Kickstarter Campaign Makes Art Off Images Found Online

- - copyright

Print designer Sabrina Chun of San Francisco has raised $66,000 for a kickstarter campaign (here) where she takes photographs off the web, changes them to black and white and prints them on 80lb card stock with a matte finish. When the campaign was published on the autoblog in early April someone noticed the Shelby image comes from well known car photographer Bruno Ratensperger (autoblog here). The kickstarter campaign was taken down after someone filed a copyright dispute, but it’s back and the Shelby image has been modified a bit (probably found another one that doesn’t belong to a working photographer).

Is this what the judges envisioned when they overturned the case against Richard Prince? People everywhere suddenly have photographs at their disposal as raw material for their artwork. A few modifications later and the meaning is changed! Ok, I’m being a bit facetious here, because I don’t believe that’s actually the case. Clearly Sabrina has not changed the meaning and would lose a lawsuit brought against her. It’s too bad so many people think the opposite including kickstarter.

Original image:

Original kickstarter image:

Modified kickstarter image:

Need a photo of some wallspace for your prints? No problem here’s one:

thanks for the tip Jake.

There Are 93 Comments On This Article.

  1. I blame this whole thing on the acceptance, and practice of buying stock photography. You all cheapened (mostly) good photography, made it too accessible to any and everyone.

    And this is the result of said actions. Lack of respect!

    It’s your bed, sleep in it.

  2. This reminds me of, and looks more like, that case where the GAP (I think it was) stole a picture of a Jaguar XK-E off Flickr and turned it into black and white silhouette and printed it on kids clothes.

    That and this look like they just brought the photo into Illustrator, did a Live Trace, and voila, transformation. But hopefully just clicking a button on AI is clear-cut and common enough get its own copyright rule.

    To Chung’s credit though, they’re eco-friendly! I think that gets you immunity from copyright prosecution, in SF at least.

  3. Looks like she takes copyright seriously after all…

    “All images appearing on the Blackprints Kickstarter, website, and other social media accounts are the exclusive property of Sabrina Chun and are protected under the United States and International Copyright laws.”

    • Super Zimmer

      Now I’m confused . . . is she paying the photographer a usage fee? Or is this some “appropriation” bullshit?

      • Marko Metzinger

        I wondered the same thing. She has a lot of gall to be fronting this “project”.
        Maybe she got laid off because of her lack of talent as a graphic artist and is really just a HACK! This is so infuriating.

  4. ugh, all the glowing reviews on the Kickstarter. From Jalopnik:

    “she’s employed her considerable talents to making a series of dramatic, high-contrast prints”

    All the glowing reviews might need to be made aware of the reality of the situation

  5. I am going to buy all of these…colorize them, flip them upside down and sell them again…on the same website. Hope she doesn’t mind!

  6. Darrell Noakes

    Oh, yeah! Stealing images from Universal and Columbia. That’s gonna end well for this “artist”. Impoverished photographers might have limited recourse, but those media giants won’t take this sitting down.

  7. I would like to say that- I have backed Sabrina’s project from the beginning. As a photographer and editor myself, I understand how people may be aggravated by a post like this. Rob, I do urge you to check your facts before joining a bandwagon of rumors. Have you spoken to Chun directly?

    There are always two sides to a story. Sabrina mentioned in per updates that the 95 Cobra was originally a tribute to the car, it was not her intention to make money off another photographer’s photo. She openly admits that it was a photo from taken off of Autoblog.com (one of the biggest car websites out there) as a wallpaper. The photo owned by Bruno, is all over the internet and even offered as free wallpaper everywhere. It is the most famous cobra picture there is. She wasn’t trying to steal his picture as it was clearly the same. Why would she put herself in that position of a copy right dispute?

