Cease and Desist by Kabbalah Update

Posted on June 1, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |


This is really starting to suck. Kabbalah’s attorney’s contacted me again, (after reading this blog) this time demanding all materials related to the project. What am I supposed to do, turn over my software, computer, paperwork, source files? I didn’t sign a contract with them, I signed one with their vendor. It said I would give them animations, not source files. What’s worse is their demand for all materials related to the project.

First of all I’m not sure what that means. I’m assuming all of the video, graphic elements and 3D objects I used for it. The problem is that except for the images and video I used, which was provided by the company that hired me, I either created some things from scratch or used the library of materials I had already created for my self or other projects. Back when I was in college we had an assignment to create a 3D Earth. I’ve been tweaking it ever since, each time I got a client that wanted a planet Earth in their video. Why should they have a right to that? I created a prism as a way to experiment with creating realistic light, background textures for 2D and 3D work, etc. They shouldn’t automatically have the right to all of those materials. Otherwise every time a graphic artist created something on their own, and used it in some fashion in a piece, they’d lose it forever. I wonder how deep this goes. I offered to sell the source files way back, but they weren’t interested. I warned them that they wouldn’t be able to do much with them without the appropriate third party plugins I bought for my various software, having the same software versions, same fonts, etc. I certainly can’t provide those, then I’d be breaking another law, reselling a software companies product that is licensed only to me.

What rights do graphic artists have? Do our clients have the right to learn the tricks that make us so unique? Source files can certainly reveal that. What about tricks that have nothing to do with source files? Can they demand to be told how you accomplished a certain look so they can replicate it without having to go through the trouble of paying you?

The lamest part of this is that I gave them a ridiculously cheap price for what turned out to be alot of work because they are a non-profit religious group. Obviously they are no different from any corporation. I was never even contacted by Kabbalah themselves, they sent a whole BIG TIME NEW YORK law firm. Obviously some of that non-profit money is going somewhere.

It’s a shame that a religious group who claims to be so enlightened, who tells you to think happy thoughts to be a happy person, to share the light so to speak, has so many hang-ups about copyright infringement. Imagine that Catholic Church suing a tattoo shop because the artist gave someone a tattoo of Jesus? Imagine a synagogue suing someone for reminding others to “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you”, or “You shall not covet thy neighbors house”, or “Though shall not steal”.

I did politely ask them if they minded if I kept this situation public. I’m sure there are many designers and artists that could learn a thing or two from the situation. For starters: non-profits are just like everyone else. And, as Steve said above, don’t assume you have the right to show work in a portfolio, even though my interpretation, as well as many other artists and their lawyers, make sure you get it in righting that you have the right to show the work. Speaking of which, to Steve’s at Beanywood’s point above about showing your work to get more business could be construed as making a profit, I don’t work as a freelancer anymore. I work for an agency. Having samples of my work on a portfolio site is just a way to say “I’m an artist, see what I can do”. 


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One Response to “Cease and Desist by Kabbalah Update”

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I wouldn’t give them the materials…that’s not part of being a graphic designer. I work for a newspaper and we have clients that try to do that all of the time, and lo and behold, when they do manage to get their talons into the artwork/files, we find our work popping up in direct mail/magazines/other areas that we’re not getting credit for (or paid for that matter.)

From what I remember of my copyright class in college, unless it was put forth in the contract itself, they get the finished piece. They do not OWN said piece…all artistic copyrights are retained by you.

When you create a work you automatically own the copyright to that work for your lifetime, plus 50 years. You don’t have to publish the work or register it to own the copyright. You can write “cease and desist” letters telling someone to stop using your copyrighted work even if the work has not been registered. You can file for a copyright at any time, but you cannot legally file an infringement of copyright action unless you have registered the work in question.

You are allowed to showcase what work you have created in your portfolio…from what I’ve read, they can’t make you take it out…however, with that being said and knowing how litigious some of these…um…religions can be…I would remove it from the portfolio just cause it’s not worth the headache…but I would NOT give them anything. They don’t own it. You do.

(at least from what I was taught and have read throughout the internet on copyright law. when in doubt, seek a consultation with a copyright attorney, but these laws were put in place to protect the artist, just for instances like that because our art is all we have to make our money off of. 🙂

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