A couple weeks ago I got a notice from Etsy. This painting of mine was one of many listings across Etsy to be targeted by Warner Brothers as copyright infringement.
I try to draw from my own original creativity when painting, but it’s pretty hard not to allow some influences seep in and usually it’s other artists’ styles that can be found in some pieces of my work. I never copy and I definitely don’t steal (which is more than I can say for Ali Express, which has made a habit of thieving my work and selling prints of it online).
Have you picked up yet on what part of this painting was considered intellectual property? You might have to squint. Ah, yes, there it is. The green mask adorned by the American robin. (That’s lower-cased robin, not capitalized, since the latter might be crossing a line.)
It’s a common bird that signifies the return of spring. And it happens to be wearing an iconic mask that signifies a sidekick of a character once portrayed by Adam West.
When I painted it, I meant it to be a pun. Or at least a meta joke. It’s a general reference that most people would get. But evidently it’s not allowed.
I was surprised that the Warner Brothers scout would have even noticed that little mask. And I was even more surprised that something so trivial would have invited the wrath of the copyright police. Is that mask really copyrighted?
Well, after digging a little deeper, I found my true error. In the list of tags that I included in my Etsy listing (words that might be entered as a key phrase for shoppers), I actually used the definitely-copyrighted B–man word. You know what I mean, right? The fellow once played by Adam West.
Obviously I should’ve known better than to use that specific proper noun. To amend my misdeeds, I now will donate every penny of the purchase price of this painting to Asbury Woods, a local nonprofit. And let that be a lesson to me.