Sewing

Shame On You, Girl Charlee

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.

Gray purple tie dye

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.

Untitled

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.

Newsletter 1 Newsletter 2

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.

blue green zig zag

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.

Red and white stripe
White stars on blue

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:

GC Email 1

Here’s the response from Girl Charlee:

GC Email 2

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:

GC Email 3

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.

Advertisements

45 thoughts on “Shame On You, Girl Charlee”

  1. I’m so glad you published this- the only way we can hold people accountable for image theft is by protesting- strongly, and appropriately. I hope you get the compensation you are entitled to- though $100 is too low! I will never shop there again. And thanks for the link- I’m glad the article I posted helped encourage you to publicize this violation.

    1. Thanks again for the great post.

      Yeah, I know $100 is way too little. I just randomly settled on that number; PR friend suggested $1000.

      They’ve ignored my requests for real answers, so this feels like the only recourse I have unless I get a lawyer involved.

  2. They are DEAD wrong. I think you should share this on PR as well.

    Really, they should be ashamed. I’m pissed, again, for you.

    TWO MINUTES. Two minutes to draft a message and ask for permission.

  3. So, this happened to me too. Except they reposted a series of posts in which I had written a tutorial for how to turn a leggings pattern into jeggings. Without ever asking for permission. I never did anything about it but maybe I should.

  4. Update: I just went to the site to see my stolen tutorial and it looks like your email/FB war did some good; my tutorial is now only linked to rather than reposted. So thanks for doing what I should have done. I don’t know why I didn’t do it.

    1. Glad to hear they’re actually crediting you and sending traffic your way instead of continuing to blatantly steal your content.

      While I’d like to take credit, I’m guessing someone else pointed out to them how uncool (and illegal) it was to just obtain your tutorial without your permission.

  5. This kind of stuff ticks me off; and ignorance is not an excuse. People seem to think that because it’s posted on a public domain, it’s public property. I recently saw a local pottery/crafting company use a blogger’s exact images (but watermarks cropped off) to advertise an evening class where they would be making the same project. After a 5 minute search, I discovered that ALL their class project advertisements were pictures taken from bloggers. (And one of the services this company offers is professional photography. Someone on staff could have whipped up the project and had it photographed in house) I contacted the company and told them that is illegal, and their response was basically that they didn’t know any better and they’re such a small business in such a small town it shouldn’t matter. That was the worst! That they weren’t apologetic, and that they justified their illegal activity. I get it, WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES, but APOLOGIZE! Don’t justify. I briefly looked into all this when I created a blog (because I see a lot of bloggers recreating the same content with new pictures [recipes and tutorials] and touting it off like it was their original idea. Omitting garlic in a recipe doesn’t make it “your” recipe, and you need to give credit to the origin) and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t violating any copyright laws. (I’ve since taken all the content of my blog down for other reasons, maybe for another day when I have time to dedicate to doing that consistently)

  6. This is horrid. I’m glad I’ve never purchased from them. After all this, I’d feel like I had to continue and take further action, even if they did take them down. They say “credited photos” but where is the credit? I’m kind of glad my photography skills suck, because at least i know my crap images will not be stolen…. lol. Best of luck with whatever conclusion you decide to aim for. <3

    1. Thanks for the well wishes.

      It’s hard to see, but they did add my Instagram tag to the bottom of the photos (@SometimesSewist). So they sort of tried, but actually trying and crediting would have been actually asking me if it was OK, and then linking to my blog post.

  7. I’m glad you flagged this up. I hope they get to discover that treating customers in such a high handed way has a negative impact on their business.They should have been happy with the free publicity of seeing their product used by a blogger on the blog, instead of trying to capitalise by stealing the image and content.

  8. WTF. WTF?!?!?!? I cannot believe the response they sent you. Like, someone who works there…who is PAID to work there and does their MARKETING!!…actually thought that was a response that would go over well? She either went rogue and needs to be “re-trained” or that entire company needs a crash course in How To Be Decent Human Beings. I agree 100% with Jay: businesses should be grateful for our patronage, NOT the other way around. As if there aren’t tons of other places to get fabric that also don’t steal photos of you and your family. (I cannot wrap my brain around them stealing a photo with a minor child in it to callously shill their regularly-shitty fabric. Again, WTF.) I guess their business motto is that it’s better to ask for forgiveness than for permission. How about NOPE.

    I am (still) so sorry this happened to you, and that their response to your legitimate objection to their theft was to patronize and demean you for pointing it out to them. You did the right thing by telling people what happened–I would never have purchased from them again after learning about this little “hobby” of theirs, had I been a customer there to begin with. #dissingGCbeforeitwascool (Kidding. ;-) ) They have no one to blame for this but themselves. You are awesome. <3

    1. Yes, I also couldn’t believe it. It was shocking to see how little they cared about taking what wasn’t theirs. Not the response you’d expect from a marketing professional when their company is clearly in the wrong.

