Poker artwork company, PokerPaint, are in hot water this week after it emerged that they have been profiting from using photographs without permission, one notable poker photographer calling it “stealing”…
This account reached out for my permission to use one of my photos back in June. I politely declined and explained my reasoning why.
A month later, the same person messaged me, having ignored my previous wishes, with an edited image that I had told him he couldn’t create. https://t.co/TYE6ka2PNU
— Hayley Hochstetler (@hayleyocho) September 25, 2021
Hochstetler was extremely angry about the situation. A photographer for a number of years, working for the RunGoodPoker series, the Heartland Poker Tour, and latterly the WSOP, Hayley has her own website that sells prints of her work.
Hayley explained: “He knows what he is doing. I told him no and he did it anyways. Some people are saying this is a “grey area” involving copyright. It’s not. He is simply stealing other photographers work without permission, illegally changing it, and selling it for a profit.”
The “he” in question appears to be 25-year-old poker player Brett Butz from Fairfax, Virginia, though the Twitter account for PokerPaint has yet to confirm this.
The company takes photographs from the internet and social media and then makes limited edition “hand-drawn pieces of pop art”, based on them.
The artwork sells for anything from $250 to $1500, with “Kevin Hart: Gamblin’ Man” (pictured below) currently topping the price list. Others still available are a Doyle Brunson for $1000 and a stylised version of Dwan vs Ivey with the same pricetag.
The uproar, naturally, is because not only did PokerPaint not ask for permission to use the photographs as the basis for their own artwork, but none of the photographers have seen a cent of the profits from what seems to be a rather lucrative business in stolen intellectual property.
Do you usually use copyrighted images, make a sale, then forget to talk to the photographer? That’s kind of the pattern you’ve established over 3 years. We like your stuff, but not the ethics or theft & pure profit
— Eric Harkins (@ImpdiWorld) September 25, 2021
To add insult to injury, if not quite penury, Butz called for anyone upset to contact him about it, rather than the approach Dan Ross of Hold’em media, among others, proposed.
“You have been told by a number of photographers you did not have permission to use their work, and you did so anyway start by showing you understand you are in the wrong, remove every item you do not have permission to use, and YOU contact the content creator to gain permission.”
Todd Witteles, founder of Poker Fraud Alert, echoed those sentiments, later tweeting: “I can understand being 25 and not being an expert on law regarding content and fair use. However, since you know which photographers gave you permission and which didn’t, shouldn’t you take all non-permission art down until you get such permission?”
With the Twitter arguments going viral within the poker community, PokerPaint finally seemed to accept that they were in the wrong and issued an apology.
— PokerPaint (@PokerPaint) September 27, 2021
Hochstetler replied to the apology tweet with a warning: “Appreciate the apology, but claiming ignorance still isn’t the way to go. Now that you’re more aware of the copyright laws, the best path to take is to remove ALL images before major companies get their lawyers involved. (WSOP, WPT, PokerStars, PokerNews, PokerGO).”
That would seem to be a sure-fire way to get the offending artwork removed from the website until due diligence has been done and permission sought.
However, at the last time of checking there were still some items available that appear to have been derived from the work of others. Lawsuit incoming for PokerPaint? We’ll keep you updated
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