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Change the World by Helping Out John T. Unger, a Fellow Artist

by Clint Watson on 10/27/2009 12:18:00 PM

We've watched and learned over the months from sculptor John T. Unger, creator of Artisanal Firebowls.  He's been a great source of inspiration and information for artists who want to make a living with their art and forge their way into this brave new world of marketing and selling art online.  In fact, we have relied on John's experiences to illustrate the effectiveness of the marketing ideas we teach in this space, including quoting him here and here.  John was also featured a few months back in an interview on the Lateral Action blog:  an interview we linked to, tweeted and recommend all artists take the time to read.

In short, John has always been a friend to the art community...sharing his artwork, his ideas and his stories.  We've all learned a lot from him.  We've all benefited from the help he has generously provided.

And now, John is asking for your help.  

In the post, we have republished the situation, in John's own words.  If you would like to help him, feel free to contact him directly.  

You can also read the full story on John's blog and find out how you can get involved by clicking here.

The following originally appeared on John T. Unger's blog:

I need your help. My original art has been copied by a manufacturer who is now suing me in federal court to overturn my existing copyrights and continue making knockoffs. I have a strong case, a great lawyer and believe that if I can continue to defend myself, the case will be resolved in my favor. If I run out of funds before we reach trial, a default judgment would be issued against me and could put me out of business. I don't believe my opponent can win this case in court and I don't believe he really intends to try. I believe his goal is to use strong-arm litigation tactics to force me to keep spending money or risk losing my copyrights not by true adjudication, but by default if he is able to outspend me.

What has happened: my original art has been copied by a manufacturer who is now suing me in federal court to continue making knockoffs
How you can help raise money for legal defense
How you can help raise awareness
How this lawsuit affects others
How I'm working to turn disaster into opportunity

There's a lot of information in this post because it is a complicated story. If you care about the arts, or work as a creative professional, I hope you will read it and Email this post to anyone you think can help.

I did not initiate this lawsuit, but am defending my art, my creative rights, my reputation and my livelihood against attack. I've already spent over $50,000 out of pocket in defense of my original designs.

Seeking a judicial ruling in federal court will cost more than any artist or small business can afford on it's own, but attempts at settlement have been unsuccessful. I am holding a fundraising sale of my artwork to finance a defense in court. If you can contribute to the fund or share this story with others to help raise awareness, it would mean the world to me.

Feel free to email or call me at 231.584.2710 if you have any questions or want to help.

Thank you,

John T. Unger

We always tell you to go change the world

Usually we mean to change the world with your artwork but today you can change it with your actions.


Clint Watson
Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic

UPDATE - here is another good article outlining what's happening with John T. Unger


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Related Posts:

Do You Want Traffic or Do You Want to Sell Art?

Art Marketing for Artists Who Want to Change the World

The Responsibilities of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Art Marketing is Conversations

Don't Be Afraid to Change the World

Topics: Copyright

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Daniel Edlen
Right on Clint! Glad you jumped in and shared John's situation. It's cool seeing the Twitter circle grow that knows of John and wants to help as they can. The deal with the lawsuit is so screwed up, but John's attitude is absolutely amazing, turning it into a huge positive for his creativity. I know he'll triumph in one way or another.


Trent Gudmundsen

This is really terrible. None of us is perfectly safe from dishonest people.

I recently walked into an interior design firm near my home to find that there was an "exact" copy of one of my paintings (not only was it exactly the same composition as mine, but it was a painting of a relatively unknown restaurant in a small town, at a particular angle, with the same people and clothing colors, etc. as mine, so it was pretty obviously a rip-off). I asked and was told it was indeed ordered from an overseas company.

Anyway, my point is that this has probably already happened to more people than may realize it. John's unique circumstances of being sued essentially for producing his own work, though, is truly awful.

One word of encouragement to most artists, though, is that since most of our works are one-of-a-kind and therefore vastly different from the previous ones we have created, we shouldn't find ourselves hindered too much if someone should legally force us to stop painting such-and-such subject in a particular composition...on to the next subject. I don't know...I hope I'm right.

(P.S. -The link on the newsletter to this original article is mis-typed...too many "dots" before "net").

Clint Watson
Daniel - You are correct - John's attitude is so great - it is fun to see the Twitter circle grow

Clint Watson
Trent - It is frustrating you are right. I think John's situation is somewhat different than a painter in that he does produce the same (or very similar) designs multiple times. You are also correct I imagine that it happens more often that we know.

Floyd Smith
I'm going to make a comment on Clint Watsons quote after he wrote about Hugh MacLeod. And if some feathers are ruffled, thats to bad. In my opinion he has as much right as an American to express anything he wants, as long as it does not degrade another person/artist. His courage and honesty, is more then I can say for the one person that had to whine about it. The toughness of the American-West and its artist, is what made this country great. They could take it on the chin, and go on without complaint. These days, all we have to do is turn on the TV - or, visit some of the schools our children go too, to hear words that would even make a longshoreman blush. Can anyone throw the first stone if they have not ever done the same. Keep out political-correcttness. "I'll take Clint Watsons right as and artist/writer, to say what he wants any day
of the week.'


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