Author Topic: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images  (Read 5895 times)  

Offline Melody Simmons

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Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« on: July 10, 2018, 04:43:11 PM »
This is being discussed in groups on Facebook and I felt it is important enough to post here since not everyone uses Facebook all the time.  I also feel it is important to warn especially newer authors to make sure they know where their cover designer is getting images from - and to be aware that instances like this often happen in places like Fiverr or 99 Designs.



Edited again to add: The specific allegation is that a designer producing ostensibly original illustrations for fantasy covers instead based their illustrations on a variety of preexisting images, both illustrated and photographic, pulling elements from here and there and using digital overpainting to weave them together, without having permission to use the foundational images. One example showed how a well regarded cover illustration actually appears to combine someone else's illustration with part of a photograph of a known actor's face and details from a photograph of a suit of armor. Four other such example were included. - Becca
« Last Edit: July 11, 2018, 12:57:40 AM by Becca Mills »

Offline WasAnn

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2018, 05:16:23 PM »
Oh my goodness! I haven't had that problem, but I also use very few designers with wide trust bases.

That said, looking at the combined images above, all I'd wonder is where they got such an awesome digital painter for their book covers. How in the world would an author know how to find those images after they've been diddled like that? Is there a list of designers who are doing this that we can avoid?

Offline Melody Simmons

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2018, 05:21:16 PM »
Oh my goodness! I haven't had that problem, but I also use very few designers with wide trust bases.

That said, looking at the combined images above, all I'd wonder is where they got such an awesome digital painter for their book covers. How in the world would an author know how to find those images after they've been diddled like that? Is there a list of designers who are doing this that we can avoid?

I guess that is a problem.  I believe these were identified by someone who does a lot of online gaming.  The designer may have a lot more covers out there with elements drawn from less well-known sources than these obviously popular ones.  I don't have any real answer to this, except to verify a designer's reputation by word-of-mouth.  And to be very wary of places like Fiverr and 99 Designs...you could also ask the designer to give you the reference to the source stock models used.  Even designers who hand-paint digital art usually use models as a reference.  They need to be careful not to use popular actors and copy their faces.

[Link redacted for the time being.]



Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca
« Last Edit: July 10, 2018, 07:51:53 PM by Becca Mills »

Online Patty Jansen

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2018, 05:25:40 PM »
It gets even more murky because when you go to any fan con, you'll see that fan art (which copies characters and scenes verbatim from movies, games etc.) is out in the open and for sale everywhere, so obviously someone is not terribly worried about it, never mind that it's illegal. Some of the artists are awesome and make BANK at these conventions. So the next step, to use these images for original art, may not be a huge step in the artist's mind.

Offline Melody Simmons

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2018, 05:29:47 PM »
It gets even more murky because when you go to any fan con, you'll see that fan art (which copies characters and scenes verbatim from movies, games etc.) is out in the open and for sale everywhere, so obviously someone is not terribly worried about it, never mind that it's illegal. Some of the artists are awesome and make BANK at these conventions. So the next step, to use these images for original art, may not be a huge step in the artist's mind.

Yes I also thought about this - that the person did not do it out of malice but out of ignorance.  Cover designers need to become informed about copyright in the publishing industry. Fan-art is supposed to be strictly non-commercial, and even then it is risky if there is no proper permission from the copyright holder.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2018, 05:36:57 PM by Melody Simmons »

Offline celadon

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2018, 05:30:09 PM »
There's no excuse for this.

I am not "victim blaming" because I don't think all authors know this. But if the cover is cheap (under $100) and it has original artwork (not stock photos or some form of photography), then beware! All these examples look like digital art more than photos (though some photographs were digitally edited and enhanced to look more painted).

I'm familiar with https://www.selfpubbookcovers.com/index.php and their vetting process is pretty strict. I can't guarantee that their vetting process is foolproof, but I'd be much more comfortable dealing with them than with fiverr or something.

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2018, 05:44:00 PM »
This is scary, especially for authors who look for original art...  Thanks for posting.

The designer is obviously very skilled, though, and it might be a matter of ignorance more than anything. Still, of course, it's a huge issue. And it's impossible for an author to know if the image was taken from a legal image bank or not. Yikes.

Edit to add: asking for the artists to provide their sources might be a good idea with newer or unknown artists. That's a great idea.

One thing I'll comment is that 99 designs is not cheap, though, especially with a top-rated designer like that one. For me it shows that a book cover at that site costs C$329 to C$849 (in Canadian dollars).

Another comment is that most reputable designers at Fiverr ask you to pick your own image, usually at Depositphotos, so I don't see how this type of mistake could happen there. Full disclosure: I used a Fiverr designer for typography for one of my covers with custom art and she asked me if I had the rights for the image before proceeding.

