At a time when the nation was in mourning, after losing the longest-standing Monarch in British history, millions shared images of the late Queen Elizabeth II. Eleanor Tomlinson’s water colour of Her Majesty shared by millions was her artistic work showing the Queen walking with Paddington Bear. It is a heart-warming image, simple in its structure, but full of care. It celebrates British pleasures with delicacy. Bunting, corgis, marmalade sandwiches, and of course the Queen and Paddington walking hand in hand into the distance. You can imagine them having a quiet little conversation about the countryside.
Eleanor uses watercolours to enable the graceful construction of what came to be one of the stand-out images of the last year of Queen Elizabeth’s life. With an altruistic heart, Eleanor wanted to celebrate our Queen and our Britishness. She was also kind enough to allow her art to be shared across the internet because it had become more than her painting. It had become a part of the country’s sentiments of the Queen. It embodied loyalty, integrity, familiarity, and comfort. In the space of 6 months, it had been shared across the internet in both celebration and in commemoration.
Eleanor originally painted it to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee earlier this year. It went viral due to its understated elegance and feelings of comfort. It was shared on social media far and wide. It became so popular Eleanor was invited onto news shows to discuss her art.
This is a dream come true for any artist or designer. After pouring your heart and soul into designs or art and the hours of practice; being seen, noticed, and shared widely is the sought-after validation anyone is looking for, to be recognised for their hard-earned skill and talent. But sadly, this comes at a price.
The price, which is so often true, is people thinking they can take all the practice and experiments, time, and money you have poured into a project and try to take it as their own. In plain and simple terms, it is theft. Theft of not only your hard-earned intellectual property rights but theft of your brand identity, which makes your design or artwork uniquely yours. Theft of income may be funnelled to someone else rather than yourself. Worst of all is the feeling of hopelessness with which it can leave you. Something you have created from your mind and hand, a product of your intellect, is a part of you, your heart and soul.
So, imagine, while the country was still in the midst of mourning, many companies undertook to reprint Eleanor’s image onto products such as T-shirts, sweatshirts, and tea towels, for their own commercial advantage and with without Eleanor’s permission. The emotional impact on Eleanor is heavy. She had in all good faith allowed her art to be shared and used to appreciate Queen Elizabeth II. She had decided this piece was not for commercial gain even for herself. It was her gift to the Queen and country.
In terms of intellectual property rights, as Eleanor’s art consists of 2D images, she holds automatic copyright. Which means she does not need to register her designs. They are inherently her rights by law. People should only reprint by her consent, licensed by her authorisation. Eleanor has a list of authorised stockists on her website. So, any items bought by people from unauthorised entities means she loses royalties and income which should be directed her way. Her artwork being reprinted by unauthorised companies also means her original images can be reproduced with poorer quality, damaging her brand identity and established name as a talented artist.
Eleanor Tomlinson said, “I am officially asking these companies to take down their stock and will not hold back against pursuing any infringers with legal action if necessary. I am saddened and frankly disgusted that I have been forced into this situation.”
Dids Macdonald, OBE., CEO of ACID, said, “The disheartening and sad truth is even when you have the law behind you on intellectual property rights, it can be a minefield navigating your way through all the necessary steps to protect and fight for your rights. Designers have to commit their time to lengthy takedown notices on internet sites, for more copycats to spring up. Lose income (often low incomes) to seek advice, send cease and desist letters, or take companies to court, which is prolonged, expensive, and a mental and emotional drain.
That’s why ACID is here. To build a strong design community, with advice and support to help with deterrence. To offer reduced legal fees, to shout about injustices and bring them into popular dialogue, and to converse with policy makers to change the law to represent fairer and more egalitarian routes to protect your rights.
ACID’s continuing campaigns are to mobilise designers to stand up for ethics, respect, and compliance. A great start is to sign the ACID IP Charter, for a small nominal one-off fee, it enables you to use the ACID IP Charter logo on your website and social media to enhance deterrence. The small costs enable us to build a fighting fund to further our campaigns to strengthen and reform design laws.”
If you would like to support the IP Charter initiative, you can sign here.