Theft: A Different Perspective

Along with carols and shiny plastic, the holidays bring a particular kind of desperation to otherwise upstanding human beings. The result of such pressures is unfortunately theft, or copyright infringement. The practice is infuriating, the chagrin of small time creative operations. Many, therefore, do what they fear is the only option: whistle blow. 

My social networks and creative forums have been lit up like a Christmas tree for weeks as artists lament everything from, "Ha, guess I do coffee cups now..." to "These assholes stole my shit!!" There is no right way to steal, but is there a wrong way to be victimized?

If you are the victim of a theft, consider a few key points to handling the situation with grace:

Who is the thief?

No one likes to be caught with their pants down, even corporate America. Behind the concrete castles and parking lot moats lie real people trying to do some form of honest job. For some people (perhaps the CEO) these businesses are their babies, their freelance careers gone wildly successful. In an age where bad press is worse than any press, the dry brush of the Internet can be catastrophic. Before lighting the match, consider how turning tables would fare.

While odds from sheer numbers suggest corporate guilt, it is possible some college kid sold them 'their great idea'. A business person who feels 'creative' by removing 30% of a freelancer's design may have cashed in on your 'missed opportunity'. I have met many of these people and recognize their ignorance is sometimes the fall of bigger entities. If your problem is with Goliath, however, that's a completely different fight. Send your lawyer some Christmas cookies with that link.

What is the nature of their response?

Timing is everything, not just where deadlines are concerned. How quickly was the response made? Were you directly contacted by someone powerful enough to fix the problem? If the response is not urgent, likely the culprit is internal. Again, bad press is not an option, particularly in a social scenario (more on that below). If someone higher up the ladder makes contact after the report, greatly increased are the chances of resolution.

Was their attitude apologetic? First response is telling in any scenario, and after discussion whether over the phone or via email, the vibe will be clear. Decide beforehand what should be done and communicate in understanding yet firm language. Bargaining ensues; walking away satisfied follows.

Were you a professional?

Tempting though it is to bare injustices to the Interwebs, the best place to start is a private phone call or email to a higher-up. While your language and tone should be controlled on social media, those speaking up for you may be less tactful. Abrasive attacks will not begin the negotiations well, and keeping a cool head is paramount. Once resolved, the possibility of work exists (I mean, they were trying to sell it- why not?), particularly if professionalism remains intact. 

Great case study: Jennifer Daniel, splendidly off-beat illustrator and designer for Bizweek, found her work on Lululemon, splashed across a water bottle. A friend contacted the company, prompting a phone call to Miss Daniel. She publicly reported the rectified scenario, restoring good faith to women's athletic apparel.
 

Merry Christmas to all! May your work be ever safe!