I understand the desire to blame cheap artists, but I don't think that's what's happening here.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2018, 05:47:31 PM by Day Leitao »

Online Patty Jansen

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2018, 05:47:46 PM »
Yes I also thought about this - that the person did not do it out of malice but out of ignorance.  Cover designers need to become informed about copyright in the publishing industry. Fan-art is supposed to be strictly non-commercial, and even then it is risky if there is no proper permission from the copyright holder.

When you're at these cons, you will often see creators of the games and movies in question wander through the Artist's Alley and chat with the artists. They know it happens, they judge the benefit from allowing it greater than the fallout from suing people. In this fan circuit, licensing etc is pretty much a non-thing.

So never assume malice where ignorance will suffice.

Offline Alan Petersen

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2018, 05:52:34 PM »
There's no excuse for this.

I am not "victim blaming" because I don't think all authors know this. But if the cover is cheap (under $100) and it has original artwork (not stock photos or some form of photography), then beware! All these examples look like digital art more than photos (though some photographs were digitally edited and enhanced to look more painted).

I'm familiar with https://www.selfpubbookcovers.com/index.php and their vetting process is pretty strict. I can't guarantee that their vetting process is foolproof, but I'd be much more comfortable dealing with them than with fiverr or something.

The designer in question was paid between $300-$500 per book cover so just because you're paying more than $100 doesn't mean you're in the clear.

Very eye-opening warning for us to really do our due diligence. Can we ask a designer for license information that they can send us? Or have them sign something guaranteeing all images they're using are legit. Just brainstorming here.



Edited. See my post below. - Becca
« Last Edit: July 10, 2018, 09:11:52 PM by Becca Mills »


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Offline Melody Simmons

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2018, 06:00:38 PM »
The designer in question was paid between $300-$500 per book cover on so just because you're paying more than $100 doesn't mean you're in the clear.

Very eye-opening warning for us to really do our due diligence. Can we ask a designer for license information that they can send us? Or have them sign something guaranteeing all images they're using are legit. Just brainstorming here.



Edited. See my post below. - Becca

I think if it is photo-manipulation it is pretty easy to ask for the reference to where the image was purchased.  The main problem will lie with hand-painted digital art, where the author may assume that the person is creating a character or dragon or whatever from scratch.  They should ask for the reference - like I said many digital artists may base their work on references.  If they are truly drawing from scratch then they should have rough sketches of their initial work that they built up progressively.  If they are looking at references they should have the images to show you - some use 3D models from Daz to base their work on, and that is allowed for commercial purposes.  If they use stock models then that is fine. Some purchase 3D space ship renders and if they have the correct commercial license that is fine.  But if they are drawing from movie stars and non-commercial images and their drawings look like the source, I think the author needs to check on this and inform them it is not allowed if they do not know.  Or if they have space ships and fantasy scenes that look awesome - ask them to show how they created that. 

Ask for their source reference images, then do a Google reverse image or Tineye search and see what comes up.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2018, 09:12:27 PM by Becca Mills »

Offline WasAnn

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2018, 06:13:09 PM »
I guess that is a problem.  I believe these were identified by someone who does a lot of online gaming.  The designer may have a lot more covers out there with elements drawn from less well-known sources than these obviously popular ones.  I don't have any real answer to this, except to verify a designer's reputation by word-of-mouth.  And to be very wary of places like Fiverr and 99 Designs...you could also ask the designer to give you the reference to the source stock models used.  Even designers who hand-paint digital art usually use models as a reference.  They need to be careful not to use popular actors and copy their faces.

[Link redacted for the time being.]


Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca

I just went and looked at here. Nothing at all in her stats indicates even one tiny problem! And she ain't cheap. Her work looks absolutely amazing.

Which scared the bejeeberus out of me.

If you can't see anything at all wrong, how in the world can an author know. I mean, I know my *current* cover designer's are good because I see the digital sketches of each element and approve them individually for the custom artwork, plus approve all stocks for the other designer, but if I just went shopping for someone new, I would suspect nothing wrong at all with that one.



Edited. See my post below. - Becca
« Last Edit: July 10, 2018, 09:14:08 PM by Becca Mills »

Offline Melody Simmons

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2018, 06:16:52 PM »
I just went and looked at here. Nothing at all in her stats indicates even one tiny problem! And she ain't cheap. Her work looks absolutely amazing.



Edited. See my post below. - Becca

Mmm...we'll see what happens as I believe this was only discovered today and authors are still being contacted.  But yes I think unfortunately an author must get fully involved in their cover design and not just give a commission and accept the result without question.  You are involved in the selection of images and looking at sketches which is good.



