Monday, March 22, 2010

What Gives?

I've been a long-time fan and promoter of the works of artist Junker Jane. I love her stuff. It's quirky and original and loaded with heart - tons of heart. It's creepy and cute and awesome.

I saw a blog post on her site regarding some individuals recreating her works and selling them as their own designs. Infuriating, and personally staggering. I really don't know why I'm always caught so off guard by someone with artistic abilities ripping off another artist's work. I guess I hold these people to a different set of standards? I guess they're just like anyone else who commits fraud or theft. It's just so blatantly and fundamentally wrong. Like I said... staggering.

Anyways. So I figured I'd do a cursory search on to see if I could find any dolls that resemble Junker Jane's work. I instantly found two. Two sellers whose works came out of nowhere in the last couple months. One of which had a dramatically different style in 2008 only to suddenly start sporting a fresh new style - Junker Jane's. I mean: She went from THIS to THIS.

Love that she addressed this topic on her blog. And I love that these people are getting notified of their immoral acts. I happily fired off some emails to these folks letting them know how I feel about this sort of thing. And letting them know we're all watching.

Here are the two shops:
Come ON. Have some integrity. And get your own creativity. Leave Junker Jane's alone.


Darkrose Manor LLC said...

I love Junker Jane's work as well and have also blogged about her work. I love that you have taken the time to not only blog about the theft of her vision but that you sent an email to the offenders.

Being a doll artist myself, even when you are told that imitation is the greatest form of flattery, nothing can be as infuriating as someone obviously highjacking your style and trying to pass it off as their own... especially without proper credit to the inspiration. I applaud your passion about this and am off to write an email to these people as well.

Thank you for you, Rot! And Jane, keep up the great work! We love your style and know where it originated.

Mantan Calaveras said...

With all my respect for your work, skill, talent, and wishes, I feel that I must state a disagreement. Aside from the inherently relativistic nature of morality and wrongness, I think you are being too hard on people who make derivative works, and even try to profit from them.

Strictly speaking, this cannot be considered theft. In a theft, the original subject is physically removed from the custody of the owner.

What they are doing is creating copy-cat works, derivative works. I can't consider this wrong, competition creates an imperative for quality. It forces the inventor and the copy cat to improve their works. Also, If you notice, in many cases these copy cats offer their work at a lower price, which gives poorer people an opportunity to own pieces they otherwise couldn't afford. I noticed that this was the case with the shop that was doing copy-cat versions of your work.

I am completely sympathetic with the wish to have your work respected, but I feel that, ultimately, the market implications are too important to ignore, and too significant to blanketed with a moral generalization.

Rot said...

And I'm going to have to disagree. We're not talking about two artists dealing with similar subject matters - plush dolls. We're dealing with two artists who clearly have taken an idea that would not have existed otherwise had they not stumbled upon Junker Jane's site/shop. It's a matter of morality. And integrity. I will never be ok with derivative works that clearly and blatantly are profiting off of someone else's creativity and hard work and sweat. And I really can't even force myself to see how anyone else could.

Is it legal? Sure.
Is it morally right? Absolutely not.

If they're making them for their kids - great.
If they're making them for customers - terrible.

And it's certainly a case of theft. Intellectual property rights are all about the lifting of intangible notions of designs and ideas. Copyrights exist to protect theft of the non-physical. So I really don't need to steal one of Junker Jane's dolls from her home to truly rip her off.

It comes down to the source material. Why are those people making dolls that look so incredibly similar to Junker Jane's? Competition is a beautiful thing. Let the plush doll wars begin. But make sure it's an idea that's entirely yours. It's the right thing to do.

Anonymous said...

While I was getting ready to post my disagreement with what Mantan Calaveras said, Mr. Rot beat me to it. So, I'll just say this: "Yeah, what Mr. Rot said"!

If you want to copy someone else’s style for yourself, have at it ... but passing it off as your own and for less $$$ ... IS theft.

I'm just glad nothing I make is nearly as cool or posted online for someone else to "copy"!

Thanks for keeping it real!

Mantan Calaveras said...

Mmm, well it seems to come down to Hume's ol' "is/ought" problem. Heh heh.

Pam Morris said...

agree totally, rot...although, when it comes right down to it, these artists (?) can't even begin to compare with Junker Jane's work...absolutely, no contest...

