This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog and Art Fag City. Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
I recently learned of an alleged 'massive copyright infringement' situation involving artwork 'ripped' from deviantART.com. (Read some information about the situation from deviantART news, here.) The copyright infringement allegations involve a website called Art4Love -- which is owned by Art4Love , Inc., a New York, NY-based organization which apparently had a physical gallery space in NYC -- A4L Gallery -- and has been around since 2005. Art Consultant Chad Love-Lieberman, the companies founder, serves as the CEO. Art4Love, Inc. claims to have over 20 employees with salaries ranging "around $81,398".
Those close to the situation allege that over 300 artists from the deviantART community have had their copyright infringed upon by Art4Love and Chad Love-Lieberman. Since being exposed the Art4Love website has been shut down. Even the CrunchBase profile has been pulled. On top of that, the website for A4L Gallery has been shutdown --and Love-Lieberman's personal website, chadlove.com, has been shutdown as well. It does not stop there -- an affiliate of Art4Love, MarkYourSpot.com (described as a "Platform for personal-PR and the exchange of Social Capital)-- owned by Craig Pravda, has also vanished. Apparently Pravda is a business partner with Love-Lieberman and handled the pr for Art4Love -- though some have reported that Pravda and Love-Lieberman are one in the same. In fact, from what I've read about Love-Lieberman and his claims... he comes off as some mad Internet-based performance artist.
Internet-based performance art or not -- the copyright infringement allegations are real... and the artists involved are rightfully angry. The copyright allegations against Art4Love have triggered a movement on Facebook to stop Chad Love-Lieberman from "stealing people's artwork". Further still, artists Chet Zar and Chuck Angeline have been utilizing Twitter and the #fridaynightartdorks group on Facebook to get the message out as well. I asked Zar if his work had been infringed upon, he said, "No, Brian he didn't get me. It looks like he may have gotten away with it by stealing from younger artists with not as much name recognition. I'm sure it was all thought out. He just underestimated the power of the internet.". Chet Zar's legion of fans will no doubt help to expose Art4Love.
Artists are banning together over this copyright infringement scandal. Deirdre Reynolds, an artist who has helped to expose Art4Love and Chad Love-Lieberman, stated on her blog, "This man has made thousands of dollars off the hard work of these artists all the while giving interviews about copyrights and why artists shouldn't be upset when other are selling their art.". She continued, "Not only has he ripped off all these artists, he also perpetrated fraud on all his clients who purchase art from him. He falsely claimed to be selling art hand painted by the artist and stated on his website that none of the works were computer generated.". And added, "This of course was completely false as many of the original works were in fact digital art and since none of the art was coming from the artist themselves, the sold art works would of course have to be prints.". In other words, the fallout over the Art4Love scandal will likely include a list of angry art collectors before everything is said and done.
So what exactly was Art4Love about? According to a pr release from the company it was, "an emerging growth art company with access to the works of 1,300 artists from 45 countries, representing the rights of almost 18,000 pieces of original artwork by both established and emerging artists worldwide." The company further described itself as, "offering a comprehensive range of leasing and sales options and an extensive selection of artwork.". According to the press release Art4Love served as a "one- stop/full-service environment" designed to "assist its corporate clients with all facets of their art needs.". Needless to say, I have a feeling the alleged infringement goes much further than the deviantART community.
One interesting thing about Chad Love-Lieberman is that he has left an extensive digital paper trail of false -- or at least questionable -- information on various pr websites since 2005. With just a few Google searches I have found his claims of being close friends with Paris Hilton, claims of having a partnership with artnet.com (A4L Gallery was listed on artnet, but the listing has been pulled), and claims of owning one of the most influential galleries in the Chelsea art district of NYC. Furthermore, Love-Lieberman claims to have sold over $350,000 worth of art, "during one four month period", as the director of Fulcrum Art Gallery in Greenwich Village, New York in 1998. Oddly enough, or perhaps not so oddly -- I'm finding it hard to verify any of Mr. Love-Lieberman's claims.
As for Art4Love -- I'm not sure that Chad Love-Lieberman should be the only individual focused on as far as criticism is concerned. According to a pr statement about the company -- Jeffrey Adduci served as the 'President' of Art4Love. The statement claims that Mr. Adduci has been a "frequent featured speaker and panelist at industry forums sponsored by the SEC, NASD, NASAA, NASDAQ and the SIA." Adduci also has Wall Street connections -- having served on NASDAQ's OTC Advisory and BBX committees according to the statement. In addition to that, the pr statement claims that Jeffrey Adduci has served as a "member of the Board of Directors of The Small Business Administration's (SBA) Regulatory Fairness Program". Interesting.
Another Art4Love press release involved a quote from Chief Operating Officer Earl C. Bateman. Bateman stated, "Our objective is to grow Art4Love into a complete, globally accepted art company,". Nice try Mr. Bateman. Nice try indeed. I'm curious to know if you were aware of copyright infringement allegations Mr. Bateman. I'm curious indeed. I tried to reach some employees of Art4Love for comment, but did not receive a response.
According to the same press release Mr. Love-Lieberman had the following to say of his efforts with Art4Love, "Marketing in the art industry, especially today, is guerilla warfare.". He added, "It seemed only fitting that I adopt a guerilla marketing strategy to get the word out about Art4Love and its message.". I don't think that exploiting artists sends a very good message. It appears -- if all of these allegations are proven in court (apparently artists are banning together to file a 'class action' lawsuit against Art4Love) -- that Mr. Love Lieberman had launched 'guerilla warfare' against artist members of the deviantART community. I hope the artists had registered their copyright... and that they receive whatever is coming to them if in fact this case makes it to court.