Edited. See my post below. - Becca
« Last Edit: July 10, 2018, 09:18:04 PM by Becca Mills »

Online GrahamCrackers

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2018, 06:58:57 PM »
I actually know exactly what book cover that first set of images comes from and I really enjoyed reading it. I do however have a question. Unlike the other images you shared, couldn't that one be considered a derivative piece of art? It's clearly influenced by the other 3 images, but the composition looks "inspired by" as opposed to an absolute exact copy?

Genuinely curious where the line is drawn (pun intended!).

Offline ShayneRutherford

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2018, 07:38:38 PM »
I actually know exactly what book cover that first set of images comes from and I really enjoyed reading it. I do however have a question. Unlike the other images you shared, couldn't that one be considered a derivative piece of art? It's clearly influenced by the other 3 images, but the composition looks "inspired by" as opposed to an absolute exact copy?

Genuinely curious where the line is drawn (pun intended!).

The armor was a custom-made piece, and not a piece of stock at all, so it should never have been touched. And it looks like [an actor's] face was used, which is also not cool. Not sure about that illustration in the middle, but the artist had no right to at least two of the pieces.



Edited. See my post below. - Becca
« Last Edit: July 10, 2018, 09:20:18 PM by Becca Mills »
     

Online Becca Mills

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #14 on: July 10, 2018, 07:49:11 PM »
Locked until I can take a look at this later, once the kids are in bed. A quick skim hasn't given me the full picture.

Edit:

As the general warning here -- that even what appear to be original illustrations could violate copyrights, if the illustrator incorporated or based their work on images he/she did not have permission to use -- is extremely important, I'm unlocking this.

I've removed 1) a number of images of book covers matched with source images allegedly used without permission; 2) a link to the site of the designer said to have made the covers; 3) the name of the site where the designer could be hired; 4) a lengthy accusatory quotation from somewhere or other, asserted to have been copied with the writer's permission; and 5) other identifying features.

Y'all who've been here a while know we don't do hearsay. If a KBer who actually bought a copyright-infringing cover from this designer would like to civilly relate their personal experience, that would be permitted. If a KBer who had an image or photo used without permission would like to civilly relate their personal experience, that would be permitted. But that's what it would take to get into the specifics, here.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2018, 09:36:23 PM by Becca Mills »

Offline ShayneRutherford

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #15 on: July 10, 2018, 10:11:47 PM »
Since this post has been pruned so brutally that it now has no useful information at all, maybe this would be a good subject to discuss more fully over at that new indie site that K'Sennia Visitor started a short while ago. Here's the link... http://indieauthorhaven.freeforums.net  Maybe someone could start the thread over there and fill in some of the info again? I would have started the thread myself, but the site won't let me post for some reason.
     

Online Patty Jansen

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #16 on: July 10, 2018, 10:18:29 PM »
I don't often disagree with moderation, but this pruning is ridiculous.

If a book is quoted so that we can all gawk and laugh at it, fine.
If it is because of rumours that are unproven, fine.

But the images actually *showed* how and where the artwork was copied. This constitutes real evidence, and as far as I'm concerned, a community like this should be about provable evidence. There was clear evidence. People (artists and authors alike) really need to be warned about this and that it's not OK.

Offline lilywhite

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #17 on: July 10, 2018, 10:30:18 PM »
I agree with Shayne and Patty. There is almost no value at all in a thread that says "Be careful because a cover designer might rip off other covers and images." Like, no duh. The value here was in seeing the images side-by-side and understanding what the infringement looked like.

And I know someone who had 1800$ worth of covers with the artist in question scheduled to start TODAY. Fortunately she saw the kerfluffle on Facebook, but what if she weren't on Facebook? This needs to be talked about openly.

Offline Tulonsae

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #18 on: July 10, 2018, 10:36:31 PM »
Facebook is pretty big. When you say something is being discussed on Facebook, where would one find it?

(I've seen the "being discussed on Facebook" in a few threads so I'm not just talking about what the OP posted. I guess that means this question is somewhat off-topic.)

Online Becca Mills

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #19 on: July 10, 2018, 11:18:28 PM »
I think the general warning is useful. The possibility of misuse of images in developing original illustrations hadn't really occurred to me; now it does. I don't use the person Melody identified, but you can bet I'll be double-checking with the person I do use to be sure they have appropriate rights to any images or photos they used in developing the illustrations they've done for me.

But if the consensus is that there's little value in getting a general warning out to people who buy illustrations, then I'll lock the thread.

If someone directly involved in this wants to start a new thread, that would be great. People who choose to turn their own experiences into an opportunity for others to learn and protect themselves are community heroes, and we welcome those sorts of threads.

But laying out other people's allegedly copyright-infringing book covers on a heavily trafficked public forum, perhaps deepening those authors' legal risk? No. Serious allegations about named individuals conveyed second- or third-hand? No.

