In December 2015 I hopped on Periscope and declared my New Years Resolution.
Here’s a recap:
No time to watch? Basically, it was to GIVE more, without fear of consequence. Without the feeling that there “isn’t enough.”
As a mom of 3, just returning from maternity leave with my youngest and running 2 businesses, it is easy to feel that there “isn’t enough” to do it all. Not enough time. Not enough resources. Not enough energy.
Not enough wine!
As soon as work picked back up, I was left feeling like I had nothing left to give. I wondered if I was crazy for making such a resolution. Maybe my resolution should have been: more spa days.
But, life has a funny way of putting what you need directly in your path.
And I needed to let go.
You see, since starting my business in 2009, copyright infringement has been a common theme I’ve faced. I know many of you have as well. Time and again, creatives have to come to terms with this problem.
I’ve witnessed everyone in the photography industry from prop shops, to template companies, to knitters, to writers, to frame companies, to photographers themselves being stolen from.
This has continually been an area where I struggle to trust the outcome.
Recently, I’ve had a new form of the same old problem on my doorstep.
My hand-painted and hand-created background design images have been stolen and are being offered on a website called Ali Express. If you are not familiar with this site, it is an international online marketplace with most shop owners operating out of China (a country where US Copyright Infringement is extremely hard to prosecute).
These shops are taking low resolution screenshots of my background paintings, altering them, and selling drops for a fraction of the price that American companies can afford to produce my product for…
Because we have to pay taxes, and fair wages to workers, and skyrocketing healthcare costs, and all of the myriad of other costs that are sending huge American corporations overseas to run their businesses.
But small businesses don’t have that luxury.
Mom and pop shops, soloprenuers, designers, artists, and small manufactures (to name a few) can’t just uproot their entire company to compete with the cheap cost of doing business in another country.
Nor should we want to when the evidence of labor abuse, inhumane working conditions, child labor and unfair wages is so prevalent.
When we know better, we should do better.
There is also the issue that these illegal reproductions are being sold to other artists to use in the backgrounds of THEIR photography work. So photographers are unknowingly using copyrighted work in the backgrounds of their photos without permission and opening themselves up to liability.
If you are a photographer reading this, such vendors may also be using your copyrighted images without permission to sell their products (another huge problem on Etsy, Amazon and Ali Express).
Here are just some of my drops that you can go right now and purchase illegally, for a great bargain, on Ali Express:
Go right ahead if you would like to knowingly support them.
Because last night, I got to thinking…. I could spend years paying my lawyer to battle this issue.
Or I could find another solution.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It starts with you and me.
Instead of being angry at this whole situation, I saw it as an opportunity to choose joy.
I woke up with a crazy idea…
and was immediately filled with gratitude towards the entire situation.
I was filled with gratitude towards every person who has ever stolen from me. I promise I haven’t lost it. You see, these challenges have helped me to finally learn this lesson:
What we truly possess can never be taken.
So in the face of this, I have decided to GIVE.
I have decided to take my most popular “stolen” design and give it away. For FREE.
First, I am teaming up with Photo Prop Floors and Backdrops and giving a printed copy of my drop to the amazing Confetti Foundation. The Confetti Foundation supplies birthday party kits to children who spend their birthdays in the hospital. Through the party kits, children of all ages are celebrated and honored on their special day. If you would like to learn more about this organization or donate to them, click the button below!
Next, if you love this background painting, I’m giving the digital design file to anyone who wants it for free! That’s right. Moms, dads, neighbors, photographers, competition, clients….
You can download it below for personal use or use in your studio photography.
Get it printed for your studio. Make a canvas out of it for your kid’s room. Make it a background at a birthday party. Use it. Celebrate with it. Spread joy with it. Create art with it.
I will paint 100 more designs. Because creativity is limitless. Yours and mine.
What you can give to the world is limitless.
It cannot be stolen.
In giving this design, I hope that I encourage you to boycott companies that are operating businesses illegally on Ali Express (or other sites) by stealing from legitimate artists and designers.
In lieu of paying me for use of my design, please consider donating to the Confetti foundation and please share this post!
Help show the power of choosing joy.
Help it spread around our industry.
And perhaps help other creatives who are facing the frustration of copyright infringement in any of its forms.
If you do download and use my hand-painted design in any way, I would LOVE to see it! Tag @heidi_hope, #heidihope and #givemore on social media! Please show me the beauty that can come from this all!
I hope that all future benefits from the use of this design go directly to charitable donations. For that reason, I am not permitting any background companies to distribute this design for their personal/corporate profit at this time. I still intend to stand up for the protection of my own copyright when I can, because I believe in upholding the value of copyright for all artists out there.
I will continue to create from a space of joy. I will continue giving to others as much as I can.
And I will never stop painting and sharing my work.
Now, go ahead and download! And enjoy!
Photographers, you can learn more about the problem of background design theft in this group on Facebook and protect your company from the liability of using stolen designs in your work. Jenn, the owner of Photo Prop Floors and Backdrops (who legally sells many of my background designs) has been working tirelessly to raise awareness about this issue and has graciously supported me in my donation to the Confetti Foundation by printing and donating the drop for them.
Spread the joy!
Update 3/3/16 Wow, the response to this has already been overwhelming! I’m so impressed and humbled by all of you. So many people want to help. In response to many emails I have received: if you have purchased an illegally reproduced design for use in your studio (the only 2 vendors licensed to sell my designs were Photo Prop Floors and Backdrops & Design Revolution…. not ali express, not anyone on etsy, not any other vinyl backdrop company), my suggestion would be to contact their customer service and ask for a refund or replacement drop using a legal design 😉 If you’re unsure of a company’s legitimacy… ask questions before you buy! Some bargains really are too good to be true.