I know a few people with ebooks put out by one-man-band publisher Trestle Press, who have a stable of decent writers under some (apparently famously) deeply shonky typography. Now it seems Giovanni “G-Man” Gelati, the one man in the aforementioned band, has been using massive amounts of copyrighted images for cover art without the artists’ permission.

Gelati has responded to these detailed allegations like so:

Please not that these claims do not come from any artist or copyright holder, but rather a private individual. All the same, Trestle Press is more than willing to make the changes for the benefit of all involved. While there is a legal precedent, we feel this is an ethical issue at this point and Trestle Press strives to maintain strong ethics and morals.

We stand by the fact that if we have used any copyrighted artwork that we have contacted the artist or made every possible attempt to contact the artist. In many cases, we have requested usage permission and made payment when asked.

In cases where no contact was made or no copyright holder found, we apologize for the usage and have removed the identified images.

(More at the link, not much of it, though.)

Let’s take this briefly apart, shall we?

"We have contacted the artist…": Including the studio who produced GHOST RIDER? Or the one behind CREEP? The makers of the HITMAN games? Or BILL AND fucking TED? Really, how fucking stupid can you be, or would you expect others to be?

"We have… made every possible attempt to contact the artist": I’m no copyright lawyer, but I know enough to know there’s no presumption of permission. If a work is in copyright, you need explicit permission to use it. (If a work is, say, CC licensed, that CC license sets out the terms of that explicit permission.) If you can’t reach the rights holder, you don’t use the thing because you’re not allowed to. It’s not rocket science. It’s not even bottle rocket science. It’s a principle I’m 99% certain Aidan, 4 and 3/4, would grasp on the first time of explaining.

FWIW, 'L. Vera', the dA user doesn’t seem to have had a hard time contacting the other dA users whose work was being ripped off, so one assumes they weren’t too difficult to reach.

It could be that these were a string of genuinely naive mistakes and Gelati’s statement isn’t covering bullshit, that the dA artists so readily contactable by L Vera were all on vacation when he tried to email them (rather than leaving a message on their dA page or on the page the image is on, which isn’t time dependent and is very easy to do), and I’d hate to call anyone a deliberate thief without concrete proof, so I won’t.

(If I was to speculate, I’d suspect laziness, use whatever and forget about it, rather than malice; this isn’t unknown even in professional graphic design (where, for instance, the stock used for a comp mock-up to show the client ends up being used in the finished thing), and I think I can be certain Gelati isn’t a professional graphic designer.)

(Still, Bill And Ted? Really? Jeez.)

But if someone was so naive about copyright as to genuinely have no clue that poster art commissioned for a Hollywood movie, say, wasn’t public domain, they have absolutely no business being involved in a rights-based business like publishing. None.

I might add that if, and I don’t know why they would, but if someone used one of my photos for commercial work - even the ones I’ve CC-licensed are by-nc - without permission, and then waffled about how I was hard to reach, which I blatantly am not, especially on the websites like Flickr which host those images, I’d be pretty fucking pissed at the cheek of it.

Everyone I know involved with Trestle has pulled their books, and good on them.