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George Riddick — the One-Man RIAA of Clip Art 175

Posted by timothy
from the sue-you-sue-anybody dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Pages at ireport.com and extortionletterinfo.com have been documenting and researching the activities of George P. Riddick III, previously known for his lawsuits against IMSI and Xoom at the turn of the century. In 2007 he issued a largely-ignored press release claiming the majority of clip art online infringes a copyright and has ranted about how Microsoft and Google are stealing from him. In recent months, he's apparently made a business model of going after web site operators who were using clip art they believed to be legally licensed or public domain, telling them they're infringing clip art collections he hasn't offered commercially in years and making outrageous settlement demands. He seems to have tested the waters on this some years back, but emboldened by the passage of the PRO-IP act, he's gone aggro with it. A few dodgy anonyblogs had popped up to 'out' him as a copyright abuser, but these recent ireport.com and extortionletterinfo.com reports go much deeper in documenting and researching Riddick's recent one-man campaign to be the RIAA of clip art."
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George Riddick — the One-Man RIAA of Clip Art

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  • by thomasdz (178114) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:41AM (#27050865)

    I'll make millions!

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:44AM (#27050895)

    "Pages at ireport.com and extortionletterinfo.com have been documenting and researching the activities of George P. Riddick III

    they call the document "the chronicles of riddick"

    *bad-dum-dah*

    I'll be here all week

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by matang (731781)
      the whole thing is riddickulous.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MegaMahr (788652)
      As a representative of Universal Pictures, a member in good standing with the MPAA, and owner of the copyright and trademark for the motion picture "The Chronicles of Riddick," I hereby demand that you pay a fine of $1 BILLION USD for willful, malicious, and deliberate copyright infringement.
  • Time to sicc Toombs on his rump.

    No jail that serves waffle-eating pussies will be for him.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by dasunst3r (947970)

      And the Internet would be a better place if we get RID of this (insert last four letters of his name here).

  • Use the web (Score:5, Informative)

    by neapolitan (1100101) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:52AM (#27050975)

    Although the web makes this sort of thing possible, the same web will help to mitigate the damage. I'm very happy people post this thing for all to see.

    After reading all of these letters, I don't think that anybody would really take this guy seriously. He is running the equivalent of a modified 419 scam (pay us a little to prevent a big payout in the future.) The repeated requests for confidentiality should be a tipoff.

    Hopefully not too many small websites without proper legal counsel to advise them on this sort of thing have not been taken....

    • Re:Use the web (Score:4, Informative)

      by dotancohen (1015143) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @11:48AM (#27051671) Homepage

      Although the web makes this sort of thing possible, the same web will help to mitigate the damage.

      Riddick's thought of that. He's a domain squatter too:
      http://www.islandview2.com/index3A.htm [islandview2.com]

      Usually, when someone takes advantage of one facet of the World Wide Web [what-is-what.com], they take advantage of all of it.

      • by macraig (621737)

        Why exactly has this been modded as Troll? Is Riddick or one of his minions haunting this discussion as a faceless anonymous moderator?

    • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:09PM (#27054711)

      After reading all of these letters, I don't think that anybody would really take this guy seriously.

      You've nailed the point. Most people don't see all the letters. They only see the one they received and few know the actual history of any art they might be using.

      And that's not a 419 (Nigerian) scam. It's the classic mob extortion line: "You've got a nice little web-site here. Be a shame if anything happened to it - along with personally bankrupting you for copyright infringement. Remember those huge statuary damages the RIAA is always suing for...?"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:52AM (#27050979)

    Let's call it The chronic LES (Lawsuit Egocentric Syndrome) of Riddick

  • Ahh, fair use (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mlwmohawk (801821) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:55AM (#27051029)

    make no mistake, this is an assault on "fair use" of work.

    The logos and art in question are not representing Google or Microsoft, they are mere representations of what was found on the external sites which are assumed to be displaying lawfully acquired content.

    Google and Microsoft are not the police or the courts. If you have a valid issue with their display of an image, issue a take down notice.

    • Re:Ahh, fair use (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Technician (215283) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @11:03AM (#27051153)

      This is one of the first things I noticed when my SO was looking at sewing machines. We looked into the extra costs in doing embrodary and was appalled at the total lockdown of the artwork for any of the machines. It resulted in a simple no sale as the machines were unusable for any hobby applications as everything was tied up in royalties and legal risk.

      This is a field that could have had lots of interest, but due to greed and closed formats, etc, it appeals to very few.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by blincoln (592401)

        We looked into the extra costs in doing embrodary and was appalled at the total lockdown of the artwork for any of the machines.

