Grossed Out by Alleged Mimicry


As web and mobile applications (or ‘apps’ to those that dig buzzwords and brevity) become more and more popular (and lucrative), we are seeing more and more infringement in the apps sphere. An app is somewhat distinct from other forms of art because the code for the app is covered by copyright protection, and the app itself may be subject to patent protection. Those that infringe the rights of the creator of an app therefore get a two for one – copyright and patent infringement! Take a look at an alleged act of such infringement, below.


UPDATE: Upon looking into it further, it appears as though Alex Pardee’s developer Jarryd Hall contacted us, The Black Axe, back in May of 2011. Jarryd was looking partner with us, the creators of Gross Out, to make the app work for iPhone either with our art or “other art or design”. Does anyone still think it’s cool?

The email:


Seems pretty blatant to us, but we are curious what you guys think. In 2009 my small 5-man Florida/Brooklyn based design firm The Black Axe created a web app called Gross Out. Gross Out allows users to upload or take a photo of themselves (or anything) and smother it with the lowbrow horror-slop illustrations of accomplished illustrators Horsebites and Derek Deal. Gross Out was a huge success for us. We have had over a million unique users and millions of images get the sloppy treatment and it continues to grow.

Here is a user generated image of Tom Cruise blogged by UK based blog Always Thinkin on October 28th 2009:


Now here is an image of Ryan Gosling blogged by Alex Pardee on July 12th 2012 to promote his “new art/photo app” :


An application with basically the same interface, used to apply essentially the same style illustrations; fucked up? You be the judge. As professionals with a following, albeit small in comparison, it is difficult for us to believe Mr. Pardee or his developers were not aware of our Application. Not yet sure if it is worth pursuing legal action, but it definitely smells.

Trelise Cooper kids rips off Emily Temple Cute Lulu

AttorneyScott Commentary:

In the United States, unlike most developed nations, the cut or silhouette of a piece of clothing is not subject to copyright protection because the powers that be feel that clothing is ‘utilitarian’ and thus cannot be art. Many would disagree, I imagine.

The design printed on the fabric of a garment is, however, subject to protection as a two-dimensional work of art. If someone copies the fabric design of another without permission, that someone will be liable for copyright infringement. Is that the case below?



You’d think after Grey-Bow-Sweater-Gate Trelise Cooper would be done with plagiarism. Especially of Japanese brands, as Alannah Hill got picked up for ripping off Emily Temple Cute around the same time. Yes, ladies, other people who like fashion have heard of Japanese lolita brands as well.

But I saw this Trelise Cooper kids’ dress on Ebay and thought it looked strangely familiar:


Lo and behold, a quick squizz at Yahoo Japan confirmed my suspicions:


This is an earlier release from Emily Temple Cute ‘Lulu’. The print has been uglified slightly, but it’s still 100% a rip off.

Copyright Fatality? Derivative work or lawful reference?

AttorneyScott Commentary:

One of the exclusive rights that inures to a copyright holder is the right to create a derivative work from an original copyrighted work, as previously discussed. If another artist creates something that adds on, embellishes, or transforms that original work, she may obtain copyright protection for the work that she added, but she cannot exploit the derivative without the authorization of the copyright holder in the underlying work.

Looking at images for inspiration and then created an original work inspired by that image or images is fair game, however, so long as only the idea is used and the expression is new and the author’s own. ‘Referencing’ an image is somewhat of a closer call, as the legality will be decided by what it was that was used during the ‘reference,’ whether or not that material is copryightable, and the amount of the taking.

Recall the big AP photographer v. Shepard Fairey ‘Obama Hope Poster’ rigamarole – Shepard got creamed in that case because it was shown that he basically traced and colorized an original photograph. The result may have been different if he had simply taken the placement of Obama’s hands, or the way his head was tilted, and added all new material around that element. Or, maybe not. What say you in regard to the alleged taking below?



Fatal Clothing references photographers images without consent for their t-shirt designs.

