Jen Barbati was recently thrown a curve ball from one of her buyers, which left her speechless.
Here’s what we know
Two years ago, this buyer purchased a giclée of one of Jen’s paintings. It just so happened that Jen had a postcard made up with the same image. She happily gave the buyer a stack of the postcards to hand out to her friends.
Fast forward to late last year. Jen again runs into this person, who proudly proclaims that she had liked the image so much that she started framing the postcards to auction off in fundraisers for her nonprofit organization. (Re-read that sentence. She's been auctioning off framed images of Jen's postcards without Jen's knowledge or consent.)
Jen is so shocked that she can’t say anything. If she had only been asked, she gladly would have donated. Jen is a wildlife artist and this is an organization she strongly supports!
The woman is a pillar of the community. And, again, Jen supports the cause. It fits nicely with her niche market and she wants and needs to stay on good terms. Still, Jen wants to make sure that this woman knows that it was pretty uncool to do this without the artists’ knowledge.
Here’s what we don’t know
We don’t know whether Jen’s name (which was printed prominently outside of the image) was cropped during the framing.
Likewise, we don’t know whether Jen was given credit in any form.
Here’s what we can deduce
We’re pretty sure that this woman intended no malice. She just wasn’t thinking about Jen–only herself and the organization.
We also know
We know that anyone can pick up a postcard and frame it and we’d have little control over it.
We also know that it would have been best to address this with the buyer/purloiner when Jen first learned of it (late October).
Here’s what Jen’s going to do
Jen said she is going to contact the woman and ask for a meeting. When I asked her if she was comfortable with that she said “Yes! I do much better in person than on the phone or in writing.” Great! Jen knows her strengths.
Jen is going to open her conversation with this woman by telling her 1) that she’s thrilled she likes her giclée so much and 2) that she was very happy to hear that her postcards were helping to raise money for such a valuable organization. This is important. Jen isn't going to lead an attack. She is genuinely happy about these things and she wants to make sure this is conveyed from the start.
Then she’s going to say something like: “I’m curious. Can you tell me how the postcards were framed?” And “How do your auctions work? Was my name printed anywhere? Was it on the back of the framed image?” She's not going to assume anything. She needs answers before she can proceed.
Armed with these answers, Jen will be able to know which direction she needs to take the conversation. She wants to let this woman know that she would like to support the organization however she can–as long as she's given proper credit.
While I’m not an attorney (Let's be clear on that!), I did advise Jen to use the term “copyrighted image” in a non-threatening way. This person didn’t make the copies of the image, so an attorney would have to address if any laws were broken. But she needs to know that the artist owns the rights to the image.
Sure, Jen could let it go–be happy about helping to contribute to this organization. But folks, if we don’t educate others about how art and artists work, nobody will. It’s part of your job (yes, job) to educate people. Jen is doing all artists a favor by talking to this one person instead of staying silent.
Any more advice for Jen?