3.24.2006

Entertainment, Weakly

My shitty month gets shittier.

Last December, I sent my latest promo postcard to five or six contacts at Entertainment Weekly, among all the other names on my mailing list. It was the final of four Suburban Supergirls calendar cards, and featured this image, along with my contact info, on the back:



I received my new issue in the mail today, only to see this image, by John Ueland, on page 23:




I mean, come on. It's even the same guy! I suppose it could be a coincidence, but that'd be a little easier to believe if I hadn't sent the damn thing less than a month ago!

41 comments:

Jay Geldhof said...

Upside is, at least yer ideas are WORTH swiping!
That sucks, Pally.

Will Pfeifer said...

Yeah, that does suck, Rob. Good concept. Good enough to steal, apparently.

Bastards.

Brian G. said...

the only difference I see is that their "illustration" actually looks like Keith Olberman.

But seriously.. that's a bummer.. probably not a good idea to send people your ideas.

Sidd Pitt said...

Mehk. Rockem' sockem' isn't that original an illustration concept. Neither is Entertainment Weekly suing you for using their images online clearly without their permission.

Ian Walker said...

That Sucks!

Anonymous said...

I agree that that it's a cool concept, but I'm not sure what you're suggesting that they should have done. Their execution of the idea is way, way different than yours... are you saying they should have hired you to work on their layout? Or paid you a percentage of what theirs made?

Most likely, your postcard was just a node of inspiration. A gray area, sure, but a compliment nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

Like they say in "The Red Shoes":

Isn't it better to be stolen from than to have to steal?

Regardless, it does indeed suck.

Sharif said...

Sorry, didn't mean to post that anonymously. Again, cool postcard, but just wondering...

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you feel cheated that they didn't buy your illustration from you. But copyright does not protect ideas. And it should not. It protects the particular execution of an idea. Or are you suggesting that you're in favor of laws that would let hack artists churn out 1000's of 'art' works everyday, so that they can sue everyone under the sun when some other work 'infringes' on theirs?

TsH said...

The trick
The real trick to protecting yourself as a freelance illustrator, is the keep banging shit out so fast that not only will they have to hire you (before someone else does) if potential clients copy your ideas more than once, you might have the basis for a suit.
Or not.
Who knows? I'm sure you have other really good ideas.
Why not send a light-hearted comparison to the art director(s) and offer to personally oversee any future adaptations of your concepts?
Chin up, baby. A drawer draws. (sic)

http://squidfartz.blogspot.com/2005/09/back-to-drawing-board.html

Jay Geldhof said...

"Sidd Pitt said...
Mehk. Rockem' sockem' isn't that original an illustration concept. Neither is Entertainment Weekly suing you for using their images online clearly without their permission."

REALLY? Damn, Dude! Yer a bit of a TOOL, ain't ya? You were a "Hall Monitor" back in school, weren't ya? Yes, yes you were.

Will Pfeifer said...

Hey Rob...did you know this post made the pop culture lineup at BOING BOING? Lotsa people are gonna know about it now!

http://www.boingboing.net/2006/03/25/did_entertainment_we.html

Robert Ullman said...

Wow, amazing what a Boing Boing post stirs up, ain't it?

Okay, some things:

Thanks for the kind words, all.

The Second guy in my illo is Al Franken...I did it for Denver's Westword back in summer of '04.

Regarding the "node of inspiration'...I'm sure this is a possibility. This sort of thing happens to me from time to time. Maybe someone at EW saw it, quickly forgot about it, then when Bill O'Reilly got all riled up the idea popped back into someone's mind and they thought they'd come up with it. Or maybe it was John Ueland's idea...he's a fantastic illustrator, he could have just as easily come up with it himself. And as someone pointed out, the "Rock'Em Sock'Em robots" idea, while clever, isn't the most original idea in history.

I'm frustrated because I've had a bad month...one client goes Chapter 7 owing me money, another gives up the children's book biz...and then I see the almost the same illo I sent on a promo piece in the pages of a magazine by someone else. In light of the streak I'm on, it's so ridiculous that it's almost funny. I'm not accusing anyone of stealing my idea, and I'm not calling any lawyers, it's just an irritating and somewhat...somewhat...suspect happenstance.

Above all, I wish they'd just called me to do it!

Chris said...

Honestly, Robert, I've seen illustrations like this for a while now when there is some type of face-off.

Yours was not the first, by any means....but I do like your art.

Robert Ullman said...

Thanks, Chris...and I agree with you! It's just the fact that I sent them an illo almost exactly like this with Bill O'Reilly actually in it so recently that got me riled.

Michael Righi said...

Entertainment Weekly did nothing wrong. You, Robert Ullman, however did.

First, the idea of putting two heads on fighting robot toys is funny but not that original. It's also somewhat of an obvious idea. I mean think of the logic involved here. A: Rock Em Sock Em robots fight eachother. B: Keith Olbermann and Bill O'Reilly "fight" eachother. C: You decided to combine the two themes. Ooooh.... so original! *sarcasm*

You shouldn't be any more bothered by the fact that EW stole your idea (if in fact they did which I'm not convinced) than Mattel should be that you stole theirs. Seriously, art should be a little more about sharing and open influence and a little less about enforcing copyrights to the point of retarding other's creativity. Read the book Free Culture and check out Creative Commons and you might be convinced to agree with me.

