I wish I weren’t writing this unapologetic tale of betrayal, copyright violation and flippance. But, here I am. I let it steep for about a week before writing this, spurred on by a really excellent post on the topic by Sewing With Sarah.
At the end of June, I got a kind email from a new follower of my blog, Renee (*waves* Hi Renee!) who asked which pattern I’d used to make the tunic on Girl Charlee with the purple and gray fabric?
I immediately knew exactly what she was talking about, but was also really confused. On Girl Charlee? I have sent photos in here and there for their monthly contest, but not in a very long time, and definitely not since I’d made my Love Notions Whister Tunic. So, I gave her the pattern info and asked where she’d seen it.
She saw it on the product page for the fabric I’d used. A purple and gray tie dyed french terry.
I wasn’t sure how to react at first. I hadn’t sent this photo to Girl Charlee. I had posted a cropped version on my Instagram page, which I’d tagged them in. Girl Charlee left a nice compliment on the photo when I posted it months ago, but didn’t ask to use it for marketing purposes. They DID, however, go directly to my blog to obtain the original photo shown.
Yes, you read that correctly. Girl Charlee decided that since I’d tagged them on Instagram, that the photo was fair game for their promotional use. Without my knowledge or consent, they took the photo from my blog.
They had time to find the photo, leave a compliment, visit my blog to obtain a better photo, but they didn’t have time to ask my permission to use my inherently copyrighted material for their profit.
Once I put all of that together, I went from confused to very fucking angry.
I wasn’t sure what to do about it, so I posted on Instagram, with a screenshot of the photo above.
To add a bit more gas to the fire, I posted on my personal Facebook page and a sewing friend mentioned she’d seen me in Girl Charlee’s newsletter a while back, and sent me a copy.
I also posted a thread in a Facebook group that got way out of hand and shut down (they were nice about it; I made trouble, I totally understand their decision). But before it did, I found 2 other people whose photos had been stolen by Girl Charlee without apology
Then it occurred to me, could they have taken more?
I pored through the in stock fabrics that I’d purchased in the last couple of years…and they had. They’d also stolen a Me Made May ’17 photo I’d posted in Instagram.
And then there was a photo of Cheeks, Mr. 5 and me, in our Fourth of July wonderment, which was shown on TWO of their product pages.
This one was a gray area, but it bothered me the most. I sent photos in for their 2016 4th of July contest, but the rules never mentioned using submissions for marketing past the time frame of the contest. Believe me, I found and scoured them again once I found this photo.
Also, I didn’t win this contest, but apparently my photo was good enough for other promotional purposes? The winner’s photo is not listed with either of these fabrics. It just doesn’t make sense. If any photo should be there, it’s the one that belongs to the person who was compensated.
Three photos, four fabric listings. All without my knowledge.
An awesome former classmate who is in PR messaged me and suggested I ask for compensation for the use of my images; that companies do this all of the time and think there will be no consequences, and they need to be held accountable.
So I did.
I sent $100 invoice for the photos with only me in them, and a $700 for the one with all three of us: A per instance charge of $150 for Cheeks, and $100 for each Mr. 5 and me. Posting photos, especially of a minor, without a model release is a major no-no.
I also sent this email:
Here’s the response from Girl Charlee:
Yes, you’re reading that right. A very egotistical and unapologetic “Everyone LOVES their images being used by Girl Charlee, so what’s the big deal? You should be flattered, you silly goose!”
You have really got to be fucking kidding me. It’s possibly the most patronizing bullshit I have ever read.
As a graphic designer by trade, the woman who answered this email should have learned about U.S. copyright law in school. She should have known that I own these images whether or not I have copyright information prominently listed on my blog. Ignorance is not an excuse, especially not in business.
This was my response back:
I was pretty sure they were just going to try to just ignore me. I was right. Six days later, I still haven’t heard anything back. I sent them another email today, which I imagine they will also just ignore.
I don’t know what my aim is by writing all of this, other than to let others know this is their MO, and to do what you can to protect yourself. I’m looking into watermarking my images now, though I know that isn’t complete protection from this happening. I mostly just wanted you to know the kind of company they are.
Just because you post something on social media or your own blog, that does not make it public domain for anyone to steal and profit form. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.
All I know is I absolutely will not do business with a company that thinks they’re above the law and then treats their customers like crap when they call them on it. Never again will they have my money in their pockets.