    I hope someday soon this will get resolved.

    I on the other hand am completely in love with your work, and I wanted to praise you in what you do. You make such beautiful things, and I often find
    myself gazing into your paintings from time to time when checking back on your site to see what’s new, and what’s for sale.

    Keep those boxing gloves on sister.


  17. It’s great that you have made some progress in this awful situation. It will take courage to continue the fight. In Australia as I am sure in other parts of the world “theft” is caught under our Crimes Act and is a criminal offence. Ultimately the organisations and people that are involved in copying and selling your images illegally are criminals and need to be dealt with as such. If I see any copies of your images here I will be sure to let you know but hopefully I won’t see any. I wish you courage and good luck as you continue on this journey.

  18. Janet,

    Hello there. i know how you feel. When I first started selling online, about 5 years ago or so – a company in China took some of my illustrations and made some plastic wallets and things, with them. (they eventually disappeared, not sure what happened, but it did not continue, thankfully)

    If what has happened to you, happened to me, I might have a full blown heart attack. You are handling it all with such poise, bravo to you!!

    Also – I even had a problem with people in the US copying some of my prints and transposing them for sale on items.

    The main thing I did to stop it, was I started putting lower quality images of my work, on my blog. I know this is different from what you are going through.

    But it’s part of the whole copyright advice for artists.

    My actual images were being taken and reproduced (not re-painted), or folks were making their own prints, because my files online were too big, and enabled this.

    So now, I only put images that are 72 dpi and about 500 x 700 pixels at max, online, for viewing on my blog or Etsy shop. And of course, I followed that by watermarking everything, as you do.

    It’s way too easy for copyiers to take one of the large scale images uploaded on our blogs, and shine it through a machine, onto a canvas, for exact copying purposes. Which is how it’s done by the replica pros, in most cases.

    Sometimes i see some of my own art copied, right down to slopes of what I drew/painted. Which tells me there is some of that going on.

    It is disheartening and awful.

    It’s not okay.

    And it leaves you feeling robbed.

    In some cases I have been copied by people, who are at first apologetic – and then come at me with an army of other bloggers and tell me to deal with it.

    That I don’t own my style or my asthetic.

    That alwasy shocks me.

    There is a fine line where copying comes in to play.

    However, there is no fine line in your case.

    It is loud and clear copying.

    I am so sorry you are having to go through this.

    Hopefully, they will fade into the wind.

    One more thing……

    I live near the US/Mexico border, where on the US side, there are lots of Jewelry/handbag/shoe shops that carry loads of items made in China, copied from big label designers. The copied David Yurman pieces, and hot new jewelry styles are jaw dropping in how close they come. I mean, they are copied to a T and then sold for 2 bucks. It’s so scary.

    Keep on keeping on, as they say. I don’t think I have ever said that before 🙂

    I hope this nightmare dissolves soon in some way.

    I feel for you. Just know that.

    Warmest, Vanessa

  19. Good for you for standing up for yourself and your beautiful work. I hope this doesn’t stop you from creating. I own a number of your prints and they bring a smile to my face every day when I see them hanging in my living room. Keep up the good fight. 🙂

  20. Janet:

    I can’t imagine the sense of violation you must be feeling about all of this. I know it is exhausting–both physically and mentally–to fight this piracy, so I’m glad you’re hanging in there.

    I know that there are pirates in every corner of the globe, but I think the problem is the worst in China. They’ve always been isolated and they don’t share the same moral firmament or rule of law as the West, or even most other nations. This will be a tough fight.

    Good luck.


  21. I am so very sorry to hear about you having to go through all of this Janet. Sending the warmest wishes and optimism your way…warmly, Laura

  22. I’ve commented before that I’m a big fan of your work. This whole thing must be a nightmare. I’d never suggest you “drop it,” but I was once involved in a pretty awful, unfair law suit and it was maddening and dragged on for several years. Because of that, I would like to offer some advice (I hope you don’t mind, although you might not like it.) The thing is, intellectual property theft is a huge problem, and it sounds like you’ve been discovering that it’s difficult to tackle. Like I said, I’d never suggest just dropping it, but it’s the sort of thing that can become consuming. Please don’t let that happen to you. As much as you are in the right and while many people are encouraging you to fight, please take care of yourself and take some time to think about what is realistic to achieve according to you time/energy/resources.