Anonymous said...

I LOVE Junker Jane's creations! I know of 2 more shops on etsy that are passing their designs off as their own - LorriMarie & ARTOFME. I would never buy from them. Ever. said...

I'm a little troubled by the notion that it's providing a service to poorer people if a design or item is copied and provided at lower prices, as if this makes the whole thing morally upstanding.
Many artsits spend years and years developing their work and crafts before they become marketable and before they're able to actually turn a profit selling their art. So to refine and redesign artwork over a long period only to have someone else take your finished product design and sell something similar and cheeper, cutting into your profits and making all of your invested time and effort not as fruitful is pretty depressing.

Anonymous said...

Those "knock offs" look like they were just thrown together,no time spent on them and have no color....very bland.
Junker Jane's work has that feeling that time and thought was spent on them, plain and simple talent.
Keep up the good work Junker Jane and don't let these "knock offs" ruin your mood.

frykitty said...

Be careful not to assign malice where ignorance will do. I have seen this style of doll many times over the last few years, from many sources. I was completely unaware of Junker Jane's (amazing!) work until now. The artists mentioned may have seen the style in a dozen places, and just decided to try it out. Or it may be intentional theft. Honestly, I'd lean mostly toward the former. Doesn't make it right, or less derivative, but certainly more excusable.

Anonymous said...

my dear friend rot,
this is going to have to be your most controversial post yet

Anonymous said...

I agree with Frykitty. These things are everywhere. It's kind of like you Rot, with all due respect, saying that you invented the witch jars. Are you telling me that no one, absolutely not one single soul ever thought to put blood in jars before? It's too difficult to really claim these artistic variations as one's own these days.

Rot said...

Really don't see the controversy.
If these people come back to me saying "Hey look! I've been making these things for years! The patch eye with a cross over it and the body shape that is exactly like Junker Jane's was purely coincidental!" then it's a matter of coincidence. But both of these artists' work seems to have sprung up in the last couple of months. The one CLEARLY had a different style a year ago, a dramatically different style.

And both of these artists have failed to email me back (mind you it wasn't a rude email in the least). I'm not about rude and I'm all about fair and giving someone a chance.

Regarding the Witch Jars. I certainly didn't invent sticking a candle in a mason jar, but I'd like to take credit for dirtying up a mason jar with blood, and gross bits, and pieces of creepy cloth, and hanging them from a tree branch as though a creepy dirty witch created these things out of hate and pure evil. When it came to creating them, I didn't look around on the internet to rip off anyone else's ideas. I had a vision, a concept, and executed it. And it seemed to become very popular. If someone makes them for their own haunt - great. I love that so much. If someone makes them to sell them - lame. Sure it's legal, but that doesn't make it ok from an integrity point of view. Not in the least. I'm very satisfied that my entire being is against that kind of behavior. I'll sell my own ideas. It just feels right.

I really can't see how this post on artistic integrity is in any way offensive or filled with controversy. If you're an artist falsley accused of ripping off someone else's ideas, shoot me an email. If you're an artist who sticks to your own ideas and enjoys cultivating your own concepts and style, I have a feeling you'll be perfectly fine with what I've written.

Anonymous said...

Mr.Rot, that was very well put. If somebody thought of any of those things that you,Bean,Junker Jane or anybody else sell, and they thought you copied off of them to make a quick buck or whatever, then you would want them to tell you right away. And if those accused of the copying know that they did not do it, they would respond to your email and say so.

NoahFentz said...

Dont get me started Rot. I have the same frustration with people who cut in line. What gives? Who are these people?.Does the world revolve around them? Its okay nobody will notice that I walk pass all these people and stand right here. What possible rationalization can they give me for their actions. Some will look at you and say...I didnt realize or I thought this was ANOTHER line....Come on pay attention. Be aware of your surroundings. Really?

At the same time there are the people WHO let them cut in line and not say anything. Whats the difference its all the same bus they say. Dont worry you'll get a seat. Thats NOT the point.

Back of the line buddy!!

Rot said...

: D

ruggerfish said...

I was pointed to this blog a while ago by a friend a I love what you're doing - fantastic work.