        Is there no one who's hacked them yet? Home CNC paper-cutters which don't have built-in support for custom patterns have had third-party software published that lets you e.g. import SVGs.

        • Re:Ahh, fair use (Score:5, Interesting)

          by gnick (1211984) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:05PM (#27051915) Homepage

          Actually, this is an often under-noticed area of copyright infringement (It looks like actual illegal infringement to me, but IANAL). My mother has several CDs full of images that she uses to decorate shirts, blankets, etc for her grand-kids. They cost her ~$5 apiece and are filled with lovable Disney characters that have been copied out of movies or TV shows, interpretted into embroidery patters, burned in bulk to CD, and then sold. My mom, of course, uses the logic that, since she paid for the discs, there's no way that she could be doing anything wrong. I'm sure that Disney is aware of the situation and is frustrated that they can't suck the blood from these spinster pirates because of the bad PR involved with suing confused grandmothers. At least that's my take on it.

          • by Miseph (979059)

            If anything, they'll go after the people selling the discs in the first place. Confused grandmothers are not known for their deep pockets.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by fyoder (857358)

              If anything, they'll go after the people selling the discs in the first place. Confused grandmothers are not known for their deep pockets.

              That wouldn't stop the RIAA. The Embroidery Inustry Association of America is obviously not made of the same stuff.

            • Re:Ahh, fair use (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Keen Anthony (762006) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @06:59PM (#27057805)

              Maybe Disney would still go after the buyers of those discs anyway. There's probably not much parity in the example I'm about to give, but I remember many years ago that Disney went after several independently owned daycare centers and home daycare businesses which used depictions of Disney characters on walls. Sometimes these depictions were painted, but often the depictions were vinyl or wooden cut-outs presumably purchased from a source licensed to use the images.

          • by Inda (580031) <slash.20.inda@spamgourmet.com> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:42PM (#27053343) Journal
            Actually, I believe your Mom hangs out in alt.binaries.embroidery* and is in fact "Yenc-PP-A&A". The same "Yenc-PP-A&A" who posts countless music and movies.

            Your clever attempt at deflecting the pointing finger has failed.

            *(of course it exists!)
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by rueger (210566)
            There have been charges and convictions on this one in the past. Disney polices their IP very stringently. As one Grandmother told me, "You don't fuck with the mouse."
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Stanislav_J (947290)

            I'm sure that Disney is aware of the situation and is frustrated that they can't suck the blood from these spinster pirates because of the bad PR involved with suing confused grandmothers.

            Never stopped the RIAA. Maybe that's why Disney is a thriving concern and the RIAA is in its death throes.

        • There are third-party applications (Embird and Drawings) that can import vector art and export to many proprietary stitch formats.

          Corel used to own Drawings and had a free plugin for CorelDraw that lets you get a preview bitmap of stitches derived from a vector drawing. I don't know if it is available for the latest verson though.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        No, it's due to the insane lengths of modern copyright. Why should copyright outlast a patent?

        • Why should copyright outlast a patent?

          Good question. I've never seen or heard an answer to it.
          Twenty years protection at most, then into the public domain. That's long enough to allow inventors to profit from their inventions, and would be a tolerable term for copyright also.

        • I agree that copyrights are too long, but ... A patent deprives the public of something that is useful. A copyright only deprives the public of something pleasureable (software excepted). There is a quote somewhere about invalid patents serving as scarecrows in the fields of innovation; I don't think the same can be said of copyright because I doubt people refrain from writing a story or song or game for fear of infringing the work of some obscure author.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by interiot (50685)
            Right, so you've established that copyright protects things that are less useful. So why do copyrights deserve more incentives than patents again?
            • So why do copyrights deserve more incentives than patents again?

              Because that right was bought from Congress. This is the U.S.A., you must be new here.

      • The late Ed Foster talked about this on the [now defunct] Gripelog.

  • by alansingfield (257819) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:58AM (#27051061)

    In the UK, it is highly advisable for any business to take out Professional Indemnity Insurance. This covers this type of eventuality - and faced with a professional legal opponent these type of people will invariably back down.

    • by slashkitty (21637)
      Isn't this making matters worse? If any insurance companies are paying him to settle, it only gives him more ammo to fight more battles.
      • by Nick Ives (317)

        Read the GP again:

        faced with a professional legal opponent these type of people will invariably back down.

        Insurance companies love taking money as much as they hate paying it out; they know better than to feed litigious trolls.