    At the end of the day, you can say she photoshopped any picture…. Lets be real, IT IS A SIDE VIEW OF A CAR!!! THERE ARE MILLIONS OF THE SAME CAR OUT THERE. lol

    As a starving photographer, I was a bit jealous of the popularity the prints have gained, however, her pitch was amazing. It has nothing to do with the prints shes selling.. ANYONE CAN make these blackprints. But why haven’t I done it? Why haven’t you? Shes selling a package – the brand of a cute little asian girl who loves cars. That is what sells. She was looking for $5,000 for her project. It raised a lot more than that. I think we need to stop hating and start thinking about how to make some money for ourselves. lol

    • At the end of the day, you can say she photoshopped any picture…. Lets be real, IT IS A SIDE VIEW OF A CAR!!! THERE ARE MILLIONS OF THE SAME CAR OUT THERE. lol

      How many photographers does it take to change a light bulb? 10! One to change it and 9 to say I could have done that.

      It does not matter how many similar images are out there, license one or go shoot your own.

      As a starving person who is trying to make a living in the intellectual property business this a a cavalier attitude.

      Interestingly enough if one does not know this let me fill you in: If you have taken a picture and and it has been used without permission, baring fair use, you have some period of months to formally copyright the image:
      http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-register.html

      Then you can bring suit. Do nothing until you receive the formal copyright.

      At this point the Statutory Damages are up to $50,000 per violation.

      The Richard Prince case is not settled law at this point and this particular situation seems to be more about merchandising than creating art.

      Copyright damages in merchandising cases can be wicked as each printed piece can be a violation.

      My two cents as one with a vested interest in a very successful working photographer.

      • Not entirely accurate. The work is already copyrighted. That occurs at the moment the image is created. You have three months following the date of publication to register an image with the copyright office in order to get statutory damages and attorney’s fees. Statutory damage awards, depending upon the situation (e.g. willful vs. non-willful infringement) can be as low as $200.00.

        There is only one thing to be sure of when dealing with the legal system and that is there is nothing to be sure of.

        • Of course when you take a picture you have the copyright, however in order to get statutory damages you must register the image, however you can settle a claim without registering. I do believe the minimum is $750, however in this it would most likely be willful. BTW I just had a conversation with my in house council regarding this very subject.

          • You’re either getting very bad information or you’re very confused. Yes – copyright registration entitles you to statutory damages and attorneys fees if it is registered within the prescribed period of time. You can register an image at any time, however, following the 3 month cutoff point from date of first publication, those awards are forfeited. Not all infringement suits rely on statutory damages. In some cases, it is profits that are pursued as they can outweigh the financial limitations of a statutory award. Registration is a precondition of filing suit. It would not be a bright move to attempt settlement without registration. The registration acts as a hammer and it can encourage the infringing party to be amenable to settlement as opposed to facing a lengthy, costly court battle. Even when it appears that it will wind up in court, most cases are settled on the courtroom steps. No photographer should ever want to wind up in a courtroom. Litigation is costly, exhausting and emotionally debilitating and most victories are pyrrhic. I have no idea what your $750 dollar figure is about.

    • Donnor Party

      Give it a rest. She’s “selling a package, an asian package, cute, likes cars. ”

      This horseshit is demeaning to the readers and dare I say Ms. Chun. She can sell this “pitch” by licensing an image (super cheap) or just by placing a personals ad in HotRod magazine.

    • back at you Vinnie, you may want to rethink your position of backing Sabrina. any of the photographers could easily bring a lawsuit and if the images are registered… look out. bad advice you’re giving there. check your facts.

    • Catch The Thief !

      Vinnie, or shall I call you Sabrina Chun – posting as Vinnie?

      Sabrina Chun has stolen a picture that a good and respected photographer took. It takes years of practice, and talent, to do this.

      You think a side view of a car is just like any other side view of a car?

      Then go out in the street and take one of those side views of cars yourself. How about shooting a Honda Accord (this would be more your style, as you may not have access to a Shelby, particularly not under studio lighting).

      I wish you to be inundated with lawsuits, bringing down your parasite project.