In closing, I will likely explore the Art4Love situation further once I learn more. That said, I do have to say that there is a certain irony in the fact that it involves images of art being 'ripped' from deviantART. After all, the majority of the artwork on deviantART is fan art based on popular movies, video games, novels and comic book characters -- some are uploaded by site users simply for the viewing pleasure of other fans... while others are uploaded and sold through deviantART's e-commerce platform as prints and other merchandise. From what I've been told over the years DeviantART is notorious for failing -- or taking their sweet time-- to act on their own policy in regard to copyright infringement allegations involving uploaded images. Bitter irony indeed. In that sense, one could easily suggest that Art4Love and deviantART are the same beast -- just in different ways.
UPDATE 1: Some have had issue with me mentioning the obvious copyright infringement that commonly takes place on deviantART among their base of site users -- and for saying, "In that sense, one could easily suggest that Art4Love and deviantART are the same beast -- just in different ways.". I stand by my opinion.
That is one interesting side story of this story if you think about it. I'm in no way bashing the artists who use deviantART, I know Chet Zar has a profile on there -- or did, but the fact remains that some artists -- and by some I mean thousands if not millions -- infringe on the copyright of others everyday on deviantART. I'm all for seeing Art4Love getting nailed to the wall -- and for the artists who have been exploited to see justice... but deviantART, the company, is in no way innocent when it comes to allegations of copyright infringement in my humble opinion. Same beast... just in a different way.
For example, in searching just the first few pages of art listed on deviantART I see an image of a plush toy of Link from The Legend of Zelda that is clearly not 'social commentary' -- or anything else that qualifies as 'fair use'. I see a fan made poster/screensaver for the manga series Bleach, an image of Batman preparing to fight The Joker, manipulated posters of the Harry Potter movies that I somehow don't think would hold up as 'fair use', and an image of Sonic the Hedgehog that, in my opinion, fails both 'social commentary' and 'parody'. I do see many examples of 'parody'... but I also see example after example of 'artwork' that, in my opinion, does not fall under 'fair use' -- and I know that many of the art law experts I've spoken with over the years would agree with me.
Yes, I realize it can be hard for social art sites -- especially one as large as deviantART -- to keep track of possible copyright infringement -- but when you go to the site... and look at some of the featured art on just the first few pages... it is pretty clear that copyright infringement dominates the site in general. That has been my observation over the years -- and I'm not the only one concerned. It is great that deviantART is backing the artists who have been taken advantage of by Art4Love -- but what about the copyright owners who are taken advantage of on a daily basis on deviantART? The history -- and very nature of -- the deviantART community cultivates a breeding ground of copyright infringement. Think about that.
I'll offer some 'social commentary' of my own --
UPDATE 2: I decided to dig deeper into Art4Love, Inc. and some of the business connections they have had over the years. After all, if Art4Love has infringed on the copyright of artists recently it goes without saying that they may have done the same in the past. If anything the companies that have partnered with Art4Love in the past should be aware of the allegations facing the site and its founder -- as should the individuals who invested in Art4Love.
Apparently Chad Love Lieberman also owned and maintained a website called Art4LoveImages.com. This website has also been shutdown. According to an article on StockPhotoTalk from 2006, Art4Love has existed in one form or the other since 2000. The article also mentioned that stock in the company was available. Interestingly, the links to the stock info are dead. The StockPhotoTalk article also stated that Jerry Tavin, at the time of the writing, was a member of Art4Love's advisory council.
Who is Jerry Tavin? He is the co-founder of Nonstock.com -- which sold to PictureArts in 2004. What is PictureArts? It was a website of stock photography that was later acquired by Jupiterimages. And what of Jupiterimages? Apparently it was bought out by Getty Images. Oddly enough, the founder of Art4Love has had business relationships with a few individuals who have worked for these respected companies -- at least according to a press release. Chad Love Lieberman had professional relationships with Jerry Tavin and Mondy Beller -- who served as Vice President, Director of Marketing & Corporate Communications of PictureArts Corp and Vice President of Marketing for Jupiter images (Getty Images).
At one point PictureArts had a deal with Art4Love -- a business partnership -- according to a press release. What did Jerry Tavin say of Art4Love at that time? He stated, "Art4Love sales channels are among the most creative in the business, and we are thrilled to have their caliber of talent representing the PictureArts collections," -- at the time Tavin was serving as PictureArt's Senior Consultant for Artist and International Relations. What did Chad Love Lieberman have to say about the partnership? "This exceptional photographic collection, along with our already existing traditional art collection, establishes Art4Love as a complete, one-stop organization for the corporate purchaser of original art and photography. We are now able to fully service all of our customers' needs for the selection, acquisition, installation and financing of art.". Interesting indeed.
Even Jeffrey Burke, former acting President of the Picture Archive Council of America (PACA) praised Art4Love while serving as the President and CEO of PictureArts. Stating, "PictureArts is excited about working with Art4Love Inc. as it ties in with our corporate commitment to work with the best of breed companies,". I somehow don't think that Mr. Burke knew who exactly he was dealing with when he made business arrangements with Art4Love.
Take care, Stay true