· By Phoebe Carpenter Eells
Stolen Art, A Story
A few months ago I discovered that one of my designs had been stolen, altered (mostly by copying elements on the original design), and labeled with the name of a business with very different values from ours.
Arlington Hardware is not a business that I would agree to work with, even if asked to be hired or to partner in a licensing deal. I am really disappointed to know that a number of these pieces with their business name and my original artwork are out there in the world.
This design was sold at their store at least from May until September of 2023. This business has a pattern of infringing copyright of businesses big and small.
I've been sharing this experience online along with what I'm learning about copyright, our legal system, and what I've discovered about this business. Click below if you're interested in more information and documentation about this situation.
Stolen Artwork: (this is the first video in the series and I did not expect it to blow up like it did).
Asking Questions in Person: telling the story of walking into the shop to ask the owners questions, I had no idea how intentional this theft was when it happened. View the linked video to see more about how the conversation unfolded.
The Artist's Confession: sharing the email that admits my artwork was ripped off. Aaron Meurer, of Meurer Graphics, is the out of state freelance designer that did the work. In the email, he apologizes and explains that the work was commissioned by Arlington Hardware and the store provided my artwork as a source material.
Copyright and Original Work: a little bit about copyright and some common misconceptions regarding derivative work and copying.
Different Values: this video explains why I am so uncomfortable being associated with this store. The things that this Ace Hardware store sells and stands for do not align with elSage ethics and values.
Attorney Response, Graphic Designer Edition: my attorney sent letters to both the designer and the owners of Arlington Hardware. The same attorney replied for both parties. Here is the response for the graphic designer. It admits that Arlington Hardware took my work, the graphic designer altered it, and Arlington Hardware sold it with their business name on it.
The Copyright Collection: from adversity often comes a creative response. This situation is not any different. We have released a whole new collection of designs reworking the Pacific Northwest theme that we have been creating since our original PNW design in 2014 (before PNW designs were ubiquitous). You can find this collection in our online shop.
Update: The Everett Herald put together a story on this situation and the serial infringement of Arlington Hardware. Read the story here.