  • Even stupider... (Score:5, Informative)

    by FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:59AM (#27051085) Homepage
    Riddick's designs are so simple and generic [imageline2.com] that they could easily have been drawn (or typed) by someone else from scratch without ever having seen Riddick's version.
  • by Useful Wheat (1488675) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @11:03AM (#27051155)
    Is there any way he could take credit for Clippy the dancing paperclip? I think most of us would enjoy it if he was made illegal to install on new computers.
  • What a joke. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Loadmaster (720754) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @11:22AM (#27051381) Homepage

    The letters at extortionletter.info are hilarious. As Walter would say, "Fucking amateur! George Riddick you're out of your element."

    One of my fav lines:

    "I would be happy to send you a rough draft copy of our standard Settlement and Release Agreement, which we have used over 100 times over the past few years (unfortunately)."

    Is it really a "rough draft" if you are using it?

    Or how about:

    We are very disappointed that you have chosen litigation for you, your family, your business partners, your distributors (i.e. XXXXXXXXX), and your end user customers. The amount of money spent bringing all of these people and companies to court is going to be enormous. But since our designs are all registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, you will end up paying every dime of these legal expenses on all sides, in addition to all infringement and DMCA (Section 1202) penalties as well. These penalties could easily exceed $35,000 per design infringed. What a shame!

    What a shame? What a dick! and what's an "end user customer?" Isn't an end user a customer? I love the fact in his letters he always "hopes to keep this confidential." That always works when the internet is involved.

    fucking lamer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Red Flayer (890720)

      I love the fact in his letters he always "hopes to keep this confidential." That always works when the internet is involved.

      I think you may misunderstand the reason he writes that he "hopes to keep this confidential".

      It's not about protecting himslef, it's part of the threat package: "Pay me now or spend a fortune paying me later... oh, and by the way... nice reputation you have there. It would be a shame if anything *happened* to it."

  • by illegalcortex (1007791) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:27PM (#27052249)

    claiming the majority of clip art online infringes a copyright

    I'm actually fairly willing to believe this.

    Of course, that's not the same as proving that HIS clip-art is being used at all the sites he sues. If it is, then I'd find it hard to actually get mad at him.

    Did anyone read the linked to "rant"? It's actually fairly cogent. First he basically says "If I was to steal your copyrighted stuff, you'd sue me into the ground because you're a huge company. Yet you steal mine all the time. That's rather unfair." Doesn't this sound like the Official Slashdot Position? Next he goes on to say he's mad at Google and Microsoft's image search tools because they continue to cache the image even after the site has removed it. Microsoft claimed they weren't caching them and he showed them an example that proved them wrong. Isn't this also a very Slashdot thing to do?

    All in all, it sounds like he wasn't pissed that the image search features exist, but that they kept caching them even when he got people to yank his clipart off their server. Then they get money for ads on pages with the cached picture. And then people would copy the clipart again from the returned image results, making it easier for people to continue copying his clipart.

    I've went to the links in the summary and they actually make me sympathize with the guy MORE. And I'm a bittorrenting fiend. One of them posts a picture of him accompanied by "Maybe if he makes enough money, he can go on a diet course, or at least buy a bigger belt to hold up that fat, obese stomach." Especially petty considering he looks like just about any old man his age, not actually spectacularly obese or anything.

    I haven't been able to find widespread claims that he sues over clipart he doesn't own the copyrights to. Just that he's a jerk because his letters say "you put our clipart on your page, pay up" and don't give the target a chance to say "I'm sorry, I'll just take it off and we can pretend it never happened." The only other thing I can find other than personal insults was that they claim his clipart sucks anyway (sour grapes, anyone?). True, he does sell a lot of clipart that looks straight from the 80s, but there's also things like this:

    http://www.imageline2.com/pages/ipics2_LOGOSNature.htm [imageline2.com]
    http://www.imageline2.com/pages/ipics2_OTHERWorldRel2.htm [imageline2.com]
    http://www.imageline2.com/pages/PRESENT_Index.htm [imageline2.com]

    This looks like prime fodder for a lot of business use today. It looks better than 90% of what I see in powerpoint presentations even now.

    And the last point I can find people make against him is that he has clipart of the UN flag and the Sydney Opera House and those have some very specific copyrights attached to them. First, the UN flag is not protected by copyright but simply by a UN resolution that says "don't use our flag." A resolution that has no actual legal backing. And the question of how much the SOH can legally limit the use of their image is murky at best:
    http://www.freedomtodiffer.com/freedom_to_differ/2007/06/photographing_t.html [freedomtodiffer.com]

    So really, I just don't get the uproar. Yeah, I wish copyright law was MUCH different to align penalties with actual profit being made by the infringer. But this guy hardly seems to be in the same league as the RIAA and their whole "making available" bullshit.