As a casual reader, and someone who is not a visual artist, but a writer - I am still sickened by the blatant rip-off of someone else's hard work, ideas, and even a piece of their soul. Now I know that sounds dramatic, but anyone who has worked hard and long (TWSS) at any creative endeavor knows that there is a deep connection to your own identity - to what makes you you - in every piece. That's what makes this argument so personal and so divisive. It's not just a product. It's not just pieces of cloth and string. It's maybe 10 half-remembered incidents of childhood all mixed together with years of obsessions and emotions, then tumbled in the sub-conscious and coated with the ambient noise of life until an idea is birthed in an often-painful splurt of creativity. And then, AND THEN refined and shaped and perfected over time, maybe even years. To take that deeply personal piece of art and bastardize it then sell it as your own is an act of shocking narcissism. These people should be ashamed of themselves.

ShellHawk said...

My friend at actually found a direct rip-off of his site design in Russian, down to the exact same flying hummingbird design he has flitting about the page. I can only guess that the wording was exactly the same, but in that language. My friend is a web designer, and sent me the email that said he guessed he had business in Russia and didn't know it. He somehow contacted them and they since removed the design, but still, it's contemtible behavior.
I guess the down side of the internet is that others images are so available for intentional or unintentional copying, and that anyone with art has to continuously invent something new and different to stay in front of the pack of imitators. It's exhausting!

Anonymous said...

I am highly doubting that these alleged "imitators" tuck tail and remove their copied works once the so-called original artist casually confronts them online. It's too difficult proving who had it first, and frankly, how is the artist so sure that they weren't subconsciously inspired by something they saw once before? This moral outrage everyone is feeling is really ridiculous. EVERYTHING is a rip-off or a twist of something else and every artist has been inspired, inadvertently or otherwise by something or someone else.

And Rot, for you to drag out the witch jar artistic process to make it seem as personally-creative/inventive and tasking as you did is really bothersome because let's face it, it's not that ground-breaking of an idea. Nor are any of Junker Jane's dolls.

Rot said...

"EVERYTHING is a rip-off or a twist of something else and every artist has been inspired, inadvertently or otherwise by something or someone else." Wow. That's some statement. A very uncreative one. A defeatist one. And I respect your opinion. I just don't live by it.

The heart of the matter is intent. If those artists were aware of Junker Jane's works and decided to copy her style (and I'm completely suggesting that's what happened), then I have a problem with that - from a moral perspective. I guess in the absence of a reply to my emails, I'm going to have to assume I'm correct in my accusations.

I will continue to be shocked at how someone can alter a piece of art just enough to avoid exact copying and any legal implications. It's certainly not creative. How can that provide satisfaction? Or pride? How can those people be excited when they make a sale?

And regarding my Witch Jars, it's all about pride. I love those things. The idea popped in my mind during a trip to a craft store and not a trip to someone's blog. I never claimed they were elaborate, but a lot of the cooler props in Halloween yard haunting rarely are. The organic simple ones are what it's all about.

The IDEA of the jars and the fact that I didn't pluck that idea from someone else is what makes them so special to me. But that's a matter of pride and a matter of passion. Two things that are at the heart of artistic integrity. And two things that have nothing to do with that quote at the top of this reply.

Anonymous said...

You and I can agree that "the heart of the matter is intent." I however do not feel that there was any malicious intent on the part of these artists and particularly do not feel that you've proven that there was. And frankly for you to send all of your ego-stroking minions, ahem I mean blog followers, to prod and harass these imitators, including the woman that allegedly stole your beloved witch jar idea is incredibly lame of you. Are you some kind of internet bully?

I admit, I've been a fan of this website for quite some time, and you do strike me as a very creative type, something that I have never once claimed in my life to be, so sure, I'll accept the defeatist title, because I'm not now nor have ever been an artist. I do respect most of your work and your vision and your every day is Halloween blog is phenomenal. That said, I bit my tongue when you lambasted the shit out of that witch jar "copy cat." I just think that you've crossed a line. You're quite rude to people that you just assumed stole ideas. You don't know these people or their motivations. Perhaps they too are quite prideful in their creations and you are just tormenting them and to top it off, you turn your followers against them as well by providing direct links. Essentially, "look everyone! Check out this link! This person is a dirty, no-good, rotten thief, let em have it!" Why can't you just voice your opinion and leave the innocent-until-proven guilty perpetrators' personal info out of it? Write them private emails rather than telling the whole world how "tough" you are and that you showed them. And perhaps they never responded to your nasty-gram emails because they feel no need to defend themselves or their artwork from your preposterous accusations.