      Your Kickstarter campaign is nothing but a Photoshop action, and the file gets send to a printer.

      This silly and copyright infringing project shows how obsolete Kickstarter has become, which now is nothing more than a playground for money grabbers without the tiniest spark of creativity.

    • I did a little digging and looks like Sabrina works for Vincent Ng. Could this be Vincent, huh “Vinnie?” Well if you are, you should evaluate your employee. more closely because she’s stealing from people’s hard work. End of the story.

    • SomewhereonEarth

      Vinnie, as a “photographer and editor” yourself, YOU should know better than that. It’s wrong to take someone’s else image/work and modify it and then claimed it is your sole property and seal it for a profit. I hope she finds your website and steals your images and make a profit from it. You wouldn’t be too happy about that.

  8. road shooter

    you’re wrong vinnie…

    taking wallpaper from Internet is one thing, but taking it to use as a commercial venture is clearly violating copyright laws.

    I’m surprised you cant this distinction…

  9. I can’t say why didn’t I think of that, because I would never think of that. Unfortunately I would photograph the car and make the print which would be either hanging on my wall or in closet with a bunch of other prints.

  10. Paul Rights

    Robert Haggar of Aphotoeditor.

    The reality is that nowadays if you need a specific photo you can go online or to sites like getty images or such and get them for a small fee (which hopefully goes back in part to the photographer).
    When I was growing up a camera was only for adults and professionals, now every 5 year old can take pictures and movies and post them online.
    Not to be on her side I can help to notice that Mr Ratensperger’s photo can be found in a lot of blogs and car wallpaper sites. Did he sell the rights to all these sites and/or did all the blogs and sites bought the rights from him to use his photo? Even if they do not sell the photos theses sites make money through ads, bringing traffic with contents…
    It is too bad that all the artists out there, do not take that as an opportunity and eye opener. If Sabrina was able to raise so much, good for her! What stops us to do it too?! Ranting about it is not going to get us anywhere. This should be used a motivation.
    At least that the way I saw it.

    • Donnor Party

      You know what else makes money, and is also an actionable offense? Adulterating baby food with melomene. This argument is ridiclous.

      • Or just make a gun on a 3D printer, call it art, go find a wheelman and head to the nearest bank to raise some money.

        • Donnor Party

          Exactly. the specious bullshit. contained in “Vinnie”s” argument is so juvinile it hurts.

    • And I thought the “everybody’s doing it” defense was only used by teenagers.

  11. Mark Madeo

    @ Vinnie and Paul: Why haven’t I (we) done it?? Well, let’s see where I left my moral compass. Ah yes, here it is, and it says “thief”, 15 degrees west of “poser”. This isn’t Do It Yourself. DIY is learning how to shoot a car. And if you’d like to use someone’s image, track them down. That’s certainly gonna take a lot less time than rigging a 20 foot softbox. It’s easy to call us “haters”, but it’s not really hate that I feel. It’s more profound disappointment, pity, and incredulity. What exactly is the motivation provided here? For me to take her images, drop em on a pink background, hire a spokesmodel and sell them as PinkPrints? It’s not doubt that times have changed (and btw, 5 year olds have been able to use cameras since the 50′s), but this is hardly an example of an increase in creativity.

  12. A. Noninoni

    So of that $66k, is that $1K for production and $65K to settle lawsuits? I could see this business working with legally-obtained stock images, but win or lose, the cost of defending against copyright infringement lawsuits would seem to eat up any profits if they go the “found” image route.

  13. Ellis Vener

    From her kickstarter campaign:
    “All images appearing on the Blackprints Kickstarter, website, and other social media accounts are the exclusive property of Sabrina Chun and are protected under the United States and International Copyright laws.”