  • Entitlement again (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Migraineman (632203) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:07PM (#27052855)
    From the ImageLine website: [imageline2.com]

    How many of these people who believe our copyright laws are outdated and should be abolished do you think work in one of the copyright-dependent industries? Better yet, how many of them have ever given a dime, let alone a cup of hot coffee, to a starving artist, musician, painter,or writer who has lost their job due to piracy?

    And here again we see the Entitlement Mentality. The "starving artist" can't earn a living at his chosen profession. Exactly why is the artist *entitled* to make a living at said profession? If his chosen career path isn't economically viable, why am I suddenly obligated to support him? Perhaps the "starving artist" wouldn't be starving if he made better choices in his life.

    Further, I work in an industry that relies heavily on copyright law. It is plainly obvious that copyright law is broken, and is detrimental to society in it's current form. The "temporary monopoly" was never intended to grant a semi-permanent revenue stream for you and your children. Copyright Rebels, my ass.

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:38PM (#27053279) Journal

    Except for the less polished langauge, it's the same thing that happens if you happen to grab an image off a CD from ten years ago which unluckily happens to be in the Getty imagebank and use it in your website. They'll send you a bill for a couple grand for an image they license at $30/yr. And you'll send a check, because if not they'll haul you to court, and any lawyer worth his salt will tell you you're fucked.

    The problem is that there is no way to determine if the clip art (or images) you have infringe on anyone's copyright, because there is no way for an individual or small business to match images against the sea of information out there. Your only recourse is to have a physical paper of license in your hands before you do anything. Somehow, I don't think that was the intent behind Article I, section 8, clause 8 of the United States Constitution - that Congress shall have the power: "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." You may as well just lock up the web and throw it away.

    • Pretty much. The story of the goose with the golden eggs comes to mind. There are some people who just don't understand and don't care that they're killing a larger downstream revenue for themselves and everyone else. They just want cash now.

    • The raster image of a photo makes it easier to detect a derivative work. A good example of this is the controversy over the Obama poster versus a particular Time photo of the President in the same pose.

      Clip art is a bit tricker since it is vector based. If someone ends up with a similar design is it tough to prove whether it is a derivative work or an independent rendition of the same public domain thing/image.

      Clip art of a generic bicycle developed independently can't be sued for copyright infringement b

  • Isn't Fruityloops (the music sequencer) made by Imageline ?

  • Here's an idea, derived from other bright people (imagine that!):

    Anyone that wants a copyright has to declare its value, and pay an annual property tax on it of (say) one percent. They can declare any value they like, but only once, and only within a year of creation.

    The kicker: total income for the work, from licensing, sales, infringement penalties, etc., are capped at ten times the amount declared. Upon payment (which cannot be refused) from any source, it goes into the public domain.

    Not quite as good

    • Hey, yeah, that'd be awesome. We'd get rid of that pesky GPL overnight!

      • If RMS were given a choice between

        • the current system with the GPL, and
        • abolishing copyright (at least for software) and no GPL,

        he'd choose the latter. He created the GPL as the best thing he could think of, since abolishing copyright is not within his powers. In a sense, the GPL is a simulation of abolished copyright. [BSDish licenses are not, because they don't have the level playing field that abolished copyright would provide. (i.e., "I can use yours and you can use mine")]

        Check out his writings...

        • First, I don't think you've read many of his comments over the years. One of the thrusts of his disgruntlement over software is when source code isn't provided, because the user can't improve or change the software to meet his needs. He also seems to get quite pissed off when companies take a GPL piece of code and wrap it in a bunch more closed source code. This is a guy who will stop you in mid-sentence and berate you if "GNU" isn't put in front of the word "Linux."

          No copyright would not level the playi

          • by mkcmkc (197982)

            First, I don't think you've read many of his comments over the years.

            I would hardly presume to speak for him, but your assumption is false.

            No copyright would not level the playing field.

            My point was that if the three options are (1) code under GPL, (2) code under BSD, (3) copyright is abolished, the BSD option clearly leads to the least level playing field.

            • The more I think about it, the more I wonder if no copyright would actually lead to an even worse situation. It would be even harder to get source code for a non-free program. The "service model" works ok for some commercial software, but poorly for most. Most of the companies I can think of that make money off the service model (i.e. Red Hat) are actually using a large percentage of someone else's man hours (the people who make most of the software they repackage and sell support for). So what are my o

  • Perhaps they could do a sequel to the 2004 film, the tagline could go something like this: "Riddick, all the power in the universe can't nullify his copyrights...this time its personal".

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