Offline Carol (was Dara)

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #20 on: July 10, 2018, 11:48:48 PM »
I appreciate that the forum rules are intended to ensure fairness, prevent witch hunts, and so forth. That said, I had nearly $1,000 worth of covers reserved from this designer. Because of the identifying information shared by other writers, I was able to request a refund before the work began. If there had been no identifying information and no photos of the specifics, I would have spent $1,000 on covers with potential copyright issues, through no fault of my own.

It's perfectly possible that the designer simply acted out of inexperience and now knows better. But for me, personally, I can't afford to buy covers with a question mark over them. I feel like KBers need to have this kind of information in order to make the judgement for themselves.

However, I do appreciate the point about how images of specific covers could cause problems for the authors of those books, so I realize stuff like this is a tough call. Beyond that, I'm obviously not in a position to speculate on the whole business.

Offline TimothyEllis

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #21 on: July 11, 2018, 12:11:10 AM »
I think the general warning is useful. The possibility of misuse of images in developing original illustrations hadn't really occurred to me; now it does. I don't use the person Melody identified, but you can bet I'll be double-checking with the person I do use to be sure they have appropriate rights to any images or photos they used in developing the illustrations they've done for me.

I'm sorry, but this is not enough.

Sure we now know to check. But what is stopping an artist from LYING, and taking your money, because they desperately need the money.

This is information we need to know. If an artist has done this once, as far a I'm concerned, they are on the avoid like the plague list, and I want to know who these people are.

Online Becca Mills

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #22 on: July 11, 2018, 12:38:57 AM »
It is tricky, Carol.

Back in the day, I think the details of this situation likely would've been shared here quickly by one of the authors who received suspect covers -- a personal experience, reported by the person it happened to. There simply weren't all that many other venues for indie authors to share information, so conversation was fairly centralized here. Now the "indie conversation" has many places, a good number of them private groups, and people may be less likely to share their experiences here at KBoards. The lack of information here pushes more people to seek out those private venues, and the dynamic snowballs. The people left out are those without access to those private venues, either because they don't know about them or because the venues are invitation-only.

I'm not sure what to do about that dynamic. We really are dependent on people choosing to publicly share things that happen to them here.

I'll fill in a little more detail to the OP in a note. Most of the OP was a quotation whose source could not be verified -- maybe it was a comment from a Fb post? not sure -- which is why there's so little there now.

Ann can take a look at this when she comes online in the morning and see what she thinks.

Offline Melody Simmons

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #23 on: July 11, 2018, 01:03:27 AM »
It is tricky, Carol.

Back in the day, I think the details of this situation likely would've been shared here quickly by one of the authors who received suspect covers -- a personal experience, reported by the person it happened to. There simply weren't all that many other venues for indie authors to share information, so conversation was fairly centralized here. Now the "indie conversation" has many places, a good number of them private groups, and people may be less likely to share their experiences here at KBoards. The lack of information here pushes more people to seek out those private venues, and the dynamic snowballs. The people left out are those without access to those private venues, either because they don't know about them or because the venues are invitation-only.

I'm not sure what to do about that dynamic. We really are dependent on people choosing to publicly share things that happen to them here.

I'll fill in a little more detail to the OP in a note. Most of the OP was a quotation whose source could not be verified -- maybe it was a comment from a Fb post? not sure -- which is why there's so little there now.

Ann can take a look at this when she comes online in the morning and see what she thinks.

Thank you for not banning me from Kboards!  I started the thread because I felt this is a real danger that needs to be brought to attention of all - designers and authors alike.  Actually my information was just second-hand (or actually third-hand) from Facebook, but others involved did not want to post here - for different reasons.  Some designers told me they do not like posting here because often a whole crowd of angry people will descend on your post if they do not like what you say...a sort of mob mentality.  I agreed to take the plunge and post however as I have been a member of Kboards for many years and I mentioned to them that the moderators here help to keep the place in check! 

Anyway for those who want to know more I think if you do a search on Facebook for "unauthorized stock usage" some posts should appear.  But I agree that this is a very public place as opposed to a private group so maybe it is not the best idea to put forth all the information here.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2018, 01:23:25 AM by Melody Simmons »

Offline Melody Simmons

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Re: Authors Beware - Popular cover designs with stolen images
« Reply #24 on: July 11, 2018, 01:18:30 AM »
Since this post has been pruned so brutally that it now has no useful information at all, maybe this would be a good subject to discuss more fully over at that new indie site that K'Sennia Visitor started a short while ago. Here's the link... http://indieauthorhaven.freeforums.net  Maybe someone could start the thread over there and fill in some of the info again? I would have started the thread myself, but the site won't let me post for some reason.

Haha Shayne you're on your own - I already took the plunge here when no one else wanted to.  Not doing it again.

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