  14. No matter how much we try as artist and photographers there is always going to be that person or people who figure out how get art/content for free and make money. The music industry ,movie and now the photo biz are facing the same challenges.
    Reading through the posts it seems to me that rather than swim against the tide figure out a way to make it work for you? If your into taking others work and doing a minor change and calling it yours?
    The Richard Prince thing has given license to the “Knapster” culture. If you show it, it can be copied ,manipulated and turned into cash for others.

    • Donnor Party

      Prince is on higher moral ground, and perhaps legal ground, than this. This is as bad as the GAP stealing pics and putting them on clothing.

  15. why is kick starter allowing all this money to be generated?
    Can they be held liable as well, for enabling profit from stolen work? I would think it would be in their best interest not to walk the fine line…..

    • Donnor Party

      I think the DMCA MAY allow them to turn a blind eye, but now that they have been warned that may be harder to argue.

    • Kickstarter gets 5% of the money raised. They have a vested interest in allowing this sort of thing.

      • safe harbor under the DMCA allows kickstarter protection … UNTIL THEY ARE NOTIFIED. They have been notified. Since it is still up, they are now just as liable as Chuh.

  16. Wow. It’s incredible. Incredible, because it could have been so easy to do it legally and simply licence the images. The icing on this particular image appropriation cake, however, is the signature that magically turns other people’s photographs into Ms Chun’s “art.” It is quite galling.

  17. Catch The Thief !

    Maybe the thief could have changed the number on the car from 95 to 94.

    Should suffice to prove to a demented judge that the original meaning of the images has been significantly transformed.

    It’s actually interesting to know that kickstarter now funds project that steal other people’s property. I would be glad to see that the demented judge’s judgement in the Prince case got overturned by the superior court. And make Kickstarter liable for aiding and abetting theft.

    • Madradna,

      Eggleston created the work and IS the copyright owner. As the right to make copies is his, that is what he chose to do. If he sold prints as a limited edition and that edition sold out, he has the right to edition at other sizes, unless, of course, he sold the original edition with the declaration that there would be no other sizes or prints. He didn’t make that declaration, and the collector suing didn’t buy all of his prints directly from the artist in the first place and these other sellers can’t transfer a contract between previous owners and the new one.

      It went to the Supreme Court and the Judge ruled according to the law.

      Sabrina Chun on the other hand, does NOT have the right to make copies, let alone sell them, and the fact that she signs them, nauseates me.

  18. I would imagine she didn’t secure the rights to the music used in her video either.

  19. What I don’t understand is why she’s doing a kickstarter in the first place? Don’t you do that when you need a significant infusion of cash up front to get your project started? Isn’t she just sending images to a printer and mailing them out? Why does she need a cash investment to make that happen?

    • She wouldn’t have been able to make $66,600 in less than a month if she were just selling prints like normal, non-con artist printmakers do.


  20. prints directly from the artist in the first place and these other sellers can’t transfer a contract between previous owners and the new one.

  21. Rather than suing this woman, what should be done here is beat her at her own game. She is not an “artist” she is a business woman. Actually her behance profile and linkedin pages show no previos history of photography, print, etc.
    She clearly had a very good business idea but went about to execute it in the wrong way, both legally: copyright issues, and product quality: the 5 line trace photoshop/illustrator job is not great…
    As Vinnie mentions above she is selling a package, od a cute asian girl in shorts who loves cars, I suspect to males 20 to 40 years old who have $40 to spare.
    But her big flaw is that her kickstarter ends in 44 days and prints don’t ship till september, any “suporter” can cancel before that date.
    So I back Mark Madeo, someone should produce the same product (and why stop in black, it could be produced on any color to any taste), using legitimately sourced images of course, and start shipping tomorrow and even compete in price. This is super easy, she is just making laser prints!!!
    Lets take her customers!

  22. Demon Lee

    Sorry, I don’t see how she can claim ‘copyright’ to any image she has STOLEN off the web – even the image of the Shelby being GIVEN away as wallpaper does not confer the right to use that image for COMMERCIAL GAIN – the terms of the licencing is critical – if she used on of my images, she would find herself in the dock where she belongs – stealing someones work for commercial gain is theft – theft of copyright and intellectual property rights and all covered by the BERNE CONVENTION.