You should have just penned yet- another post about artistic integrity. Instead your morally-abusive inner policeman has come out to very publicly identify and humiliate potentially innocent people or coincidental artists. You're using your site as a virtual witch hunt, and that Rot, I cannot respect.

Rot said...

I disagree and don't see my accusations as "preposterous accusations." My blog is a place for me to share artists' works and my own works. And a place to share my opinions on certain topics. I'm pretty passionate when it comes to artistic integrity. I'm going to call it as I see it - when I see it. That Witch Jar incident represented a problem I see all over the internet. Not being a policeman. Just expressing my opinion about something that's very VERY important to me. I present all the facts to a situation and leave it up to the reader to form an opinion.

I don't think of myself as an internet bully commanding a lynch mob. I think I've been really fair to a lot of artists and have received a bunch of emails thanking me for spreading their work around to the Haunt community. And I've formed some nice e-friendships as a result of it too.

If someone is going to take credit for someone else's work, then they better be ready to be called out on it.

Anonymous said...

I applaud you for your admiration and dedication to support another artist but you are way off base here.

Your entire argument is fueled by the assumption that these individuals were not only aware of Junker Jane but had intentionally built their work modeled after hers for profit.

You slander and label these individuals of "ripping off", "theft" and "immoral acts" with little to back it.

Etsy boasts over 216,000 sellers. Do you think it's really that difficult to find overlapping style in the work from one seller to the next? How could you possibly even begin to know what fuels the creative process for anyone.

And for the record, exactly what authority are you? Why do you feel entitled to an explanation after you attack these individuals on your blog? If anything you owe then an apology.

It would be quite naive to believe theft of creative work doesn't happen. If you choose to make such accusations in a public manner such as this, you better have some strong evidence to support it. In this case you certainly don't.

Anonymous said...

WOW.... I have never been part of a minion before! (And ego-stroking at that)

Like I and others have said, if they were not copying or ripping off somebody elses idea, then they would of sent you an email right back explaining themselves. I know I would of. They could at least put on their shop saying that what they are selling is their on take of this product....and give credit to the original piece.

Anonymous said...

Rot, I don't get it. Who died and made you King? Why do you feel it is your mission to seek out so-called "imitators" on behalf of somebody else and then try and drag them down...I think you've done the exact opposite. You may have just given them free publicity!

Rot said...

My personal opinion is that these artist's have created a style based on Junker Jane's work. I presented links to back it up. To me, the similarities are enough evidence to make the accusations. Overlapping styles certainly can happen, but I've pointed out why I feel the way I do.

I totally don't feel like the artistic integrity King. But when I stumble upon something that I see as an offense, I'm going to expose it. With all the facts I can offer.

Anonymous said...

Well aren't you just a modern-day Woodward and Bernstein? Let's face it, you have NOTHING in the way of legitimate evidence. You're a hack investigator and even worse, you are a bully. You just like feeling morally superior and touting that you are.

Anonymous said...

@Jay's Shadow
"Like I and others have said, if they were not copying or ripping off somebody elses idea, then they would of sent you an email right back explaining themselves. I know I would of."

I don't think it's really that cut and dry. Mr. Rot sent a rather unpleasant message to at least one of the individuals referenced here. Couple that with he's encouraged his audience to harass them as well and I don't know how you can expect any one to respond in kind. Had his approach been a bit more tactful I'm sure he could have invoked some dialog with these individuals.

@Jay's Shadow
"They could at least put on their shop saying that what they are selling is their on take of this product....and give credit to the original piece."

How can anyone even make that assumption that the work of these individuals was based on Junker Jane?

Rot said...

Totally not a bully. Looks like we're going to disagree on this. I expressed my opinions and presented links to back it up, and you expressed your opinions on why you disagree and how you disapprove of my tactics.

Anonymous said...

Pumpkinrot provided evidence on the subject matter and gave his opinion. The followers of his blog viewed what was posted and made their own decision if they agreed if it was a copy or not. For the time I have been following pumpkinrot's blog I have NEVER seen any kind of bullying from him. If anybody disagreed with what was posted they would say so and he would "agree to disagree".

Rot said...