And finally, here's the way in which you messed up. For the sake of discussion, let's pretend that Entertainment Weekly did indeed get their idea for the magazine spread from you. They borrowed your general idea and recreated it from scratch. You, however, grabbed an entire image from their magazine and reproduced it on your web site in its original form. Did you get permission to use that picture from the magazine? I didn't think so. Who's the hyprocrite now?

Mark D. said...

For all those that keep claiming wrong-doing in posting the EW spread on the site, I would say that it's nothing, and may qualify as Fair Use, much like how wikipedia uses images of publications and materials without directly obtaining permission, it's obviously not for profit, and is used for critical commentary. In any case, you're splitting hairs as the image is used purely for comparison, and it is obviously stated that it was from EW and even the illustrator that did the image is credited.

I know this happens from time to time, something comes out that's suspiciously similar, but independantly developed, though I agree, the similar in concept and subjects are awfully close. I find it very odd how many people keep saying that it's nothing new; obviously the idea of rock'em sock'ems isn't when it comes to comparative images, but the people depicted facing off and even the specific sides were personal choices. I feel people keep over-looking this, it isn't so much the general elements, but the specific ones that make it so odd. There is a certain fine line between interpreting an idea and recreating it part-for-part, whcih unfortunately come up all too often in creative fields.

Len said...

If you need some muscle to rough those guys at EW up, Rob. Let me know. :)

Robert Ullman said...

Mark D., thanks for crystallizing my feelings on the matter, perhaps better than I did. Again, it's the numerous similarities that grabbed my attention...it seemed strange. Go back and read the first post...I think it was a perfectly logical reaction.

Michael, if you bother stop back, please chill with the accusations of hypocrisy. If my credited posting of the EW illustration on my personal blog doesn't fit within the confines of "fair use", which I believe it does, then they can contact me and I'll remove it immediately. I never said anybody "stole" anything, that was Boing Boing's opinion. I simply pointed out that the circumstances were weird.

Besides, I think we can all agree that Pittsburgh is awesome and Bill O'Reilly is a nasty little bully.

Blackie said...

Rob

As your freshly scrubbed check falls upon your downy-soft pillow tonight, rest assured that yours is not only the first Rockem' Sockem' O'Reilly, but it is easily the better of the two. You see Robby, your illustration is the one that actually captures Bill's fat bloated maggot-filled potato head actually popping off his soon to be lifeless robo-corpse...and it is this attention to detail that leaves you heads above E.W.

Alonzo the Armless said...

Sorry about your recent streak of bad luck. Hopefully, the EW illustration marks the worst of it and it all goes uphill. Time to do my part and order some of your works.

Michael Righi said...

Robert,

Sorry for the personal hypocrisy attack. I regret that now. I'm pretty passionate about copyright related issues and I think I let myself get a little carried away. Perhaps I let the Boing Boing comments, along with some of the comments people made on here rile me up a bit too much.

Also, after thinking about it a bit more, I agree that your use of the image from EW is probably considered fair use. I read through Wikipedia's fair use entry and it seems to support your use of the image.

That said, even if Entertainment Weekly did get their idea from your drawing, I wouldn't be upset by it. You're a good artist with visible talent...I'd save my worries for when somebody directly stole my original work and took full credit, if I were you. Of course, I hope that doesn't happen.

P.S. I'm glad to hear you're also a Pittsburgh fan. Now if we could only whip our hockey team into shape! :-)

Robert Ullman said...

Man, I'll just be glad if there's a hockey team to whip into shape after next year. I love them Penguins...and they've got a great future, with Evgenii Malkin coming over from Russia soon and another high draft choice in June. They need to work out the arena issue, get settled, and get back into the postseason. There is nothing in sports more exciting than a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs!

Ant said...

"You, however, grabbed an entire image from their magazine and reproduced it on your web site in its original form. Did you get permission to use that picture from the magazine? I didn't think so. Who's the hyprocrite now?"

OK, I'm not a lawyer, but I suspect this may fall under fair usage in order to illustrate his point. It's also very clearly stated where the image was from.

Ant said...

Ah. That'll teach me to read to the end of the comments before posting my own.

Dread Pirate Robert said...

But EW's is in colour.

Seriously, it's obvious. It's the same thing -- you probably gave them the idea for the mindless page-filling article too.

Anonymous said...

Plain & simple, those bastards ripped you off!

Anonymous said...

http://lurid.com/forum/

Julie Oakley said...

Oh I really, really wouldn't want to be John Ueland with all the publicity you're getting. He was probably feeling a bit jaded and finding it a bit tough to come up with something and your image kept on getting in the way of an original idea. Normally I think most illustrators who complain that someone has ripped off their idea are talking rubbish - usually their ideas aren't half as original as they think they are. However I think in this instance there does appear to be more than coincidence

pete said...