      They didn’t technically steal the photo with Cheeks in it, but they also didn’t inform me that they planned to use a photo I submitted for a contest over a year later as a centerpiece to shill their fabrics. I sent it in solely for that contest, and there was nothing posted saying they would use it after.

      Thanks for the support, Love. :)

  9. This makes me SO MAD! Would it be ok for me to link to your post on my blog sometime? I think people should know about this crap! Especially using a child’s photo – that’s just unacceptable in any way.

  10. Take your invoice and all supporting material and take them to Small Claims court. They will have to show or a judgement will be ordered against them. You do not need an attorney for small claims.

      1. I’m in the UK and here you can go to small claims to ask their advice and if that is the same over there, they will tell you if you are able to make a claim against them, whether or not you are in different states. Good Luck! I abhor such behaviour and hence I share very little. It sucks when you try to give credit where credit is due and they just crap on you instead of thanking you. It’s a shame as I like to support small businesses.

  11. You did the right thing by contacting them but also displaying here how they responded. They had no right to take your pictures, especialky of kids, that’s really low.

    A few years ago I noticed a blogger’s photo on a pattern store site, so I alerted the blogger and they were taken down. This was an Anerican blogger on a Swedish site, so chances are she would never had discovered it herself.

    1. Agreed; that was definitely the worst one. It was flabbergasting to find each one, but when I saw him, when I saw all three of us..No. No. No.

      OMG, yeah, they never would have found it themselves. Thank goodness for awesome people like you!

  12. While I find the whole thing appalling, and considering the crap quality GC has any way, well it’s not that much a loss. I do take issue to take photos with children in them and using them for their own purposes. What complete f*****s. How hard is it to say can I use your photos?!

  13. You’ve raised a really important issue here re copyright and privacy. Good for you for expressing your displeasure for their violation AND an invoice! Love it :) I’ve never ordered anything from Girl Charlie (I’m in Canada and the cost is just crazy for us to order any fabric from the US with the dollar difference, shipping and customs charges so I rarely do – Marcy Tilton IS one of my rare weaknesses however :) ) It’s so disappointing to read how a small business like Girl Charlie who really should know better! would act so unethically towards a client they obviously admire. So silly and sad and just the sort of behaviour that leads ultimately to yet another failed small business :(

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Kathleen! I don’t wish them failure, but I do wish them some damn humility.

      Yes, I have heard many awful things about the cost of shipping (and customs) to Canada, but I’d imagine that Marcy Tilton yardage is probably worth it. ;)

  14. You may also want to look into the data protection/privacy aspects. Whilst you did send them your image in one instance, they have obligations to be clear with you about what they will use it for.
    A point I haven’t seen anyone address here is also that the tone of their response to you makes it abundantly clear that they do not mean to change their practices in the future, just take stuff down when they get caught.

    1. That was my thought as well, Victoria. This is why so many contests with bigger companies have such detailed and vast submission terms and conditions. You’d think it would be easy to put a simple “by sending your photo, you agree it may be used in any of our future marketing campaigns or on our website.” Or something similar. But…nope.

      Yes, agreed. They see nothing wrong with what they’re doing and it’s definitely clear they won’t take our interaction as a means to make proper change within.

  15. I’m with you! I actually stopped writing my hobby blog because the thought of having to watermark everything in order to protect my image was just exhausting. I would be LIVID if I saw my children’s photos “out there” without my permission.

    I do have to say, though, that you now have a new reader as a result of this. But not because of Girl Charlie using your image – I found your post through the link that Gillian from Crafting a Rainbow shared.

    1. Seeing his photo was the worst. It DEFINITELY gives me pause, but I don’t think I will stop blogging because of this. In a weird way, I feel like letting that happen would be them “winning” somehow.

      I have also started looking into watermarking my photos, but holy hell: how to choose? What did you use?

      So happy to have you and your kind words here! Hurray for Gillian! :)

  16. Thanks for sharing this, Jess. I’m so sorry this happened to you and am quite disgusted by Girl Charlee’s response and attitude. I agree that taking them to small claims court is a great idea, if it’s feasible. (I’m not a lawyer and really don’t know how it all works.) Even if not, I think this post will attract the attention of a lot of their potential customers and perhaps cause them to think twice about making a purchase. I know I will never buy from them after reading this.

    It’s shocking and offensive to me to see these instances of companies assuming all their customers are idiots. Here’s hoping your post does some good in alleviating these misconceptions.

    1. Thanks for your support, Carolyn. Really appreciated.

      While I do like the idea of sticking it to their smug asses, I’ve pretty well decided that pursuing this further is not going to be beneficial for my mental health. AKA I’ve already obsessed over this enough.

      And so I wrote this post…here’s hoping you’re right and it does some good.

  17. They have a horrible attitude and the quality of their fabric is atrocious. I ordered once because I wanted a specific print and only they had it. Made in America but it was thin crap. I will probably never sew with it – the fabric is that crummy. Not at all what I was expecting with that label. I had already decided never to buy from them again but this seals the deal. Posting photos of children with no permission???? SMH. So very wrong. So sorry this happened to you. I too came over from Gillian’s blog.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s