    • She can use this particular image, and sell it, under this “creative commons” license. However, to meet the license terms she has to attribute the original source and allow anyone who buys one of her versions to be able to make and sell copies also.

    • Interesting how her blog posts simply show her WITH cars, but no actual pictures that she has taken of the cars…

      I would be shocked to see actual photos that she has taken herself of the cars in question.

      As someone who shoots cars and automotive-related work commercially, let me try to explain why this matters–to all the people who don’t think it is a big deal to rip off copyright holders’ artwork.

      Awhile back I travelled to Lime Rock park in CT to shoot the 1939 Mercedes-Benz W 154 Silver Arrow racer. It was the first time it had been seen on a track in 70 years. Obviously, therefore there have been no pictures of it on a track…in 70 years.

      It took considerable effort and costs to travel to CT, liaison with PR at Lime Rock; cajole, beg and plan with Mercedes, and then work with everyone to get the car on the track at 7AM before the track opened, so we could do a shoot.

      I got the picture. As the copyright holder, my reward for the effort I put in and costs I accrued is the chance to monetize my work.

      Several exclusive rights typically attach to the holder of a copyright:
      1. to produce copies or reproductions of the work and to sell those copies (including, typically, electronic copies)
      2. to import or export the work
      3. to create derivative works (works that adapt the original work)
      4. to perform or display the work publicly
      5. to sell or assign these rights to others
      6. to transmit or display by radio or video.

      The phrase “exclusive right” means that only the copyright holder is free to exercise those rights, and others are prohibited from using the work without the holder’s permission.

      Stealing other artists work and selling prints or derivative works is wrong.

      It is a simple case of wanting the rewards but not putting in the effort.

      The American Way, lately, it seems.

      http://www.kickstarter.com/help/forms/dmca

      • Ex-Shooter

        I shot for 7 years in the motor sport industry. Lime Rock, Daytona, Sears Point-Sonoma, Laguna Seca-Monterey, Watkins Glen to name a few. Racer Magazine, Excellence, Vintage Motorsports to name a few. I have since retired. NASCAR was brutal at the change of the digital era. I used PhotoByte to run my business. Look it up. It is a vital tool to have. Designed by Tom Zimberoff, international photographer, it teaches you how to make money shooting. It has everything you could possibly need to run a photography business! Look it up and check it out. Also look into Toms bio. Impressive!!

  23. And we wonder why it’s so damned hard to make any money. The recent ruling in the UK on copyright is going to appear again here in the US. We should all be vigilant.

  24. Hiram Miggs

    I mentioned this matter to two pro photographers I know. One does a lot of vehicle work; the other also shoots vehicles but does a lot of vehicle interiors, parts, wheels, closeups. Both know their rights and the response of both was that if someone ripped off their work that way, they’d promptly shove a copyright lawsuit down her thieving gullet. We also discussed whether the contributors to her piracy-based project would also be liable and whether kickstarter itself would be liable once put on notice. We did not come to a conclusion on those questions because none of us are copyright lawyers.

  25. The blazing arrogance of signing her name to other photographer’s work is nauseating. I wonder how people think they can get away with this kind of shit.
    ~TEU

  26. Super Zimmer

    I just don’t get how this POS low-life thief is getting away with this (so far).

    Some serious B.S.!!!!

  27. This is blanent thievery.Taking work that is not yours and profitin from it is stealing and should not be allowed to get away with it. Shame on your for profiting solely for yourself by steal other peoples work.

  28. Vinnie-
    My company which represents photographers sues people for this infringement all the time. It does not matter where it is on the web – still copyrighted and MUST be licensed for this commercial use. See you in court!

