Are YOU Being an Intellectual Property Infringement Enabler?
When I first started my little comic hobby, I was dealing with some pretty devastating health issues. I was waiting for a surgery to remove an “unknown” tumor from the inside of my left elbow. Soon after my surgery, my administrative career of 13 years came to a screeching halt. Luckily the tumor was not cancerous, but the nerve damage was extensive. My doctor ordered me to go on a medical leave while I made an effort to rehabilitate my arm.
During the weeks of uncertainty, many people in my circle of life suggested that I try to find a job working with people instead of working an administrative job that required hours of typing and filing every day. They thought I would be good at helping people focus on the positive and the humor in life instead of taking it so seriously. I have helped a lot of people change for the better because I’ve shared my tragedy-to-triumph life story with them as well as my “secrets” to getting past all the negative and living life to the fullest... even in the face of adversity. Well, it’s not as easy as it sounds. You can’t just go out and apply for jobs working with people without some kind of education degree or masters and at my age, going back to school isn’t a feasible option. And quite frankly, I didn’t really agree with the fact that I should really need to have this high priced education to help others when I had something an education could never ever teach me... The experience of hardcore living and learning.
After a few months on medical leave, it was apparent that the damage was permanent. At that point, I had three choices. Try to find a part-time job that would accommodate my physical restrictions, apply for disability or take advantage of an opportunity to start my own business through a Government program. I had a family to support and I had to do what I do best and make the best of my situation... so I took full advantage of that opportunity to turn my successful comic hobby into a business.
The actual idea of “Comic Strip Mama” happened one day when my Lexie said something “out of the mouths of babes” for the millionth time and I was laughing. She asked me why I was laughing and I told her that sometimes I feel like I’m in a reality comic strip series... like a comic strip mama! That’s where it all began. That’s when I published a Facebook page and a website and I started posting comics and blogs that focused on the positive and the humor of the insanity and challenges of life and parenthood. I thought maybe, just maybe it was a way to reach people. At first, my comics were pretty hideous! I could write effortlessly, but I was by no means a digital artist! Thankfully, these skills improved with practice. (I'm telling you all of this because I want you to understand that my comic business is not just a business or a job... it is my life. And the same is true for many intellectual property based businesses.)
At the time, I was not a big social media user, but I went on Facebook enough to see that funny posts were pretty popular and these posts were being shared by the “fans” of Pages. Most of the posts I had seen were reposted from Someecards, but some pages were posting pictures with big licensed and syndicated comic/cartoon characters and putting their own Facebook/website information on them. I didn’t think twice about sharing these posts before I started my own comic business and so essentially, I too am guilty of being an IP infringement enabler!
When turned my comic strip hobby into a comic strip business, I spent a lot of time, energy and money to protect my work. But here I am talking about IP infringement because now there are people stealing my work and calling it their own on Facebook.
Facebook doesn’t seem to be interested in taking these pages down. I say this because many pages have been getting away with blatant IP infringement for a very LONG time using Disney, Looney Tunes, Maxine, Garfield, and a ton of other big licensed cartoon/comic characters in their posts. There are also other facebook pages that create their own originals and they are ripped off too and Facebook doesn't do anything about it. However, I sadly believe Facebook has a hard time removing these pages because the Page “admins” use a number of fake Facebook accounts to run the pages, they have a number of "back-up" pages and the issue is WAY out of hand. So these pages have hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of fans attached to them and the page owners are making money through third party websites as a result. Genius, right? Well, the page owners think they are pretty genius and I have been threatened with “Facebook war” tactics if I don’t keep my mouth shut and if I don’t tell my fans to stop commenting on and reporting the images THEY stole from me. They finally agreed not to use my images anymore in the future but said they did not want to remove the images they have already posted because it would hurt their “numbers”.
The hardcore truth is, the business of intellectual property can be cruel and vicious! We all know that and so many industries have suffered as a result. There are always people somewhere in the world waiting to infringe on others’ hard work, knock it off and benefit from it! This is especially true in the Internet age and every time we share stuff that was created as a result of IP infringement, we contribute to the problem and ENABLE it.
For example: You see a post on Facebook and you think it’s just a funny, cute or inspirational post... so you share it, your friends share it and a bunch of people “like” the facebook page. You probably don’t even think twice about the fact that someone does not have the rights to use the image(s) in the post. But if the post contains a Looney Tunes character (for example) and it doesn’t have the Looney Tunes Trademark/Copyright marks on it and INSTEAD it has a facebook page name or some other website info on it, it’s obviously a knock off. And you probably also don’t realize that MANY of these pages who consistently knock off others’ IP with big fan bases are actually making money from their facebook pages.
It sucks how much people get away with IP infringement and build “fan bases” because of it. It’s almost becoming an epidemic! But how do you stop people in other countries who are probably not even real people?!? AND what can you REALLY do when you are a small-time webcomic Corporation like me? I’ll tell ya what I’m going to do...
I’m going to be diligent about not enabling IP infringement in the future and I will use my blog and social media connections to encourage others to do the same.
I’m not going to let this hurdle consume me. Instead I am going to rise above and thank Mr./Ms. Infringers for teaching me some positive lessons about how ruthless people can behave and hope they keep their word and stop using my images. ***If you are reading this Mr./Ms. Infringers, please know that I might be a small-time comic artist, but my fan base is mighty and loyal... they won’t back down easily and there is nothing I can really do to stop them. It might be a good idea to remember that.
I’m going to be thankful to all of my awesome readers who have “had my back” and sent me hundreds of messages advising me of the infringing activity. It has actually been an amazing opportunity to get to know so many of you. You are truly incredible and awesome and you have encouraged me to not “keep my mouth shut” and to take a stand against IP infringement despite the fact that I'm just the small gal on the block. ;)
AND last but not least, I’m going to hold my head up high and keep on keepin’ on! If by chance my Facebook page ever gets shut down because of these ruthless not nice people (insert swear word here...lol), you can follow me here on my website blog or on my other social networks, including twitter and pinterest. <3
Tanya ~aka~ Comics Strip Mama!