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  1. #1
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    Angry Art thievery and copyright

    This link was posted on one of the blogs I look at periodically, and I was stunned. A man is being sued to have his copyright overturned so a mass-manufacturer can continue to plagiarize his work - and the copier is even suing the original artist for damages!

    Artist's page and explanation can be found here:http://www.johntunger.com/legal-defense-fund.html

    He only asks that people post the link, and I figured this is one of the best places to do it. I am so enraged as the unfairness of this, not to mention the absolute gall of the thief!I have never posted here, just lurking about, but this incident just really hit that button, and I felt I should inform people about this case. If the artist loses, who knows what the legal ramifications are?


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  4. #2
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    What a bunch of Asshol*s!

    give the man his rights back!

  5. #3
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    one post from the op, and in the link the guy does not say who the big bad corporation is or info about the trial or any links to prove that any of this is going on, and he promises a metal bowl to anyone who gives his fund $800? Something seems a bit fishy here.

    While if he's telling the truth its messed up, my scam detector is tingling here. It's like the artist's version of "please send money to help my family in such and such an African nation escape direct peril!"

  6. #4
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    Wittrig should be sued if only for having crappy music on his site. Other than that I like to hear both sides to a story. I admit to not having read the whole thing but I couldn't see any evidence of copyright infringment, i.e. a copied design or artwork. May be true, may not be, can't really tell.

  7. #5
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    If this is for real, I'm guessing that the suit is something like "you can't copyright putting fire in a patterned bowl; its been done for centuries, and this artist having a copyright on it hurts our company's ability to do business."

    A fairly valid argument, imho.

  8. #6
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    it sounds like a hoax, just by this or donate and i can defend myself.

  9. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Coene View Post
    one post from the op, and in the link the guy does not say who the big bad corporation is or info about the trial or any links to prove that any of this is going on, and he promises a metal bowl to anyone who gives his fund $800? Something seems a bit fishy here.

    While if he's telling the truth its messed up, my scam detector is tingling here. It's like the artist's version of "please send money to help my family in such and such an African nation escape direct peril!"

    Uh Peter, he posted a link to the lawsuit PDF barely one paragraph from the top.

    and if you scroll down just a bit further, he not only mentions the name of the company suing him and the owner, but also links to this: http://dockets.justia.com/docket/cou...case_id-45468/



    The rest of the article is an interesting/worthwhile read...either way I would say definitely NOT a hoax.

  10. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oden View Post
    Uh Peter, he posted a link to the lawsuit PDF barely one paragraph from the top.

    and if you scroll down just a bit further, he not only mentions the name of the company suing him and the owner, but also links to this: http://dockets.justia.com/docket/cou...case_id-45468/



    The rest of the article is an interesting/worthwhile read...either way I would say definitely NOT a hoax.
    Thanks for pointing that out. In that case I reassert my second post and would like to say that glancing through the pdf it seems that I was right in my second assessment. It appears that the company is suing him because what he is claiming to be his I.P. (putting fire in a metal bowl) is too generic to be copyrightable.

    I mean, the first oil lamps were basically just that: funny shaped bowls for burning stuff. Its old enough a concept to have fallen into public domain before King Tut was born. In threatening distributors by claiming a copyright on something that he has no right to call his own he hurt the other company's business, thus effecting their livelihood. It's only natural that they should sue him and by all rights they should win. I have no sympathy for him and hope that he ends up paying them every penny that they lost because of him.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Coene View Post
    It appears that the company is suing him because what he is claiming to be his I.P. (putting fire in a metal bowl) is too generic to be copyrightable.
    I don't think this is an accurate description at all. He's not claiming that putting fire in a metal bowl is his I.P. He's claiming that he owns the copyrights to his specific designs, which he registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.

    The other guy isn't just making fire bowl pits--he copied the exact designs of the artist. If he was making his own designs, there wouldn't be an issue.

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  13. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by emily g View Post
    I don't think this is an accurate description at all. He's not claiming that putting fire in a metal bowl is his I.P. He's claiming that he owns the copyrights to his specific designs, which he registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.

    The other guy isn't just making fire bowl pits--he copied the exact designs of the artist. If he was making his own designs, there wouldn't be an issue.
    Its still the question of how generic the designs are. You can't draw a stick figure and copyright it then expect to sue everyone that draws stick figures.

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    Putting the two sites side-by-side, it certainly looks like somebody is ripping off somebody.

    Tristan Elwell
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    I haven't read the lawsuit documents, but some of the statements in the first linked page suggest the declaratory judgement lawsuit may be exploring copyright validity issues related to the "useful article" problem that the clothing people have so much trouble with. Trying to characterize clothing designs as "soft sculptures" basically got those people nowhere. This is interesting, though, because these are not hamburger grills. I don't think it would be unreasonable to liken these things to a flame version of a fountain.

    This guy probably could have avoided this problem by also getting a design patent and implementing a trademark/branding strategy.

  16. #13
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    Peter, John Unger hasn't exactly tried to copyright the entire genre of "fire in a metal bowl" sculptures...he has just copyrighted a few his of designs/names.

    For people who haven't read the article:

    FirePitArt/Rick Wittrig are suing John Unger (the artist whose site is linked to) for damages, and to overturn his copyright.

    They are arguing that although his fire pit art/designs are copyrighted under Sculpture/3D designs, they are actually
    (foremost, I guess) just functional fire pits, and therefore not protected as art.

    This is despite the fact that Wittrig (who has copied and is selling John Unger's designs) "sells his copies at art fairs, describes himself publicly as an artist, and even uses the word art in the name of his business."

    And like Arttorney said, these aren't hamburger grills.



    From John Unger:

    "When Wittrig first launched his website he offered only six designs of firepits all of which bear an uncanny resemblance to my Artisanal Firebowl sculptures. One of these even initially bore the exact same name as my Waves O' Fire...Prior to the launch of his website, I have been unable to find any documentation of Wittrig making any original art."

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