An answer to theft. Free background design download!
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.
Thank you so much not only for sharing this free download, but for sharing your heart and your deep feelings. This is just so wrong on so many levels. But, I appreciate your spirit of kindness and generosity. Let’s pass THAT on!
Dearest Heidi, I was joyful reading your post today about losing the resentment over people who steal from you and how you changed it around and decided to GIVE instead. I, too, went through this struggle with my photography as I saw my photos being stolen from my website and blog and used illegally. I went through the same discovery process as you!
I decided to let go of the anger and instead share many of my photos for free on the stock photo site Pixabay. I had gone there many times to grab free photos to use in my composite work. An artist took those photos and gave them to me for FREE! I was so appreciative! I KNEW I had to pay back by sharing some of my own.
As a result, love, appreciation and money has poured back to me a thousand-fold! My photos are on 8 book covers, magazine covers, with articles, in advertisements, on websites, etc..etc…all over the world! My favorite: two of my photos were framed and used in a Hallmark Christmas movie titled “Magic Stocking”! My photos have been downloaded more than 685-thousand times! Every day I get letters from people who have used my photos for free and what it has meant to them. I have also received hundreds of dollars in coffee donations on the site.
It has also lead to a wonderful paying job! You know those flower bouquets you can pick up at the grocery store? I will be the photographer for the Michigan Great Lakes Living Campaign because the brand developer saw my work on Pixabay!
So, imagine the utter “magic” I felt when I saw that you used my photo from Pixabay as the background of your quote by Wes Stafford in this post! You were saying exactly what I am living by letting go of anger and setting yourself free. Heidi, you are wisdom beyond your own comprehension. What you do on a daily basis is important to mankind. Keep spreading your joy and commitment to making us better people. The rewards are great for EVERYONE! Much love, Jill Wellington
Oh my goodness Jill, your comment gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes! The fact that you took the image that I chose for this quote (out of all of the photos!!!) blows my mind and puts me in complete awe of this life! Thank you for sharing your story, your talent, and your gorgeous work with the world! I truly believe we are all connected…. And this is just further proof!
You are amazing, my friend.
What a generous response. May the universe repay kindness with kindness.
You are a doll and an angel on earth! What a fine example you are to our industry!!! Proud to be a part of it!
I have been in the throws of domain theft this past month and I can tell you that I know how you feel. You have a brand, build it, invest in it and then someone just walks up to take it from you. I am sorry that you have been targeted and that this happened…it adds up to a lot of wasted hours and a lot of annoying and terrible annoyances.
Good luck and keep plugging away.
thank you for being so giving when it would have been easy to just get mad and give up! I give a lot – time, sessions to those in need to uplift them and volunteering a LOT to any group that asks. Sometimes, I have those moments I want to give up – maybe I am tired and maybe I am just cranky, but then sweet people like you share that we are not alone in this world and it helps to keep me going! Your backdrops are GORGEOUS and thank you for the free download… you will probably get more business giving then just getting mad – I know i will be looking at your page and watching you succeed from afar!
Heidi, everything you do is impressive but this really is amazing! Taking control of a negative situation to turn it into something helpful for others! You’re an inspiration in so many ways!
Heidi! You are amazing! You have such a huge heart and I love ya for it. And to donate it to Stephanie’s organization. AMAZING. I hope to bring the Confetti Foundation to a hospital near me, where my nephew spent the first 4 years of his life. I thought my sister and I could donate our time and energy to those in need, just as you are! Thank you again for being some awesome! I am so glad I have been learning from you over the past few years! <3 <3 <3
Thank you and what an example you are. Thank you for showing us all how to respond with class and grace.
Wow.. thank you so much ..you are a true inspiration to others .. thank you xxxx
Heidi you continue to amaze me!! I needed to read exactly THIS today!!!
Thank you for always being so generous!!!
Wow thank you so much Heidi
I am SO terribly sorry that this has happened! It isn’t right!!! I have always wanted to buy a background and practice on my grandchildren first, but finances prevailed not to. I am delighted to give this a try. My only question is….what size do you print it out, to make a background work? Who can do this? Again, sorry for your lost design. But I think some great things will come of this. I was at your Seattle workshop a couple of years ago.
you are truly amazing. Not JUST for sharing this with everyone, but for seeing past the negative and helping to spread positive energy into the world! Heidi, I wish only the best blessings for you in this world!
I am a photographer in a town of 1000 people in Montana. I have the most reasonable some say below reasonable prices because I can’t stand the thought that I live in the poorest county and many of the families, single moms could 1. never pay the city prices, 2. have the ability to travel 72 miles to the nearest place to even have them taken. I have MS and somewhat limited so between the two we get along just fine. I will offer your digital backdrop to those children who may never have had a birthday picture taken…ever and I will offer it for free. I pinch pennies so I can buy legal stuff from lights to drops to camera equipment. Good for you and a bonus for me and a blessing for those who I photograph!
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