Monday, September 23, 2013

My Art Belongs to Me: An Important Update

I want to thank everyone who read my last blog post (over 700 people at the last count). It has been a difficult, distracting ten day-period since I first contacted the District of West Kelowna in British Columbia over art they had used without permission, attribution and compensation on their website.

Thank you to those who took the time to tell their own stories about their art being misused or abused in some way. I believe that sharing our voices gives them strength. Thanks for the warm support and encouragement you provided to me here, on Facebook, Twitter, in messages and emails. It meant so much to me.

I have to say a huge thank you to Margaret Atwood for retweeting my blog post link to 429,342 followers. Completely amazing. When I thanked her for her tweet, she said the kindest things about my paintings. For an English lit major turned artist, that was a euphoric moment in an otherwise very difficult week. I'm actually still floating.

I want to thank Toronto architect Sheena Sharp of Coolearth Architecture Inc. who saw Ms. Atwood's retweet of my blog link and sent a wonderful letter to Mayor Findlater in West Kelowna about my case and in support of artists in general.

Thanks to my family here and in Ontario for their support. Another historic event of the past week was that my mother posted words of support on Facebook for me. She abhors Facebook. She did it for me. I also received a lovely email with words of encouragement from my father on the weekend. He closed with: "Keep on doing your beautiful art & remember that most people are honest enough to admit that they made a mistake."

That is what I wanted to believe but I wasn't sure it was going to happen.

I have very good news. It did. I have received a very thoughtful letter from Kirsten Jones, Communications Supervisor on behalf of the District of West Kelowna. 

They heard me. They heard you. We have made a difference.

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Here is Ms. Jones' letter for you to read.

Dear Ms. Maunder:  
It is with tremendous regret that I read about the suffering you have undergone due to the District’s use of an image you indicate you have copyright for. I certainly don’t want you to think we take this lightly, that is far from the case. Those involved in this situation have been deeply impacted by your words and I can tell you, changes have come about within our organization, directly due to this difficult situation.  
Yes, we are a government body. But the District of West Kelowna is a new municipality, five years old, with a very small number of communications staff. Indeed, although we try to be everywhere, see everything on the approximately 820-page website we manage, we simply cannot. In this particular case, we were not there and, unfortunately, a mistake did happen. An inexperienced website content provider selected a pretty image from the internet that she thought would brighten up the webpage dedicated to our fall recreation guide. There was no malicious intent on her part, no inkling that the image was copyright.  
After you indicated where you had found the image on our webpage, I took a look and it was instantly obvious to me that these images were not “clipart” at all. The Maple Leafs image is truly beautiful, a work of a gifted artist. I immediately had them removed from our website.  I then spent some time viewing your other work, reading your comments on your social media sites and websites. I know, without a shadow of a doubt that you are dedicated to your craft, passionate about what you do and it clearly shows in your work. I can understand why you have felt so unhappy with what I am sure appears to be cavalier use of your art as “clipart.” I am truly sorry for this and want you to know that the District of West Kelowna values the arts greatly, and in fact we’ve just finalized a cultural plan intended to promote the work and efforts of local artists.  
I also apologize for the time it has taken for us to respond to you thoroughly on this matter, but regretfully, municipalities receive a lot of claims of harm from various avenues and we simply must fully investigate to ensure we have all the information.  
We have discovered that a content provider was unclear about what images from the internet are safe for public use. We have rectified this misunderstanding internally to ensure something like this never happens again.  
Although we feel removing the image, which we immediately did, was truly the correct course of action, we can appreciate that you feel compensation is needed. We therefore offer payment (...) for the past use of your image as we feel this is the right thing to do.  
We are preparing the appropriate paperwork as I write this and we will be sending this to you in the near future in the form of a letter. You are welcome to post this reply on your social media sites and blog. 
Sincerely, on behalf of the District of West Kelowna, 
Kirsten Jones, Communications Supervisor, Municipal Hall
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Thank you, Ms. Jones and your colleagues, for listening and making changes in the way you do things. Thank you for the serious, measured nature of your response. Thank you for understanding that what you initially thought of as a small oversight was actually much bigger. Copyright infringement can never be considered an oversight. It has financial ramifications for artists and very real emotional ones. I hope that what I have gone through here will help other artists in the future. I am also very happy to know that you have a cultural plan to promote the work of local artists.

I am grateful to all of my readers, both new and old. Please keep speaking out about how hurtful it is to use artists’ work without permission, attribution and compensation.  Continue to stand up for yourselves and for fellow artists. From my heart to yours--thank you!

16 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Sherry, for your support.

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  2. Love a happy outcome! Good on you for sticking up for yourself, Kathleen!

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  3. Nothing like sticking together when something bad or wrong happens ! The more, the more powerful ! I am so glad about this turn of event, and applause Mrs Jones' reply. I keep wondering how would French equivalents would have done or reacted, in the same situation ...
    xoxo

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    1. I agree Sonia and I continue to be impressed about how wonderfully warm and supportive the online art community is. Thanks for your ongoing support, my friend.

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  4. That is awesome Kathleen - good for you!!!

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    1. Thank you so much, Lisa! I appreciate your support.

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  5. I'm so sorry this Happened Kathleen. and I'm so glad you told them!!! Bravo. love to you,Diana

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    1. It was a hard thing to live through but a great lesson in how speaking up for yourself is a good thing. Thanks so much for your support. :)

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  6. Thank you, for being strong enough to stand up for yourself and others.

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    1. Thank you so much! I really hope my experience helps others. That would be wonderful.

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  7. GOOD for you, I´m glad! :-)

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  8. Dear Kathleen - catching up on your previous post and the great outcome in this one. I am so glad that you managed to get the situation resolved. Sounds like they are taking things into hand and making restitution. So glad they are.

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  9. Anonymous2:31 PM EDT

    Wow, an incredible resolution to a terrible situation! Congratulations Kathleen!

    Tasha ~ MossAndBerry

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  10. I´m so glad that things got sorted out in the best way.

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Thanks so much for taking the time to visit my blog and to leave me a comment. I love reading them. -- Kathleen

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