While I'll admit it's fishy, there's always the possibility that this is a case of graphic design related convergence -- whereby two people come up with a similar solution to a specific problem. The fact that they're SO similar is what makes it suspicious. But hey, you telling me that if you're illustrating an article about a pointless conflict between two windbag talking heads and some guy in a suit at your creative meeting suggests 'rock-em-sock-em robots' you, as an illustrator aren't going to think that's a great idea? I'm not defending Entertainment Weekly (toilet paper used to come in rolls) and I certainly rush to Ullman's defense.

All I'm saying is, as an Illustrator, I'll do ANYTHING to keep myself out of a situation where someone could accuse me of ripping someone off. I'd like to think that if E.W. knew about this beforehand, their Illustrator didn't. Rose colored glasses? maybe.

Robert Ullman said...

My apologies go out to John Ueland...as I said before, I dig his work, it's fantastic, and if he came up with the idea for the spot, then this is all just a big coincidence, and I'm the asshole who's sorry I involved him in my paranoid fantasy-world.

Allan L. said...

What a great discussion/argument/whatever! I came here via Drawn!, by the way. I hope next month ends up being better for you, man.

remgeo said...

I would be pissed. What (if any) recourse you have is another matter. I wouldn't assume Ueland was to blame, but rather EW's AD for passing direction on to him - of course, that assumption could also be false. Personally, I would start with a letter to EW, citing the similarities (sans accusations) and simply request a statement from them on the matter, and take it from there. Maybe they'll blush. Perhaps the only ground to be gained at this point might be to get a partial credit, but I think that's a worthy pursuit.

tone said...

Robert , here is am idea. Do a new drawing and paste or draw your face on the robot socking the other robot with the company's logo on the other head and with it exploding. Send it along with your original drawing and the recent one with the copied version. Sock to them. Whamo!!!! Tit for tat.

Anonymous said...

Dude, I feel sorry for you, the same thing happened to me few weeks ago on a motion graphics job. I felt so pissed that day. It is happening more and more, some 'small' creative directors scan other people's works or even digitize some animations from others for a presentation to their clients...

Oliver said...

I was asked to have my (only) short story turned into a comic once, which I okey'd promptly... now if a picture tells a thousand words, why were you not at least asked?

bad luck mate, but it just resounds EW (and the rest of the advertising world) as shmucks in my mind.

great art and a great site none the less.

- Oliver

Goldpimp said...

I hear that the New Yorker is famous for taking one artists submission and sending the idea over to another artist to execute. They have even at times sent checks to artists for the sketch / idea that somebody else executed. Why? Who knows, maybe they are banging that artist and not the other, maybe they like that one's style better?

My take is it is not a rip-off that has much merit.

Great thread!

Anonymous said...

"Their execution of the idea is way, way different than yours"

Huh? It's pretty much the same. There is no doubt that the robots were pretty much copied from the original illustration.

Yea, that sucks.

Anonymous said...

Michael Righi said...

Entertainment Weekly did nothing wrong. You, Robert Ullman, however did.

Let start off with the most obvious part: you're an idiot.

First, the idea of putting two heads on fighting robot toys is funny but not that original. It's also somewhat of an obvious idea. I mean think of the logic involved here. A: Rock Em Sock Em robots fight eachother. B: Keith Olbermann and Bill O'Reilly "fight" eachother. C: You decided to combine the two themes. Ooooh.... so original! *sarcasm*

If you don't think the particular timing, the particular choices of characters, and the style of it all is a strange coincidence, well, I don't know what to tell you. You're obviously from outer space. Oh, and "clever sarcasm" doesn't even impress third graders anymore.

You shouldn't be any more bothered by the fact that EW stole your idea (if in fact they did which I'm not convinced) than Mattel should be that you stole theirs.

He didn't steal anything. He's reproducing an image for comparison, which falls under fair use. Amazing that a CC fanboy shouldn't be able to recognize this.

Seriously, art should be a little more about sharing and open influence and a little less about enforcing copyrights to the point of retarding other's creativity. Read the book Free Culture and check out Creative Commons and you might be convinced to agree with me.

Why is it that all you zealots have to bring these idiotic points to every discussion? There's a place for discussing general copyright issues, and it's not this thread. And for the record, not everyone who reads that book automatically has to agree with you.

And finally, here's the way in which you messed up. For the sake of discussion, let's pretend that Entertainment Weekly did indeed get their idea for the magazine spread from you. They borrowed your general idea and recreated it from scratch. You, however, grabbed an entire image from their magazine and reproduced it on your web site in its original form. Did you get permission to use that picture from the magazine? I didn't think so. Who's the hyprocrite now?

You? As I said, amazing that someone who gets so riled up over copyright issues doesn't know what fair use is. Besides, even if such a concept didn't exist, it would hardly be hypocritical to post the picture (assuming your premise that they really did get the idea from Ullman). Perhaps unlawful, but that's not the same thing.

In summary: you're an idiot. Wait did I already say that? Oh well, it's worth repeating.

Jesper petersen said...

very cool
Digg / All News, Videos, &
Images

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