Can you point out where I asked people to go harass these artists?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, obviously it's by the way you post the links to their pages and just above those links you write "And I love that these people are getting notified of their immoral acts. I happily fired off some emails to these folks letting them know how I feel about this sort of thing. And letting them know we're all watching."

You really get off being "moral" person, not to mention humiliating these people, don't you?

Rot said...

I really don't get off on my posts discussing integrity. That's the honest truth.

And I really didn't expect my readers to go harass these people. That's the honest truth. And that's not an apology for anyone that DID send an email to these artists.

Whenever a news article is written or an editorial published, is it assumed the author is trying to rally some form of mob in their favor to go do their bidding? When I read an article or an editorial, I make up my own mind about how I feel about what was presented based on what was presented and how it was presented. The author is informing his audience with both facts and opinions.

If readers of this post clicked on those links and saw no similarities between those dolls, then I gave free advertisement.

If they clicked on the link and saw someone borrowing someone else's ideas to make some cash, then I helped expose a very common problem affecting a ton of artists.

Anonymous said...

Well my final note is that you were out of line. I hope that in the future, you have better judgment and application when it comes to this issue. You are wrong to so publicly address people that apparently piss you off, hence why I chose to stay anonymous. Also, there are at least a couple (if not more) different people operating under "anonymous," and I can not take credit for all of those comments (oooh, look, I learned about "integrity" and sourcing from you!) Also, I'm not one of the "Lame" or "Lamer" persons you chose to attack, nor do I know any of them. The one thing I know is that you and I cannot convince each other of what we each believe, period. I can say "let's agree to disagree," but ultimately please know that I found your original post to be unwarranted, ignorant, and you really come off like a royal jerk. Take something from that and hopefully it will keep you from pointlessly attacking others in the future. After all, your "persuasive emails" didn't encourage these people to take their wares offline, did it? So your message is moot, as is your judgment.

Rot said...

Your opinion is noted.

But I really can't promise to be ignorant to this sort of thing. I've been emailed quite often by concerned readers who have found artists using my photos in their artwork for sale. And many times they inform me that they have emailed those artists. I wouldn't want them to remain silent for fear of offending those artists. I'm grateful for the many eyes out there.

Anonymous said...

I get that, I really do. As a person that is not an artist, I am sorry that happens to you and your fellow creators. I'm just asking that we just don't jump to conclusions and start assembling torch-wielding mobs to confront people suspected of stealing. Write personal emails first. If your hunch proves to be correct, then publicly decry them. I'm just asking that you approach with caution next time. As I said before, I'm a fan, truly. But I also can't sit here while other people are being negatively talked about without grounds, and I know you'd want me in your corner if I ever caught someone saying or posting something disparaging about you.

Rot said...

Fair enough.

Jon said...

Opinions are the stock and trade of the blogosphere. Seeing the author of a blog getting called out on his authority to say something is kind of funny to me. "Justify your opinion!"

Justify which flavor of ice cream is best.

I find it interesting that one of the main points of Anonymous' arguments (and forgive me if that is actually more than one person--I suspect it's only one but admit it's hard to tell) is the perception that the readers of this blog are unified as if by some kind of cause. Blogs are--almost without exception--editorial in nature. They represent the opinions of an individual or small group. It follows naturally that the readers of that blog are likely to either share similar views or enjoy debating opposing views.

What Anonymous is characterizing as someone abusing their "web cred" by pointing his finger and giving the command to attack is really just a matter of a group of like-minded people having a predictably like-minded response to a controversial topic. A topic, I might add, that weighs pretty heavily on the minds of the creative community, especially those of us who rely on our art to pay the bills.

I could easily be characterized as one of those "ego-stroking minions" that Anonymous mentioned. I comment here often and Rot and I have exchanged posts, links, etc. and even collaborated on stuff. Let me assure anyone reading this that, even though I am a fan of Rot's work and consider him a personal friend, if I thought he was wrong or out of line about something I would have NO problem saying so. I'm an opinionated jerk.

My opinion is that I don't think Rot has done anything wrong here. I think he's well within his right to call someone out just by virtue of the fact that these works are out on the Internet for all the world to see and, therefore, are subject to the scrutiny and opinions of anyone who happens by. If readers of his blog then read and reflect (or oppose) those opinions, then so be it. That's just how the whole thing works. If you don't want your work criticized then don't put it where people will see it and react to it. It's really as simple as that. This comment thread is a shining example of this principle in action. The engine runs on opinions.

