Skating isn’t a crime, but piracy is.
The articles that we read for this class are a sore subject for me as an artist, mostly because the idea of “remixing” has been used to steal my creations often enough that I stopped posting my serious art projects online.
Like most artists, I had a couple of social media platforms in order to show off the things that I was creating and create more interest in my abilities. I had a decent following on Instagram and Facebook because my art is tied to many political movements, and I guess they generated enough controversy to make them popular.
I don’t really use my hobby art to make money, because it would make the process of creation feel more like a job to me. I didn’t really sell any merchandise, so there wasn’t much money in my art outside of the commissions that I would do for the occasional customer. So when I began seeing my designs stolen to sell skating merchandise, I was a little bit annoyed.
I first noticed this when I went to a skate park in Orem and saw a skater wearing a shirt with one of my designs on it. When I asked him where he bought it, he showed me a website for a skate shop in Ogden that had created a “Mormon Skater” line of products that were made almost exclusively with my designs.
The problem that I had with this was that the art I had made was was from a dark period of my life where I was satirizing some aspects of the Gospel in order to help me work through some spiritual problems I was having with the church. And yeah, while the idea of Jesus skateboarding on a cross is pretty silly, it had a deeper meaning to me. The idea depicted of Christ being able to kickflip on his death was lost in the snarky product description written by some Ex-Mormon skater.
Some of the artwork was definitely meant to be goofy, like the angel Moroni dabbing on top of the temple, but it was still being used to sell my art without permission. I eventually contacted the company, who claimed that they had their own artist who had made the designs, but I had files and originals that proved they had stolen my art.
In the end I had to get in contact with my Grandpa, who is my lawyer, and have him threaten them with litigation. There was a bit of deliberation, in which they also used the excuse that they were only remixing my creations, but they were eventually forced to settle. This resulted in them having to pay me for the art that they had taken, and I ended up making a pretty considerable sum of money from the lawsuit.
This may seem like I won, but the problem was that I never wanted to sell the art in the first place. I ended up losing the rights to all of the art that they stole just because they paid for it. It was almost like the skate company forced me to sell my art to them because they had made money off of it.
During all of the lawsuit stuff, I donated some designs to the BYU Black Menaces, which ended up getting co-opted by other artists that took elements from my art and “remixed” them into their own creations. When I asked the Black Menaces about this, they told me that my art wasn’t exactly what they wanted, so they gave it to other artists to cannibalize into something “better”.
I was so tired of having my stuff stolen at this point that I just sort of deleted all of my social media platforms and stopped creating art for fun. I treat my art like more of a job now, and I make money as a graphic designer and freelance artist instead of just creating art for the sake of creation.
So I’ve had art “remixed”, and I really don’t like it. I don’t care that some people think they can “improve” my art, because I put my soul into every little thing I make. It feels like when my art is remixed, people are stealing pieces of my soul.