    I think it’s really smart to target the retailers or wholesalers who are under the jurisdiction of IRP laws. Perhaps there are ways to maximize the pressure at minimal cost to you? A button on your site to make it easy for supporters to register their disapproval with the retailers who carry the copies? Comments on their sites are good, too, for their customers to see. Maybe a joint legal action with other artists who are going through the same thing? Forming a coalition of artists who are affected, such as by setting up a website that could shame/publicize/educate retailers or wholesalers who carry copies. With more artists you might get media interest to encourage news reports on what’s happening. Perhaps those of your many fans with blogs could write about it — spread the word exponentially.

    Perhaps there are also opportunities for you here, such as offering prints on canvas of your originals to the stores carrying the copies. In general, getting the word out that what people are seeing are illegal copies coupled with easy access for them to get legal copies of the original works (or at least not by rip-offs).

    I hope you don’t mind these suggestions, and just so you know, I really feel for you and sending lots of warm wishes.


  23. Hi Robin,

    Thanks for your advice with this matter. I don’t think I will be tackling China all by myself but as you mentioned, I will be doing what I can within my own jurisdiction. I considered dropping it but quickly realized that it was consuming me more when I was trying to forget about it. It just felt so unjust. I feel like I have to do my part as if it has happened to me, it will happen to other artists with possibly less financial resources. As well, the manufacturer is actually still trying to sell the knock offs and so it likely will only get worse unless I start targeting the larger retailers who are buying directly from the source.

  24. Hi Janet,

    Please let me (and no doubt your other followers) know what I can do to help.


  25. Hi Janet. I just wanted to let you know I was in Hobby Lobby today and saw a self-stick set of prints for sale there. They aren’t the authorized prints you already have selling there, but they do seem to be an imitation of your work and so I thought I’d take some pictures and share them. It might not be an issue but I have been keeping my eyes peeled for any infringement issues on your behalf! How would I share a photo so you can see what I mean?

  26. Just saw your dresses painting ( the cheap rip off version) printed on canvas at my local ROSS store here in Vegas. I was surprised to see it at such a large retailer. I’m so sorry for all that you’re going through with these blatant thieves. Having been involved in a large copyright infringements lawsuit myself as the defendant ( totally unjustly accused by unscrupulous plaintiffs and their corrupt attorney) I can tell you that proving infringement or defending yourself if accused of infringement costs hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and can take years. My lawsuit was finally dropped by the plaintiff after they went through four different lawyers who all quit. It took two years and cost myself, my publisher, and my insurance company well over 150K. Unfortunately the infringes know how hard and how expensive it is to go to court so they work on the premise that even if they get caught there is nothing the solo artist can really do about it. Over the course of my lawsuit I learned a lot. If you want info feel free to email me. Good Luck!

  27. Rebecca

    I own a gallery that represents local and statewide artists. I have always felt like I’m competing against the big box stores that carry mass-produced “art”. A lot of people are, for the most part, quite uneducated about the “bargain art” they are getting, and who it is hurting in the end. I could feel your pain reading about your experience. I suspect that I had at least one artwork ripped off from the internet myself. I no longer put artwork on the internet. I took the liberty of copying your article so I could help in educating the people who come into my gallery about why it’s important to quit buying Chinese mass-produced “art”, as well as other products in general. People don’t understand how shoddy and even unsafe some of these products are. Toys that contain lead, for example. The oversight of the manufacture of products is just not there in China like it is in the U.S.. But then, I don’t think they care who they hurt. Even children. Some people only see the $ sign on items, and never think about or care about the bigger costs that may be contained within that cheap knockoff or other product they buy. Maybe I can do some small part by helping to educate them.


Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>