This week we would like you to meet one of our Individual Creator Members, Pet Artist Lili Chin.
1. What was the inspiration behind becoming a pet artist? What do you enjoy most about the creative process?
When I adopted my Boston Terrier in 2007, my focus gradually shifted from working in animation to drawing dogs for rescue fundraising. Over time, as the demand for my dog art increased, and I turned into full-fledged crazy dog person, this became a full-time business. Sometimes I am doing custom portraits; other times designing and printing posters to sell. I also create infographics for animal trainers, and I get to learn about all kinds of pet-related welfare issues and share what I learn. I love it when I feel that I am creating unique pieces that can bring more joy to people and their dogs.
2. What do you think is the biggest misconception about your line of work?
There is the widespread assumption that digital art is less valuable than art that is created non-digitally, and that if it exists on the internet, it’s FREE for anyone to reuse as they please. “I found it on Google so I didn’t steal it” is a common excuse I get from copyright infringers. Another one is “But I am not making any money with it, so I don’t see what the problem is”. Then there are also unscrupulous businesses or individuals who intentionally search for stuff on the internet to copy and resell.
3. When did you first become aware of copyright and why?
I first became aware of copyright in 2013 when I saw a UK reality TV episode that featured a “pet portrait artist” in her studio. It was a huge shock as all her artwork was my artwork. This person had printed out over 50 of my images (downloaded from my Facebook page) onto canvases, and had modified them slightly and added her signature to them. She was also selling these canvas prints in shops in the UK and advertising on Facebook, using my images as her own. The experience of trying to stop her cost me a fortune in legal fees and months of time and energy. It was incredibly stressful. Although I successfully had that segment removed from the TV episode, and copies removed from shops, the infringer was never caught. I had to stop pursuing her because I could no longer afford the legal costs.
4. Have you experienced copyright infringement and if so how has it affected you personally and financially?
I still continue to experience copyright infringement all the time, in all parts of the world. Last year, my work was ripped off by a large US apparel retailer. As I already had a copyright registration, we filed a lawsuit and the case was settled in December. This experience opened my eyes to what an expensive, time-consuming and complicated process it is to defend one’s copyrights even if the infringement appears to be clear as day and there is no question of who is in the right and who is in the wrong.
Right now, I am dealing with more copyright infringement cases by fashion retailers, and also recurring infringements on Teechip, ebay, shutterstock (and other stock image sites), alibaba, and amazon.com. I am frequently sending DMCA take down notices.
As a professional artist, I earn a living by selling prints of my art, and licensing my images to other businesses. In trying to build my own brand, copyright infringement devalues my work when shitty bootleg copies are blasted all over the internet under somebody else’s brand. It is depressing, and frustrating, and I have become paranoid about posting new images online, even though I need to do this to market my work.
5. If there was one aspect of the copyright law that you could change, what would that be and how would you change it?
– The option of a small claims court for copyright infringement cases. Litigation in federal court is overwhelmingly expensive and works in favor of large corporations; not artists and small businesses.
– No DMCA Safe Harbor protection for POD sites, stock image sites, online marketplaces. I would like to see these businesses be held accountable for art theft. Artists should be able to sue these companies and receive compensation, as they are also enabling and profiting from the infringement.
Are you one of our Individual Creator Members? Participate in our Creator Spotlight series! Please email us at email@example.com. And if you aren’t already a member of the Alliance, you can join today by completing our Individual Creator Members membership form!