If you follow my work, it's nothing new that I'd post about art theft. This kind of thing happens all the time and when the issues get enough attention it's easier to do something about the theft. So, I made up a small image showing the blatant use of the image, you can check it out below. All I was really looking to do was point out that I hadn't been asked or credited. I was not looking to pursue anything beyond that as I said on the image itself, I don't own Skeletor.
That being said, after it got picked up, I've been seeing a big divide online. Most everyone is happy to point out that it's theft, a lot of people would say it's the creators fault for making fan art, and some, as always, just wanna see you run over by a truck in the street. But you can't escape the internet, so we can't fight that haha.
I don't want to give you the wrong idea, I've benefited directly from creating this Skeletor painting. It has lead to many job opportunities, it's given me great exposure, and even allowed me to work on official MOTU stuff. I couldn't be happier, it's been great to have in my portfolio. This is why I don't really have a major issue with the image being used. That being said, I know that it is a violation of basic copyright.
For instance, maybe you saw the recent 'Power Rangers' short film that was going around, it's the adult themed one with the violence and everything. Saban in this instance, they can't just take that movie because it has their characters in it and then release it on their own to make profit from. Same thing goes for images, somebody may own the characters you're working with, but they don't then own the images created. These images still belong to you in and of themselves. In the same way they could have hired you to create this image, they can then purchase the piece from you to use after the fact.
With a lot of my fan art, this is how I make money back, through licensing deals. Whenever a company owns a license to Marvel or Masters of the Universe, they can contact me and then they can distribute my previously created fan arts. This doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen every so often. Which is where I wanted to get into my personal benefit from work like this, this is where I become the illegal man.
So, the very first fan art images I did, or some of the first at least, were the TMNT portraits. I made 15 of them in total and spent anywhere from 8-30 hours on each one. At this stage in my career, I was really poor, living way outside of my means hoping to pressure myself into working harder. So I said, I bet if I did these TMNT, I could get my name out there. Now, the mistake I made was assuming nobody would care if I made a short run of prints of each portrait. There were 40 of each and something similar with the rest at NYCC. I had convinced myself it was cool, nobody knew me, and I was like half and half sure that it would fall under parody law?
But let's be honest, I just thought that making my time back on the prints would be possible this way. This happened back in early 2011, I was living in Boston and struggling to get to the next potential level with my artwork. Nobody was paying me to do the things I thought I could excel with and jump forward with, so I did it for myself. This series lead me to all of the jobs and my personal career today, I'm forever grateful for the Turtles.
And that is where I come back to the theft. When I shared the above image of the stolen work, I was contacted by quite a few people that I am not one to talk. After the image got around it started to come up more and more. Four years ago, I sold the TMNT prints without fully realizing the issues involved with doing so, I talked with Nickelodeon and Kevin Eastman about the portraits and they seemed to like them. I just kinda assumed it wasn't an issue, but that's wrong. No matter the amount, I did still profit at the end of the day from the work. Since then I've worked on many TMNT projects officially, and nobody called foul, ever.
This is the weird thing about theft. If you're getting featured on all the blogs bringing any sort of positive attention to a franchise, nobody will really come after you, at least not aggressively. But on the flip side, if your theft involves hurtful content that messes with the brand, they're all over you. So you get this weird idea of what theft really is in the eyes of the company and it distorts your view.
Four years ago I sold 40 prints each of 15 portraits, and four years before that I almost went to jail for five years. I'm not the same person I was eight years ago and I'm not the same person I was four years ago. I've learned a lot since then, and I don't want whatever ideas you may have of me to cloud the fact that a major company blatantly used work without any contact, whatsoever, to the artist. This could happen to anybody, and because of my past I don't really want to necessarily pursue legal action. Just don't assume that you don't have rights in these things, regardless of whether or not you've been in the wrong before. Even if it's fan art, you still did the work itself.
Anyways, thanks for reading me ramble on. The past 48-ish hours have been crazy, I've received hundreds of messages about the theft and I appreciate all of the comments, the critical and the supportive.
I hope you are doing good! Now I gotta get back to my real work :)!