The Art Of Property Theft For Profit

I’ve been doing really well at my Redbubble store lately. This well:

Screen shot 2015-12-07 at 3.22.52 PM

I just got paid over $50 for last month’s Redbubble sales, and I already have $15 in pending sales for this month and it’s only December 7th. At least $25 of the money they just paid me will go to charity, as soon as I have time to figure out which one. The rest will go towards buying me a new phone case.

Not too shabby considering that I only make a tiny slice of the profits. Redbubble does all the heavy lifting, so they get the vast majority of profits. All I do is draw things and upload them, so I suppose it’s a fair deal.

Anyway, I want a new phone case, so I just made this one for myself, which I have to say, is pretty awesome:

Screen shot 2015-12-07 at 3.27.23 PM
Available here.

Currently, I have a crappy case that came with my phone with a Redbubble sticker by another artist on it:

South Highland Ram Dog
South Highland Ram Dog by Gregory Titus

I love that sticker, but I hate the phone case, so I was going to order a new phone case with my griffin on it, and another South Highland Ram Dog sticker.

Then, it snowballed into having to buy six stickers, because if you buy any six stickers on Redbubble, they’re all discounted by 50%. This is why I make so little profit with stickers.

Anyway, I need six stickers to get the discount, so I started browsing, and to my dismay, I discovered very little original art in the most popular stickers.

Most of them involve stealing intellectual property from some other creative person. Here, I’ll show you what I mean. The image below is a screenshot of the first page of the best-selling stickers on all of Redbubble:

Screen shot 2015-12-07 at 3.37.55 PM

Out of twelve best-selling stickers, we have what looks like four original drawings: the elephant, whatever the brown animal thing is below it (Edit: I’ve been told that’s stolen from The Lion King), sunflowers and cats. Other than that, we have Doge, NASA, The Office, Sherlock, Kim Karbasherin, Ghostbusters, Stitch, Tumblr, and Rocky Horror.

Except for Kim K., those last few are other people’s intellectual property. Those characters and logos were either designed by someone else who holds the rights, as in the case of the straight-up stolen Ghostbusters logo and Stitch, or they are hinting at someone else’s intellectual property like Sherlock and Rocky Horror.

I highly doubt that those people acquired the rights to use those designs. If they wanted to, Columbia Pictures, Tumblr, Disney and NASA could force the people who are selling those stickers to stop and even sue them for proceeds.

Intellectual property rights are a sticky wicket, which is why I’ve never put anything in my Redbubble store that I didn’t create myself.

Well, that’s not entirely true. My best-selling design is a mashup of two others that I didn’t originally create, the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings logos. I wanted this design on a t-shirt and I couldn’t find it anywhere, so I drew it myself.

Screen shot 2015-12-07 at 4.07.59 PM

I intended to take it down after I ordered my shirt, but between putting it up and ordering my shirt, it sold a bunch. Shamefully, I was easily swayed by the money, so it’s still up there. I have sold 98 products with that logo on it. It is my best-selling design and it’s not even entirely mine.

Though I did draw it myself by hand, I’m guilty of property theft, too. The Tigers and Red Wings could force me to take that down and there’s nothing I could do about it.

As I was looking at stickers, since I’ve already proved that I’m greedy, I thought, well, if all these other people are making money by stealing shit like the damn NASA logo, why can’t I? I could draw Dr. Who and Star Wars and other popular stuff! Theft = profit!

I could totally draw Star Wars characters in my style, put them up there and rake in the dough. Hell, I already drew a stormtrooper for Twindaddy, when he won my contest a million years ago. I could easily put that on Redbubble and it would probably sell like crazy, because it’s damn cute.


But, then I think about how guilty I feel that my Detroit D-wing is still up there and still making money. Even though I did draw it and it doesn’t exist anywhere else, it’s still not entirely my property. It belongs to Detroit.

To be perfectly honest, it irritates me to no end that some of the best-selling stickers on all of Redbubble are completely stolen designs. You shouldn’t be able to steal the damn NASA logo like that. It’s one thing to do your own take on it as I did with the stormtrooper and D-wing. It’s something else altogether (I think they call it theft) to straight-up copy the original Ghostbusters logo and sell it yourself.

What say you? Do you think it’s okay to create your own take on someone’s intellectual property, should the original stuff stay sacrosanct, or something in between?