  29. Ms. Chun may call herself a designer, but she’s not an artist. She’s a criminal, a thief. To my way of thinking, Kickstarter is enabling her and promoting dishonesty. And the gall — to sign her name to such images after she’s stolen and tweaked them a bit — and to claim copyright protection when she’s got no objection to stealing others’ copyrighted works for her own profit? The word HYPOCRITE come to mind. Nothing honest about that tactic either.

  30. StrawBeary

    Booooooooo ! What the hell is wrong with you folks at Kickstarter ?
    I’d feel like such a LOSER if I had to steal someones work to make a profit.

  31. Speaking from the POV of a professional photographer and one who shoots cars, I’m in complete agreement with Achman. I’m no lawyer, but a downloadable wallpaper is just for that – for you to use as wallpaper on your computer, not to rip off the photographer and use as a trace in Illustrator. Go shoot your own cars, honey, or pay for the legal right to use talented photographers’ shots.

  32. SomeGuyinWy

    Meanwhile, artists like myself and others struggle to get funding for honest work. I am thoroughly offended by people who engage in this sort of nonsense. It’s one thing to create an image in the spirit of Dada, but to blatantly steal from someone else and not only turn a profit, but deceive the public into donating? There is a name for this: FRAUD. I seriously hope that she gets sued out of business. There are lessons to be learned from this, however – maybe not for this pathetic loser – but for the rest of us. Aside from the usual precautions, (resizing to low res, embedding digital info in the images, registering trademarks, etc), a trick I use is to “hide” a watermark inside of my original work. I simply add another layer for this in PS. When the image is in its original format and size, it’s obviously there, (when pointed out). I’ve spoken to a couple of attorneys about this, demonstrated the use of the technology, and have been assured that if ever I find my work stolen, I have representation – at no charge to me. Simply because the lawyers I’ve spoken with have said that this is a sure fire way to win. We as artists need to fight back against thieves and frauds like this.

  33. Ex-Shooter

    Everyone should be using PhotoByte to run their photography BUSINESS! It will help you make money as a professional photographer. I would have her ass in court so fast and be suing her for everything I could get my hands on. It is called copyright infringement! NOTHING ELSE!!! U2 got sued for have a photographer duplicate an image for an album cover. Can’t do that!!! I think you should all jam her site with hate mail so that she will stop!

  34. SomeGuyinWy

    A follow up to my earlier post: I saw on one of the blogs where someone suggested that sending “hate emails” to Ms. Chun would be a “good” idea. This clearly will not accomplish anything. Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as offended as the next person here about this nonsense. But there is a much better way to approach these things than to resort to childish and personal attacks. Here is what I’d suggest anyone who wants to see Ms. Chun stopped: Send an email to the following: Sony_Pictures_Canada_Website@spe.sony.com, (the distributor for Ghostbusters). And follow the contact link on this site: http://www.universalstudios.com/contact_us.php (Back to the Future). Advising them that there may be a copyright infringement issue they need to investigate:
    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sabrinachun/blackprints-car-designs-reimagined I firmly believe that cooler heads will prevail in matters like this. Personal attacks will get nothing but spam and retaliation. Cease and desist orders from Sony & Universal will probably do the trick.

  35. We really need to report her? How can we do this and to whom should we email?

    • Super Zimmer

      In her most recent reply (approx. 9:00pm PST today), she states
      “Yes, all these photographs have been taken by myself.”

      I dunno . . . . really? That’s some pretty sophisticated lighting and access to some unusual cars for someone that doesn’t even mention being a photographer on their bio.

      I smell bullshit.

      • baldknees

        “Yes, all these photographs have been taken by myself.”

        No, she literally means “taken”, as in, “I saw these photographs made by someone else, and I’ve taken them to use”.

    • I asked her for the original images and she sent me a bunch of pictures of her kneeling and squatting in front of cars. None are the source material.

  36. SomewhereonEarth

    Someone need to stop her. I can’t believe she is now stating that she’s taken those photos herself. Those photos are found ONLINE. I bet she is scrambling to find photos and make them her own.