Photographs by Dangerously Dolly and Greg Truelove

Fatal Clothing llc.
Owned and operated by Bill Gaylord & Mark Atkins. We are located in Southern California.
Fatal Clothing specializes in Traditional Tattoo Influenced art. Servicing consumers worldwide via internet, retail stores and wholesale distribution. Mark Atkins started his early venture working out of his garage while in high school designing T-Shirts selling to friends and family. As the popularity prospered, it was apparent to Mark, to grow the business he needed help. In late 2008, Bill Gaylord joined forces with Mark to take Fatal to the next level. Today, Fatal Clothing currently sells to hundreds of Retail stores worldwide. Our reputation for providing unique artwork, quality and service has impressed all our clients.
We strive to stay on top.
Fatal Clothing or Fatal Rip-Off?


Drawing a blank?


In the world of audio-video works, it can be difficult to show the substantial similarity between an author’s original work and somebody else’s knock-off. This is due to the large number of variable and design elements in such works, and the mostly lawful ability of someone to create an homage or ‘inspired-by’ sort of piece that apes a prior piece’s style.

Below is a link to a YTWWN reader’s original work, which lampoon’s the layperson’s lack of hockey knowledge, and includes creative and quirky hand-drawn animation adds. There is also a link to a Luminosity ad that had the author of the first video scratching his head. It is not yet known if little white spiky jagged animated streaks shot forward from his head as he did so. Is the second piece an homage to the first? A rip? To what extent is there a difference?



Last fall I was working at a design studio in Seattle called Digital Kitchen and was able to work on a personal project. For those who know me well, or even briefly, know that I am a diehard Canadian-born hockey fan (Canucks) living in the US. I decided to use this as the subject matter and wanted to get the opinions of some of my fellow American creatives on the sport of hockey, which they may or may not know anything about. I combined that with a simple cell animation style that I had yet to really experiment with.

The project turned out great and I had a lot of fun doing it. It wasn’t a style that I invented or even advanced in anyway, but rather a simplified version of some other really magnificent work.

Then last week I got a few emails and messages from design friends saying that they had seen a commercial on TV that looked exactly like my Hockey 101 video and if I had done it? I hadn’t, but still checked out the link I was being sent and sure enough it was an almost shot for shot remake with different content animations and people. It was the same simple white drawing overtop of footage as people answer questions or expressed thoughts and the imagry appeared. As opposed to my video where I hand drew each animation, theirs was a cheaper knockoff with looping animations that didn’t have the same effect. I didn’t know whether to be flattered or angry.

My animation had generated me no profit, nor was I interested in it doing so. I would have been thrilled to have been contacted by Lumosity or whoever was producing the content to create something similar to my previous video and be able to benefit that way. Instead someone basically cookie cut my concept, framing, execution, and animation without any reference to myself and generated a ton of views and is probably profiting from online and broadcast spots.

I may be wrong and just need to toughen up, but I would love to get a few more perspectives or some advice on how/if I should proceed in any way.



They thought this little monster wouldn’t notice

AttorneyScott Commentary:

Sometimes, an apparent theft will not only be an instance of copyright infringement, but also one of trademark infringement. If an artist uses a piece of art as a brand or logo, that is to mark their goods or services when marketing them to the public, it is possible for a thieving pirate to infringe said artist’s copyright and trademark rights by purloining the proprietary property. Could this have happened in the below case?



I have come to your blog via a friend.  I will try not to vent as I share my experience.  I created a flash based site so that my artwork would remain on my site.  Only recently did I create a portfolio with copyable jpgs, pngs, and the likes.  Here is my original logo I created for my site in 2006:

Original Logo


Every so often I google my name, my art persona, and a few other choice keywords just to find my ranking.  Today I found this:

Stolen-Alisa Piotrowski's logo for Artistic Monster

They were too lazy to even change the font.

They have a week to take it down, or hire me for the logo design.  I am afraid to know what else of mine was stolen.


Thank you for having a blog where people can post and publicly humiliate those who steal.


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