“Public Domain”- Works in the public domain are those whose intellectual property rights have expired or have been forfeited. … As rights are country-based and vary, a work may be subject to rights in one country and not in another. Some rights depend on registrations with a country-by-country basis, and the absence of registration in a particular country, if required, implies public domain status in that country.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_domain
I was doing my usual searches a few weeks ago and stumbled onto a Zazzle Site. I saw one of my Poe images being used for coffee mugs, necklaces, and pillows. My original drawing was based on one of the rare photos of Edgar Allan Poe. Unlike the original photo, I cast Poe’s eyes to the side, slightly reduced his neck size and enlarged his forehead and added a wrinkled brow. I also drew his hair disheveled looking like silhouettes of ravens. My original etching showed Poe and the raven, with the raven larger than Poe. This etching had been cropped and was the same image used in these Zazzle items. My etching “Edgar Gets an Idea” https://www.etsy.com/listing/101513483/raven-series-edgar-gets-an-idea-graphite
The Zazzle shop was run by R.C. Eberz. I googled the name and discovered that he was a wonderful artist who does these great children’s book illustrations. I contacted him and demanded that item be taken down. He contacted me immediately and removed the items. In follow up email he explained that he had hired someone some time ago as an assistant, who was now fired. The assistant was supposed to look for public domain reference images for his various on-line shops. He had actually paid a for a vector art image that was supposed to be copyright free – “public domain”. Unfortunately neither he nor his assistant ever did an image search to verify copyright ownership. He turned out to be a great guy and he was helpful and apologetic.
I have been searching for my art on public domain sited. I found two Russian sites (Russians again!). Both had my images for sale as “copyright free”, both I tried to contact, and both sites were gone in a couple days. It seems these are roving sites, making money off of artist’s artwork. They are operational for a few weeks and then they move to a new web address; impossible to track, impossible to contact. Most of these thieves are Russian and Chinese, both countries that did not sign the international agreement of The Digital Millennium Copyright Act. I learned that Mr. Eberz also had his work absconded by Chinese image thieves.
In order to maintain copyright, the owner must be vigilant.
If a copyright is not enforced it can become public domain.