So, that's my response to the whole "you guys are mindless sheep doing Pumpkinrot's bidding and he's an ass for having strong opinions" part of this.

My reaction to the dolls is...well, honestly, my reaction is not so strong. I see a pretty wide gap in quality, character and general coolness between Junker Jane and her apparent imitators. I think those other ones look like what they are: cheap knockoffs. Whatever. I don't buy dolls. I appreciate the larger, more important argument of artistic integrity but I think the actual objects themselves are less threatening because they actually do look inferior to me. The *idea* of imitation (and, especially, profiting from it) is annoying and lame but maybe my jaded nature is getting the best of me here. I think the product speaks for its ugly self. If I were doing a search for creepy dolls on Etsy and those examples came up alongside Junker Jane's, I know which ones I'd pick.

Maybe I'm copping out but it seems to me the imitators out there are too many to fight, so I have to hope that better judgment will prevail and their crap will be passed over in favor of people who actually do the hard work of creating something original. It's a dim hope but it keeps me from climbing the clock tower with a scoped rifle. It also leaves me more time to make stuff.

Jen Musatto said...

hmmm. I dont know where to begin.. Let me start by introducing myself. I'm Jen and my etsy shop is ARTOFME. I have been a big fan of primitve dolls since I was a small child. A few years back my mom suggested that I start making some of own. Seeing that I live everyday like it's Halloween I had an idea to make primitive monster dolls. I made one and fell in love with it. My friends seen it and "had to have one." So I started make them. I began to feel very proud of my doll making. So much could be done with these dolls. So many ideas. Right? Well, then last year I came across etsy and decided to sell my dolls there. After about a couple months I received a very hurtful email from this "Junker Jane" person, accusing me of ripping off her style. I went to her shop to take a look and Yeah they are simliar...but I attribute that to the fact they are primitive dolls and we happen to have alot in common creativily speaking. You say that these copycats are stealing Junker Jane's doll's body shapes? Come on now.. These dolls have a front and back that are sewn together. There really aren't any features accept for what you personally sew on them and embellish them with. Junker Jane and I couldv'e been friends and been fans of eachother's artwork like any other artist. But she chose to make hurtful comments about my hard work. To top it off, I got an email from you that was sooo off the top hurtful that it ruined my weekend. You dont know me, you dont know my style or my inspirations. You dont know anything! What you have done is make these artist including Myself feel like we create garbage. I'm not speaking for everyone but, I have not ever copied anyone. I am an individual who works hard at creating something that I love! What a piece of work you are. I cant believe anyone would want to follow such a jerk! You and Junker Jane owe me an appology. Not because you dont like my dolls but because you're wrong to accuse me of being a copycat.

Rot said...

Wait. I've never sent you an email. I provided links to the two people I emailed. Not sure what you're talking about here.

I email from my Pumpkinrot account at etsy. If it was any other name, it wasn't me.

Anonymous said...

Rot, why didn't you post the etsy profile that you busted for imitating your work on "you thought we wouldn't notice"?

Rot said...

You probably should go back and read that post all the way through. And the comments. I reached out to the guy regarding his shop's similarities to mine and he apologized in an email and removed the items and descriptions that were blatant rip-offs - doorhangers and mini-pumpkins with wooden stems. He's now selling skulls and luminaries and groundbreakers and cool carved pumpkins. The shop has his own voice and style now.

There wasn't a need to go any further. He had pride in his own style and developed his own products. I respect what he did.

Jen Musatto said...

I'm sorry, it wasn't you that sent the extremely mean emails. It was SPROUTSOUP. Not only did their emails really bumm me out but this SPROUT SOUP is a real coward. They have a shop set up on etsy with nothing in it and no previous sales. So it leads me to believe that it's someone who has a second shop set up just to harrass people. When I told them that they shouldn't judge me because they dont make anything, they replied "Oh.. are you sure? Little do you know." I thought that was super cowardly. This person can write such a mean critique of my work and really hurt me but I cannot go to their shop and see what they create? How fair is that. Hiding behind a another name is cowardess! So, whoever SPROUTSOUP is, I'd just like to say "You're a real piece of work!"